Announcing Environmental Research Seed Grants MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative (MIT-ESI)


MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative is pleased to announce the inaugural RFP for its Seed Grant Program. Proposals are welcome from all faculty, and senior and principal research scientists with innovative ideas for cross-disciplinary research to advance progress and solutions on issues of environmental significance. Awards of up to $200K in total over two years are available—free from all overhead and transaction fees. Proposals are due no later than November 20, 2014, with the first round of awards to be made in spring 2015.


The goals of the Seed Grant Program were described when the initiative was announced in spring 2014—to encourage MIT researchers to self-organize into cross-disciplinary teams and pursue novel environmental research collaborations that could bring about significant advances. Future RFPs may have different foci.

“There is endless potential for productive synergy at MIT,” according to Initiative Founding Director Susan Solomon. “Current federal agency funds tend to be narrowly defined by disciplinary areas. But the greatest progress on environmental issues has often come from work that crosses disciplinary lines. We have a unique opportunity here to tap the great MIT tradition and strength in collaboration. Further, building collaborations of this type should strengthen our efforts to build an environmental initiative at MIT that is progress-oriented. These grants are intended to jumpstart creative new environmental research partnerships, in order to bring to bear the combined talents of people working in very different fields of study to shed new light on environmental issues and how better to deal with them.” Progress on our most pressing environmental challenges will benefit from the contributions of all corners of the Institute—from deeply comprehending the problem, developing practical responses, and wisely implementing those responses—i.e., linking physical and social sciences, engineering, planning, business, and humanities.


Who May Apply

The grants are open to faculty as well as senior and principal research scientists. Preference will be given to multidisciplinary team proposals.

How to Apply

Proposals should make a strong, succinct case for funding emphasizing: how the proposed research will advance the search for solutions to environmental issues of global, regional and/or local significance; how it differs from other efforts; the innovative, multidisciplinary nature of the work proposed; and how seed funding for the proposed effort would help to strengthen the Initiative itself. The newly founded Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS) will be issuing a separate call for proposals related to water and food later this fall, and proposals submitted to MIT-ESI in these areas may be referred to J-WAFS for subsequent consideration.

Application Packages should consist of, in order:

  • A project title and team page, with the name(s) and departmental affiliation(s) of the PIs and key research personnel including, as appropriate, graduate students and post-docs
  • A research proposal of not more than five (5) pages (inclusive of figures) that contains: Abstract; Statement of Purpose and Context; Work Plan
  • A line-item budget (by year and cumulative up to $200K)
  • Statements of current and pending support from all relevant personnel

Where to Apply

Completed proposals are due no later than November 20, 2014, and must be submitted as a single, collated PDF document via email to Initiative Executive Director Kurt Sternlof ( Proposal receipt will be acknowledged by return email.


Winning proposals will be announced in late February 2015, with research terms projected to begin April 1, 2015. First-year funding increments will be deposited into single, dedicated project accounts set up under the Initiative, but fully accessible to all relevant PIs and their administrative support staff. First-year progress reports of not more than five (5) pages will be required as part of a review process before second-year funding increments are released. Details of the review process will be provided to all PIs in timely fashion. All grant recipients will also be expected to participate in a joint meeting to share findings and discuss new directions.

Proposals to amend ongoing projects—including work plan changes, personnel changes and requests for no-cost extensions—will be considered as necessary. In general, however, projects will be expected to conclude on scope, on time and on budget. Unapproved cost overruns will be the responsibility of the PI(s) to cover, while funds unexpended at the conclusion of projects will be returned to the Initiative.