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Research Challenge Program

Institutional Objectives

By supporting basic and applied research projects that have high potential for attracting external support and that also demonstrate both excellence and congruence with the university's Vision 2020 and Strategic Plan 1998-2003, Wright State University's Research Challenge Program will continue to support the specific goals of the OBR Research Challenge Program and Ohio's quest for excellence in research and graduate education.

The main tactical objective of the Wright State University Research Challenge Plan is to help individual investigators and investigator teams attract external support for new basic or applied research programs in areas of strategic importance to the University and the State of Ohio. Supporting objectives are to develop synergy between research and graduate education; further develop the University's research infrastructure; promote economic development in the region and in Ohio through support of research in key technology areas; and encourage collaboration with other Ohio universities, regional industry, and non-profit organizations.

Planned Expenditures by Category

Wright State University will apportion its Research Challenge funds among the five categories listed in the first column of the table given below. Wright State University earns Research Challenge funds based upon "Direct Match" of research expenditures as well as an amount for "Incentive for Collaboration." The expenditure plan divides amounts between these two funding sources assuming that 25% of total funds come by the latter mechanism.

Direct MatchIncentive for
New Investigators of High Potential20%  20% 
Early Start/Augmentation Competition15%5%20%
Major Collaboration Programs30%30%
Technology Commercialization5%20%25%
Contingency for Research Opportunity5% 5%

Description and Rationale

Awards to New Investigators of High Potential

Twenty percent of the university's Research Challenge funds will be awarded to highly competitive new faculty who are recruited for the academic years 2001-02 and 2002-03. These Research Challenge funds thereby become part of a total recruitment package designed to attract faculty who have a high potential for significant research contributions and, thereby, the ability to attract external research support. This support will be centered on those units that have historically achieved a high level of external research funding for basic and applied research such as the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the College of Science and Mathematics, and the School of Medicine. Support will be negotiated between the Dean of the College and the Associate Provost for Research based upon a proposal for initiation of the new investigator's sponsored research program. The fraction of Research Challenge funds assigned to this component may change if hiring is substantially different from that currently projected.

Early Start/Augmentation Competition

Wright State will invest twenty percent of Research Challenge funds to encourage and support specific research proposals to external sponsors. Specifically these funds will:

  • allow for an early start of research for which proposals are under review;
  • support the pursuit of promising, related new directions for an existing project;
  • provide cost-sharing to augment funded research projects upon award, for example, to underwrite the cost of additional graduate students to work on the project or match capital equipment expenditures; or
  • augment externally-supported projects to make these projects more competitive at renewal time.

These funds will be awarded through an annual competition among a set of eligible investigators. This competition will challenge faculty and encourage them to submit significant proposals that would qualify for meaningful cost sharing by the university through Research Challenge. Guidelines for this competition include: (1) faculty must have submitted a proposal to an external sponsor with a first-year budget of at least $30,000; (2) the Research Challenge investment will be limited to 25% of the first-year budget of the external proposal with an absolute maximum of $50,000; and (3) faculty teams may pool their eligibility to qualify for larger awards. The guidelines will be interpreted to promote and encourage collaboration.

Ad hoc committees composed of college/school deans and the Associate Provost for Research will select those proposals for early start and/or augmentation for which a Research Challenge investment will have the greatest impact on the competitiveness of the project and research infrastructure within the units. The deans will utilize faculty committees to assess the scientific merit of the proposals and overlay their administrative judgment of the relevance of the research area to the strategic goals of the unit as well as university-wide research priorities. The Associate Provost for Research will assure that funding allocations meet Research Challenge guidelines.

Awards in this category to augment research projects supported by industry or by industry-driven federal programs such as SBIR and STTR will qualify for the fraction of funds identified with "Incentive for Collaboration."

