Research Excellence Fund (REF) - Research Seed Grants (RS)

Proposal Information

Fall Proposal Deadline: October 3, 2019 at 4 p.m.

Spring Proposal Deadline: March 5, 2020 at 4 p.m.

PI Eligibility: Untenured tenure-track academic faculty and research faculty/staff members (including research scientists/engineers) are eligible to submit REF-RS proposals as the principal investigator. REF-RS grants are designed to provide untenured tenure-track academic faculty and research faculty who have been employed for less than six years with resources to develop an externally supported research program. Teams of untenured faculty in one or more academic units are encouraged to submit joint proposals. Tenured faculty or research faculty/staff (who have been employed for more than six years) are not eligible to be Principal Investigators for REF-RS awards but may be included as Co-Investigators on REF-RS proposals. PI's cannot have been awarded an REF-RS in the previous round or have an active REF-RS grant. PI's in their last probational year are also ineligible.

PI Limitation: A PI may only submit one proposal per category (see FAQs).

Project Duration: Projects are 12 months long.

Program Description

Typical REF-RS projects will develop preliminary data to be used in subsequent proposals to outside funding sources, support pilot studies developing new research methods or procedures, or support other activity leading to the development of an externally recognized and funded research program. The report submitted at the end of supported REF-RS projects should include a description of proposals submitted to external funding agencies based on the work supported by the REF-RS Grant.

REF-RS grants may be up to $40,000 per year, with an expected average award of $30,000 per year.

REF Seed Grants will not be approved for faculty with significant startup balances. All project participants with remaining balances in their startup accounts must include a detailed description of why additional REF funds are needed. Remaining startup funds must be entered as cost share in the budget. The expectation is that remaining startup funds will be dedicated to the REF project if it is funded. The supporting letter(s) from the must address the need for additional funds and that the faculty members is spending down his/her startup in a manner consistent with the agreed-upon startup plan.

If submitting a health-oriented research proposal, please review the Portage Health Foundation Research Awards (PHF) for more information.

Evaluation of Proposals

REF-RS proposals will be evaluated on:

  1. Likelihood of leading to the development of an externally supported research program, including future external graduate student funding.
  2. Contribution to the achievement of the University and strategic plans.
  3. Matching funds are encouraged, but not required; however the supporting letter(s) must clearly show the department's commitment to the success of the project.
  4. Letters of support from the department chair, center/institute director, school dean, and/or college dean.

Review Criteria and Procedures

The evaluation criteria are given for each REF category. The review panels consist of faculty from disciplines across the University. The members are specialists in their fields and general research and methodologies. The proposals therefore should be written to ensure the importance of the project is clear to those outside the writer's field and provide a rationale for each functional element of the project. Please take this into account when writing your submission to ensure your proposal can be understood by all reviewers. These committees review the proposals and make recommendations to the Associate Vice President for Research Development. All funding decisions are final.

Proposal Format

All proposals must include a completed Required Elements Checklist-RS to ensure all necessary documents have been submitted. Please review this checklist prior to writing your proposal as it explains the requirements and page limits. When putting together your proposal package, follow the order on the Required Elements Checklist:

  • Abstract
  • Proposed Project
    • Description
    • Rationale
    • Impact
  • Human Health Impact Statement (if applying for PHF-REF funds)
  • Budget and Budget Justification
    • A budget approved by Sponsored Programs is not needed during the proposal stage. State the requested budget total and a breakdown in the budget justification. 
    • If cost share is being used, a completed cost share form is not needed during the proposal stage. Provide an email or letter from the cost share provider stating the committed amount. 
    • Refer to "Budget Information" under the section "If Awarded an REF Grant" shown below for a list of unallowable expenditures.
  • Existing Resources
  • References
  • Two page vitae
  • Letter(s) of Support

The proposal must be formatted according to the following guidelines or it will be returned without review:

  • Times New Roman font at a font size of 12 point. A smaller font size may be used for mathematical formulas, equations, figures, tables, or diagram captions. This text must still be readable.
  • Margins in all directions must be at least one inch.
  • The proposal must be single spaced.
  • Page numbers should be placed at the bottom center of each page with the exception of attachments.

With an expectation of a heavy volume of submission for this competition, please adhere to all guidelines including the proposal format.

Letters of Support

Letters of support from the Department Chair, College/School Dean, or Center/Institute Director must be included and address the significance of the project. The supporting letter(s) must also address the need for additional funds and that the faculty member is spending down his/her startup in a manner consistent with the agreed upon startup plan.

Institute/Center or School

  • Submit one copy of the final proposal to the appropriate Dean or Director for review—the Dean or Director will submit their letter of support directly to Natasha Chopp at

Dean or Director Requirement - Letters are due within seven calendar days of the proposal deadline. If faculty members from the same Institute/Center or School submit multiple proposals, the Dean needs to prioritize the proposals from the College/School based on need and benefit.


  • Obtain letter of support from the appropriate Chair(s) and include with the final proposal.


  • Submit one copy of the final proposal, including the letter of support from the Chair(s), to the appropriate Dean for review—the Dean will submit their letter of support directly to Natasha Chopp at

Dean Requirement - Letters are due within seven calendar days of the proposal deadline. If faculty members from the same College submit multiple proposals, the Dean needs to prioritize the proposals from the College based on need and benefit.

Proposal Submission Requirements

Submit one pdf file of your complete proposal packagewhich follows the order on the Required Elements Checklist, to

If Awarded an REF Grant

If you are awarded an REF-RS or PHF-REF-RS grant, you then must finalize your budget information with the Sponsored Programs Office and complete a transmittal form within seven days of the award notification.

Budget Information 

Budgets, budget justifications, quotes, and a completed Cost Share/Matching Support Authorization Form (if applicable) must be submitted to the Sponsored Programs Office, at, within five days of the award notification. Budgets must be approved by the Sponsored Programs Office within seven days of them receiving the submitted materials. 

  • Budgets will be reviewed on a first come, first served basis. 
  • Proposed budgets should be clear and detailed, and must fully justify all expenditures.
  • If you are requesting equipment that is more than $5,000, quotes must be provided.
  • If you are requesting travel support over $1,500, quotes must be provided.
  • The F&A rate on all REF budgets is 0%.
  • Please use this provided budget spreadsheet to complete your budget.

Unallowable Expenditures

  • External and sponsored research as cost share.
  • Faculty salary (including summer salary and academic release time).
  • Graduate student support (stipend, tuition, hourly, etc). Hourly graduate student support is ONLY allowed during the summer semester.

Student Support Limitations

  • Undergraduate support is allowable and needs to be clearly justified in the proposal.
  • Hourly graduate student support is ONLY allowable during the summer semester.

Cost Share

All cost share is to be disclosed in the budget justification and shown on the budget worksheet. External or sponsored research as cost share are not allowed. You must also submit a completed Cost Share Authorization form (which is located on the Banner Self Service Site).

Transmittal Form

Complete and obtain all of the necessary signatures on the Michigan Tech Transmittal Form.

Transmittal Form and Budget Submission

Once the transmittal is complete and the budget information is finalized, submit as separate pdfs to Natasha Chopp at

Review Requirement

If awarded a REF-RS or PHF-REF-RS grant, you are required to review and provide feedback on REF proposals (no more than four) the following round. 

Award Modifications

If you need to make a modification to your REF award end date or budget, please send a completed Request for Modification Form via email to The form should provide a justification for the requested change and be signed by the required individuals. Please send the document as a PDF file.