Michigan Engineering News

Bolder ideas are the heart of new high-impact research funding programs

The novel approach enables aggressive research exploration

Michigan Engineering has set its sights on enhancing its culture of creativity, innovation, and daring and is implementing a unique approach to investing in faculty research as a key part of the plan.

Three new funding programs, enacted as part of the research pillar in the Michigan Engineering 2020 strategic plan, will enable researchers to explore the boundaries of creative thought and risk-taking.

The programs draw inspiration from entrepreneurial funding models, introducing three separate funding options that are analogous to early-, mid-, and late-stage funding for a startup business. However, the analogy is not one-to-one – commercial viability is not the main or only goal. Instead, it is about engaging in bold research.

“We’re doing this to catalyze and incentivize faculty – especially teams of faculty – to pursue high-risk, high-impact ideas,” said Steve Ceccio, associate dean for research and Vincent T. and Gloria M. Gorguze Professor of Engineering.  “Our hope is that these new funding mechanisms will give faculty the freedom to be more daring in pursuing new research ideas that are not yet ready for more traditional research funding agencies.”

The initiative builds on the existing success for funding research at Michigan Engineering. Faculty are already accomplished researchers and are good at attracting funding for their projects. These programs leverage this track record of success to broaden and define areas of scientific and technological leadership, creating incentives for teams to form and acknowledging and supporting the resources required to pursue transformational ideas.

“The intent is to reinforce and expand our research excellence and the capabilities of our faculty, better positioning teams to secure support from external partners,” said Alec D. Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering. “We aim to help foster an ecosystem that celebrates bold thinking, embraces noble failures and engenders intellectual curiosity. I am excited to see what happens when we open new doors for our faculty to explore.”

Dean Gallimore is also the Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and a professor of aerospace engineering and applied physics.

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