Major Collaboration Program

Wright State will invest thirty percent of Research Challenge funds to encourage and support new research initiatives targeted to enable major research proposals to federal agencies, state initiatives, and private industry. Specifically, these funds will:

  • encourage major collaborative proposals in areas of broad research strength at WSU,
  • develop research strength in areas supporting Ohio's strategic needs such as information technology, biotechnology, advanced materials, instruments and controls, and power and propulsion,
  • strengthen the ability of WSU faculty to serve regional industry and contribute to economic development in the state and the region.

These funds will be awarded through two competitions to be held during the biennium period. Collaborative partnerships will only be eligible to apply for this competition if they satisfy all of the following criteria:

  • have substantive involvement of at least three fully-affiliated faculty, normally but not necessarily including at least two different departments or units;
  • can demonstrate that the Research Challenge effort, if successful, will enable submission of an application for specific major grant program(s), where "major" is defined as total funding of at least $750,000 per year; and
  • can make a convincing case that they have put together a strong team and have a realistic chance of being funded.

Technology Commercialization

Wright State University will invest twenty-five percent of its Research Challenge funds to support a new component of its Research Challenge plan called “Technology Commercialization.” This will be a competition to award grants to faculty and research staff for the purpose of encouraging commercialization of research accomplishments. Goals of this component include developing intellectual property, establishing commercial licenses, and the formation of start-up companies along with securing of seed capital. Intermediate goals could include applications for or leveraging federal technology commercialization grant funds, development of prototypes, and development of a business plan.

Nationally and within Ohio, there has been greater attention paid to commercialization of research for the benefit of the public. This has been an obligation on the part of research universities that accept federal funding since the approval of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980. Only recently, however, have universities made an organized attempt to pursue commercialization goals. Within Ohio, the approval of Senate Bill 286 in 2000 that permits faculty equity ownership in university-related start-ups and formulation of the Third Frontier Project have modified the goals of OBR research investments. We believe the time is ripe to assist WSU faculty members who have an interest in this direction.

Applicants for Technology Commercialization funds will be asked to define project objectives including deliverables and measurable outcomes for the grant period; describe the research to be performed and its relationship to the project objectives; and describe their vision of the commercial opportunities for the technology to be developed. In most cases, an invention or concept disclosure would accompany or precede the proposal. In addition, applicants must discuss "next steps" that will follow the grant period, such as licensing the technology, seeking seed funding for a start-up company, or pursuing a federal technology grant (e.g., SBIR). The proposal should outline a management plan for the project including key personnel and the contributions of each, industry partners, existing intellectual property brought to the project, personal commitments beyond the project term, and any actual or perceived conflicts of interest.

The Associate Provost for Research will appoint a review panel consisting of both internal and external members with expertise in applied research, development, and entrepreneurship. Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Alignment of the project objectives, deliverables, and outcomes with program goals;
  • Quality of the research proposed and its appropriateness to project objectives;
  • Clarity of the project vision and potential for commercial success;
  • Contribution to the teaching and research objectives of the university.

Most of the funds in this category will be identified as "Incentive for Collaboration" because the projects will involve industry partners.

Contingency for Research Opportunity

Up to five percent of the university's Research Challenge funds will be used apart from New Investigator, Early Start/Augmentation, Major Collaboration, and Technology Commercialization programs as a contingency fund for unanticipated opportunities to further research efforts that have great potential to attract external funding and/or contribute to the development of the regional technology base and the economy. In addition, contingency funds may be used to bridge between periods of externally funded projects or for short-term support of research faculty, research assistants, and graduate assistants.

The Associate Provost for Research, in consultation with the dean and department chair, will allocate contingency funds to those efforts that have high potential for generating external support, advance the region's economic development, and support the university's strategic goals.

"Incentive for Collaboration" Funds

The Incentive for Collaboration component of Research Challenge has been integrated within the overall Research Challenge Plan for Wright State University. It is assumed that approximately twenty-five percent of the total amount of Research Challenge funding will be awarded according to this mechanism. Plans for these expenditures are identified under the Technology Commercialization (twenty percent) and New Research Initiatives (five percent) sections of this Plan. The university will separately account for Research Challenge funds identified as "Incentive for Collaboration" funding.

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