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Minor Research Core Facility Funding Program Call for Applications and Application Guidelines

Overview

The Division of Research (DOR) is soliciting applications to offer support for research activities in all fields through the Minor Research Core Facility Funding Program.  The focus of the program is to help establish or enhance research core facilities at the University of Houston. 

Research core facilities are centralized shared resources that provide access to instrumentation, technology, services, and/or expert consultation to the entire University of Houston community.  The typical core facility is a shared-use research asset and may have dedicated personnel, equipment, and space for operations.  These shared-use facilities allow investigators to expand their research capabilities by sharing the costs, expertise, and efforts of maintaining instrumentation and providing services.

Minor Research Core Facility Funding is not intended to cover the total cost of instrumentation and/or operation of the facility, but rather to complement other internal support, and to address important needs not met by other support programs within or outside the University.  As such, DOR will not fund instrumentation specific to individual investigators or their projects through this mechanism.  

Funding

During FY17 the Division of Research will invest up to $1.2M towards this strategic initiative.  Requests are anticipated to exceed available funds, so cores must demonstrate efficiency and ensure that investments are used in a way that allows the highest possible return to the institution.      

It is anticipated that three Minor Research Core Facility applications will be funded.  DOR will provide a maximum of $400,000 towards the minor core facility.  The unit, department, college, center and/or other internal sources shall provide for an additional 25% of the total cost of the minor core facility over a total of 5 years.  This mandatory matching component should focus on the immediate and long-term sustainability of the Minor Research Core Facility, such as service contracts or technical support along with how the funds will contribute to the success and sustainability of the facility over an extended period of time (3-5 years). 

Eligibility Criteria

Research Core Facilities are eligible for funding when they:

  • provide equitable access to all trained users
  • are professionally managed
  • have campus-approved recharge rates in place
  • are located on a University of Houston campus and run by faculty or staff employed by UH 

PI Eligibility: Any full-time University of Houston faculty member (tenured, tenure-track, or research faculty) may apply as PI of the facility. Other major users, employed by UH, may be listed as co-PIs. A faculty member may serve as PI on only one application per fiscal year. The track record of the PI must show expertise in the area of the proposed core and collaborators must also be positioned to build the success of the research core facility.

New or Renewal: Applications may seek to create a new facility or enhance an existing facility. Each Research Core Facility competes annually, and funding in one year does not imply a future commitment. Previously funded cores will be evaluated based on the amount of service provided in the previous year, continued strategic need, user satisfaction and overall return on investment to the institution. 

Resubmission: Applications that are not funded may apply for resubmission in subsequent years. However, no automatic roll-over of applications will occur.

Application Process:

To establish a new or enhance an existing research core facility, a UH faculty member or group of UH faculty should develop a proposal based upon a five-year strategic plan. The proposal must be approved by the department chair(s) and/or dean(s) of the department(s)/college(s) involved, and submitted to the Division of Research. The proposal should include a statement of objectives, a list of faculty and other participants, identification of the instrumentation/services already in place, as well as those planned for integration into the core and a clear description of how the facility’s operations will be funded, sustained and maintained over the next five years.  The proposal must include the following components:

Proposal Narrative, Goals and Objectives (Not to exceed 5 pages)
The rationale for the existence of the proposed minor core should be described and must contain:

  • An overview of the research area, instrumentation, and/or technology and how the investment will enhance the research mission of the University and benefit the research program(s) of the users/core facility.
  • A brief history of the significance of the activity in the discipline/field in general and at UH along with the track record of the investigators (PI and co-PIs) that will help foster a collaborative research environment and expand research capabilities offered to the UH community.
  • Address the availability on the University of Houston campus and within the Houston region (public or private) of instrumentation/services of similar function/use and capabilities. If such instrumentation/service is already available for shared use, why is the new instrumentation/service needed? 
  • Why the instrumentation/service is needed on campus and cannot be outsourced? 
  • What are the competitive obstacles to success?  What are the potential research outcomes (funding, publications, faculty hiring etc.) having this instrumentation/service? 
  • What is the business case for providing this instrument/service (Requirements, risks, mitigation and benefits as well as the financial justification for the investment decision)?
  • Briefly describe the plans for its management and maintenance, including what type of continued investment may be required to keep the instruments in the core current.
  • What is the expected ROI in terms of publications, grants, patents, industry partnerships, and awards?

