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Supporting Partnering for Advanced Research teamworK (SPARK) Program

Offered by the Office of Research

Synopsis and Key Spring 2024 Dates

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

  • Applications are due by 5:00 pm ET on February 15, 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 April 2024.

  • Oral presentations will be reviewed and ranked by the internal selection committee, and selected applicants will be notified of funding decisions in  May 2024.

Please note that the program is expected occur again in Fall 2024 with an expected application deadline in September 2024. More details are planned to be released in August 2024.


The SPARK Program will empower 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 project strategy, teaming, and proposal development. This will provide the SPARK interdisciplinary teams with long runways that enable them to be highly competitive in large center competitions. Here, “large center” is defined as any project with an anticipated total external funding value of ≥ $7,000,000 (including indirect costs) over the course of the award. Large center 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 these teams.

Program Format for FY24

The SPARK Program will support teams composed of up to 4 core faculty investigators to target a specific anticipated funding opportunity. The ceiling on funding for each team is $100,000, and it is expected that a good fraction of these funds will support faculty release and/or summer support, although the individual budget is at the discretion of the proposing team.

For FY24, the program is open to any center-level targeted funding call with an anticipated submission after October 2024. It is likely that at least one award will be made for a team that is targeting an initiative in the health and life sciences and another award will be made for a team that is targeting the NSF Science and Technology Center call for proposals. Assuming that continued funding is available for the SPARK Program, other targeted funding calls may be specified in future fiscal years.


Teams shall be comprised of a core group of up to four investigators. Any tenure/tenure-track faculty, research faculty, or clinical faculty member at any Purdue campus may serve as a PI or co-PI on a SPARK application. However, no person may serve as the lead PI on more than one SPARK application per cycle, and no person may be a PI or co-PI on more than two applications per cycle. If an investigator is listed in a manner that violates either of these points, the submission(s) that was submitted last will be returned without review.

There are no requirements regarding the specified composition of the core team. However, applicants must demonstrate that they have the correct personnel to address the funding solicitation requirements.

Program Application Process and Evaluation Criteria

The following categories will be used to evaluate SPARK Program applications, which will consist of a 2-page application (see Template). Select application teams will be brought forward for discussions with an internal selection committee selected by the Executive Vice President of Research to determine the teams that will be funded by the SPARK Program based on the following criteria.

  • Intellectual Merit and Technical 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. The application must detail the complementary or unique nature of the proposed center relative to any existing external centers that would be seen as competition.

  • Strength of the Proposed Center Structure and Management Plan. Provide details on the approach to addressing the problem as described in the funding call, especially in terms of center organization and management.

  • Interdisciplinary Nature and Societal Impact. Explain how the proposed work will positively influence areas of science, engineering, and/or human health outside of the core field of study. Also, describe how the work will be of broad societal relevance, and, if appropriate, be of interest to local government, state, and national priorities.

  • Team Strength and Impact of SPARK Funding. Define the strategy for the composition of the core team and why the current call is the appropriate time for the team to address this opportunity. Instead, the narrative should describe how the team will have a larger impact than the sum of its parts. If applicable, please describe any specific external partners that have been, or will immediately become, engaged with the core Purdue team. Moreover, the narrative must describe the impact of the potential SPARK funding on the chances of securing external funding.

  • Impact on Existing Purdue Resources and Budget. Explain how the proposed team fits within the existing Purdue research enterprise without duplicating current efforts on campus. Provide a rough order of magnitude (ROM) SPARK budget; Sponsored Programs Services should not be involved at the application stage. Please be prepared to include a more detailed budget if invited to the oral presentation stage.

Anticipated Schedule

Applications are due on February 15, 2024, with the initial down-selection completed in early April. After oral discussions in late April with the internal selection committee, final funding decisions will be made, and applicants will be notified in May 2024. 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 discussions with the internal selection committee will need to work with their unit heads and ADRs to have documentation that the unit and college are supportive of their research teaming endeavors, especially in the context of faculty release time.

Funding Support, Expectations, Evaluation of Progress, and Continued Funding Possibilities

In addition to the funding provided by the award, the selected SPARK teams will be provided full access to the Office of Research proposal preparation services, including team strategizing, grant writing and graphic design support, and an experienced pre-award specialist. The SPARK teams will be expected to meet monthly with the Office of Research leadership to provide updates to ensure that the team is being supported fully and that the team is making appropriate progress towards their proposal goals. Any failure to meet these expectations will result in funding being revoked. Assuming appropriate progress, additional funding beyond the end of Fall of 2024 for proposals to be submitted after December 2024 may be possible for SPARK teams depending on the availability of funding for the program.

Application Submission Procedures

Applications must be submitted directly to the InfoReady link here:

The deadline for submission is 5:00p on Thursday, February 15, 2024. Applications will only be accepted through the InfoReady portal. Any efforts to circumvent this process will result in the application being returned without review. Submissions past the deadline will not be accepted.

Guidelines for preparation of the body of the application:

  • Use the application template.

  • The document should be single-spaced and not exceed two (2) pages in length when using 1-inch margins on all side and with 11 pt Times New Roman font.

  • Sponsored Program Services should not be involved at the application stage.

Contact Information

For questions, please contact


Q: We are forming a team for a proposal that will be submitted prior to October 2024. Are we eligible for this competition?

A: No. The SPARK Program is focused on providing long runways for research teaming.

Q: Will this program be offered in the future?

A: Yes, we anticipate that the SPARK Program will be offered each fall and spring semester.

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.

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