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Supporting Partnering for Advanced Research teamworK (SPARK) Program

Offered by the Office of Research

Synopsis and Key Dates

An application to this program may request up to $100,000 in funding.

  • Applications are due by 5:00 pm ET on October 14, 2024.
  • An internal selection committee will screen all applications to select a subset for development into oral presentations. Based on this selection, oral presentations will be solicited in November/December 2024.
  • Selected applicants will be notified of funding decisions in January 2025.

Purpose

The SPARK Program empowers Purdue-led research to achieve national prominence by providing faculty teams with the necessary internal resources to support critical research development activities. These internal resources will include support for project strategy, teaming, and proposal development. The goal is to enable the Purdue teams to be highly competitive in large center competitions. Here, “large center” is defined as any project with anticipated total external funding value of ≥ $7,000,000 (including indirect costs) over the course of the award. Large center-level teams will likely require many additional internal and external partners; the goal of this program is to solidify and propel the core nucleus of Purdue investigators to effectively build teams and strategies.

Program Format for 2024-2025

The SPARK Program will support teams composed of up to 4 core faculty investigators to target a specific funding opportunity. This funding opportunity must be identified in the application (see criteria below). The ceiling on funding for each team is $100,000. The individual budget is at the discretion of the proposing team, although it is anticipated that a good fraction of the funds will support faculty release and/or summer support. If prospective teams have questions about permissible budgets, they can contact Emily Stevenson (steve201@purdue.edu).

For 2024-2025, the program is open to any center-level/program-level targeted funding call.  We anticipate this funding call will have a deadline between October 2025 and October 2026.

Eligibility

The SPARK team may include tenure/tenure-track faculty, research faculty, or clinical faculty from Purdue West Lafayette or Indianapolis. The majority of team members must demonstrate evidence of existing collaboration (see criteria below). No faculty may serve as the lead PI on more than one SPARK application per cycle, and no faculty may be a PI or co-PI on more than two applications per cycle. If any faculty are listed in a manner that violate either of these criteria, the submission(s) will be returned without review.

Program Application Process and Evaluation Criteria

The following categories will be used to evaluate the 2-page SPARK application (see Cover Page):

  • Merit and Impact. Describe what high-level challenge is being addressed and how this effort will target a significant gap relative to other current efforts. Describe how the proposed research will alter the foundational landscape of the field of study. What is the significance/broad societal relevance of this work? Detail the complementary or unique nature of the proposed center relative to any existing external centers that would be seen as competition.

  • Project Approach and Management Plan. Provide details on the approach to addressing the problem specific to the funding solicitation. Additionally, provide details on the center organization and management envisioned.

  • Team Strength. Define the logic as to the composition of the team and leadership and why the current call is the appropriate time for the team to address this opportunity. Provide evidence that the majority of team members have a history of working together productively. If this evidence is not strong, detail the plan for setting up a productive collaboration. How will the team have a larger impact than the sum of its parts? Describe any specific external partners that have been, or will immediately become, engaged with the core Purdue team.

  • Impact on Existing Purdue Resources and Budget. Explain how, if funded, the proposed team fits within the existing Purdue research enterprise without duplicating current efforts on campus. Explain what the SPARK funding will enable your team to accomplish that would not be possible otherwise. Provide a SPARK rough order of magnitude (ROM) budget; Sponsored Programs Services should not be involved at the pre-proposal stage.

Administrative Burden

To minimize administrative workload, no letters of support will be considered for the application submission stage; however, it is strongly recommended that the proposing investigators informally discuss their applications with their unit heads and ADRs before submission. Teams that are invited for oral presentations need to work with their unit heads and ADRs to have documentation that the unit and college are supportive of this endeavor, especially in the context of the proposed budget.

Support, Expectations, and Evaluation of Progress

In addition to the internal funding provided by the award, the selected SPARK teams will be prioritized for the Office of Research proposal preparation services (team strategizing, grant writing, and graphic design support) and a pre-award specialist experienced in large-scale center funding mechanisms will be assigned to the team.

The SPARK teams will provide monthly online updates to the Office of Research leadership to ensure that the team is being supported fully and that the team is making appropriate progress towards their proposal goals. Teams will be expected to meet with Office of Research staff on a quarterly basis. Any failure to meet these expectations will result in funding being revoked.

Project expenditures will be reviewed relative to the approved budget. Changes in personnel or redistribution of funds among budget categories or project partners require prior approval through standard university processes.

Application Submission Procedures

Applications must be submitted directly to the InfoReady link here:
https://purdue.infoready4.com/#competitionDetail/1945117

The deadline for submission is 5:00pm on October 14, 2024. Applications will only be accepted through the InfoReady portal.  Late submissions will not be accepted.

Guidelines for preparation of the body of the application:
  • Use the application cover page.
  • Please address the evaluation criteria in a document. The document should be single-spaced and not exceed two (2) pages in length when using 1-inch margins on all sides and with 11 pt font.
  • Sponsored Program Services should not be involved at the application stage.

Contact Information

For questions, please contact sparkresearch@purdue.edu.

FAQ

Q: Can funds be budgeted for graduate student or postdoctoral researcher support?

A: Funds may be budgeted as determined by the proposing team to fit the needs of the project. However, teams are encouraged to consider using the funds on freeing faculty time to envision a competitive large proposal and execute on the necessary steps required to effectively communicate that vision to a funding agency.

Q: As the PI/co-PI of a SPARK award needing help with a re-budget, who should I contact?

A: Please work through your departmental business office to discuss an internal prior approval. The PI’s responsible cost center should submit the prior approval request to sparkresearch@purdue.edu.

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