Organization, Governance, and Staffing (Not to exceed 1 page)
Organizational details should be delineated. Leadership can include tenured, tenure-track and research faculty. A Director shall be named that has ultimate authority for the facility. There may also be managers or additional staff positions associated with a research core facility. The role of the faculty in the facility should be defined, and standards should be set for faculty involvement.Please include the following:

  • The proposal should state to whom the Research Core Facility will report.  If the facility is primarily in one department, then the facility will report to the department chair.  If the proposed activity is primarily within a college or in multiple colleges, then reporting will be to the relevant dean(s).
  • Facility leadership, staffing and advisory committee, if applicable. (Organizational chart)
  • Describe the rules governing how the Director is chosen, appointed and terminated, whether there is a governing or advisory committee and how it is constituted.  The role of the Director and his/her authority over facility should be delineated.
  • How will the facility be managed and by whom?
  • Describe the proposed hiring plan in terms of staffing (e.g., manager, research staff, and administrative staff).
  • Describe the relationship with industry and/or other institutions?

Budget Justification and Fiscal Accountability (Not to exceed 1 page)
 Describe the impact of funding on the improvement of resources or services within the core facility; how funds will contribute to the success and sustainability of the core facility; how these funds will benefit internal users of the core facility.

  • Please provide a copy of the operating budget of the facility for the past year (if applicable), the current year and the projections for the next four years. 
  • What new resources will be needed to fund the facility?
  • What additional personnel will be required? If some of the allocated funds will be used for personnel salaries, how will these be covered in future years?
  • What instrumentation will need to be acquired?
  • What business processes will ensure efficiency of operations and best return on investment?
  •  Explanation of how the unit plans to meet recurrent costs associated with the facility.

Funding
A list of recently funded activities related to the proposed facility and projected sources of future funding should be provided.

  • How will existing grants and related external funding support the center?
    •  Include specific IDC credit-splitting arrangements negotiated at the departmental, college, or University level.
  • Identify external funding opportunities for the facility as well as the research generated.
    • How will these opportunities be pursued (e.g., a strategic research development plan)?
    • What are the sources of these funds? Pay particular attention to sources such as philanthropic, graduate student fund generation, federal initiatives, state line items, and IDC return levels.
  • Describe the proposed fee structure for use of the instrumentation/services, include charges for collaborators or faculty researchers from other institutions and industry. 
    • How will this revenue be used to sustain the facility?
  • Identify other mechanisms that have been pursued in support of the facility.

Space 
Space requirements should be identified.

  • Location of the core facility.
  • What facilities, renovations and technology needs are anticipated?

Commitments 
Investigator, Departmental, College, and/or Division of Research commitments must be formally documented.

User Groups
Provide a list of the users, including PI and co-PIs, and include their departmental and institutional (if not UH) affiliation.

  • Who are the primary expected users of the facility, including PI and co-PIs, whose research program will benefit?
  • Provide a two-page curriculum vita for the PI and co-PIs.
  • What is the anticipated usage by all user groups?
  • How will users gain access to the facility/instrumentation/services?
Sustainability Plan and Timeframe
Ideally, core facilities will be self-supporting. However, it is recognized that most are seldom fully self-sustaining; thus core facilities typically receive some central institutional support and recoup a significant portion of operational costs are typically covered from user fees and departmental/other contributions (supplies, FTE, maintenance, etc.).  
  • Detail a sustainability plan and timeframe. 

Review Process

All applications will initially be checked against the eligibility criteria outlined above. In the rare cases that eligibility is not fulfilled, applications will be returned without additional review alongside an appropriate explanation by Division of Research staff. After the initial screening, applications will be submitted to the Research and Scholarship Committee (RSC) of the Faculty Senate to be evaluated. The RSC will make recommendations to the VC/VP for Research, who will be responsible for awarding and administering the grant. The RSC will consider the following non-exhaustive list of criteria when evaluating each application.

  • Does the proposal properly justify the need/value of the research core facility?
  • Does the proposal meet the criterion of a shared-use facility?
  • Is there an adequate administrative structure?
  • Is there a clear strategy of support that ensures the long-term viability of the facility?
  • Is there a clear institutional commitment from the department(s) and/or college(s)?
  • If this is a renewal, the amount of service provided in the previous year, continued strategic need, and user satisfaction will be evaluated.

Timeline

Application Deadline:  April 15, 2017

  • Applications shall be submitted to minorcores@share.uh.edu and received no later than 11:59 PM on April 15, 2017
  • Review deadline: May 1, 2017
  • Announcement of successful applications: May 5, 2017
  • Earliest availability of funding: September 1, 2017
  • Funds expiration: August 1, 2018

Reporting Requirements

A report of core activities and core accomplishments is required annually for the first three years after establishment of the core (form provided by DOR).

Research Organization Policy

The Policy for the Establishment, Evaluation and Discontinuation of Research Organizations (MAPP 08.02.01) governs those Research Core Facilities that receive direct financial or other support, including space, from the University of Houston.

Contact Information

Please contact Dr. Mary Ann Ottinger at 713-743-8886 in the Division of Research for additional clarification.

Please submit your application to minorcores@share.uh.edu  by 11:59 PM on April 15, 2017.