Seeding to Accelerate Research Themes

Seeding To Accelerate Research Themes (START) is a new program in Michigan Engineering. START provides a mechanism for faculty members to obtain funds for new and innovative research that is not yet ready for external proposal submission. The program provides grants of up to $75K with a required cost sharing of 1/3 by the faculty members on the grant, collectively. Note that the total grant funding includes the cost-share amount.

START grants promote faculty members working in teams to accomplish common goals within a specific research area or theme. There may be one or more project teams working together within a theme, each contributing a unique perspective to gather information, identify a need, or solve a problem.

How START Works

The program provides one-year grants of up to $75K with a required cost-sharing of 1/3 by the faculty members on the grant, collectively.  There is no proposal or budget required in the application process.  There is no formal scientific review.  Instead, the grants are distributed using a token-based randomized selection algorithm.

Award Details

The START grant award period is one year.  At least half of the award must be used to train undergraduate students, graduate students, or postdoctoral fellows by paying trainee salaries, tuition, and/or lab fees. Supply and equipment purchases are allowable.  Funds cannot be used for faculty salaries or travel.


START project teams are required to submit an external proposal within six months after the project’s one-year duration.  It must be based on the preliminary results of the START project.


All tenured or tenure-track assistant/associate/full professors and associate/full research professors with at least a 50% appointment in the U-M Ann Arbor College of Engineering will receive a virtual token that they can contribute to a project to request funding for one project per three-year funding cycle. Assistant/associate/full research scientists are not eligible to contribute a token to a START project, but are welcome to participate in the project as non-token contributing investigators.

Program Design

The value of the token is set by the faculty member contributing it, with a maximum value of $15K and funded ⅓ by the faculty member as cost-share.

Examples:  A faculty member must contribute $5K to use a token worth $15K.  A faculty member must contribute $3K to use a token worth $9K.

The project must include 2-5 token-contributing Engineering faculty members from the U-M Ann Arbor campus, for a maximum total project funding request of $75K.  Additional faculty members from Engineering and other units can contribute knowledge and expertise to the project, without investing a token.

In some cases, a larger group of faculty members (beyond 2-5) may coalesce around a research idea, or theme.  A theme can request multiple START grants if funds exceeding $75K are desired, for more than one distinct project within the broader theme.

How to Participate

The application portal for the FY22 funding cycle is currently closed. We will announce awarded projects soon. We aim to fund $1M in projects in the first year (FY22).