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Innovation and Impact awards offer funding for pilot research projects

Penn State College of Medicine’s Innovation and Impact awards help to fund pilot research projects exhibiting innovative approaches to critical research areas where the research outcomes could yield substantial impact on the understanding of disease prevention, treatment methodologies and disparities in health status.

The ultimate goal of research supported by Innovation and Impact awards should be to improve the health of Pennsylvanians. Innovation can be manifest as an idea or hypothesis, device or process that would not be obvious to those in the field. High-impact proposals are those that address complex problems or challenges of immediate concern.

Responsive proposals could be focused on basic science, clinical science, health care delivery or the translation of findings between those entities. The purpose of this funding mechanism is to engage investigators to look at critical research areas and think about what they could bring to the table, design an approach, and with the award acquire preliminary data attractive to external funding mechanisms.

Submission information will be provided when applications are being accepted.

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RFA Details: Innovation and Impact Awards

Eligibility Expand answer
  • The principal investigator must have their primary academic appointment in the College of Medicine at the rank of assistant professor, associate professor or professor.
  • Investigators may submit only one proposal as the principal investigator or co-PI of an Innovation and Impact pilot research project application. However, the number of projects where an investigator may serve as a co-investigator or collaborator is not limited.
  • The proposed research should be performed at a Penn State campus. To comply with requirements of the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) program that will support these pilot projects, the total cost of out-of-state personnel, subcontractors and consultants must not exceed two percent of the total grant costs.
  • Applicants to this program may be eligible to apply for and receive other types of competitive institutional research support provided there is no scientific overlap between the projects.
Program Guidelines Expand answer
  • Pilot grant applicants may request up to $75,000 direct costs for a period of up to 24 months.
  • Grant funds may be requested to support the salary and fringe benefits of fixed-term faculty and staff members who will contribute to the project (other than the principal investigator/co-PIs), student stipends, supplies, equipment, technical services, publication costs, domestic travel expenses directly related to the conduct of the research project and expenses related to the use of human subjects.
  • Grant funds may not be requested to support the salaries of the principal investigator or co-PIs, any other tenured or tenure-track faculty members, or collaborators from other colleges or institutions.
  • It is expected that awards will result in preliminary data to be used in grant applications to external research sponsors.
  • Renewal applications are invited; a progress report and justification for a renewal is required as part of the application.
Application Format Expand answer

Prepare the Innovation and Impact pilot research project application as a single PDF, single-spaced, 11-point Arial font, one-inch margins. The final PDF should include all of the information listed here in the order indicated:

  1. Cover page: Please use the cover page template found in Box (Penn State Access ID login required).
  2. Table of contents: Include page numbers starting with the cover page and numbering all pages consecutively.
  3. Abstract: Include abstract of the research plan highlighting its innovation and impact.
  4. Introduction (for revised applications only): Explain how the application has been revised in response to the previous reviewers’ comments. What additions, deletions, revisions and other responses to reviewers’ comments in the previous critiques has the principal investigator made in the revised application? (One page.)
  5. Progress report (for renewal applications only): Describe the results of the research supported by the previous award and justify the request for continuing support. How would this renewal make an application to an external sponsor more competitive than it would be without it? (One page.)
  6. Specific aims: One page.
  7. Research plan: Six-page limit that must include the following:
    • Significance: Describe the problem that the proposal will address and its significance.
    • Approach: Describe the approach proposed for use and its innovation.
    • Impact: Describe the possible outcome of the research and its impact on the problem.
    • Investigator(s): Describe why this is the best team to implement the project.
    • Environment: Describe the unique facilities and resources available for this research.
    • Compliance: Describe aspects requiring human subject, animal or biohazard oversight, describing the status of any required approvals.
  8. References:
  9. Future plans: Identify the specific externally sponsored funding opportunity that the team will pursue at the completion of the proposed one-year pilot grant, including agency, mechanism and possible submission dates where appropriate.
  10. Budget and justification: Provide a SIMS budget, per the instructions included elsewhere in this RFA. Provide a separate one-page budget justification.
  11. Biosketch and other support: For the principal investigator and any other faculty members involved in the proposed pilot project, provide the current NIH biosketch. Biographical sketch forms are available on the NIH website. The research support section should include all active and pending awards, the sponsor, project title, project period and current year direct costs. Clearly indicate whether there is or is not any duplication with the studies proposed for support by the proposed pilot project.
  12. Attachments: If the studies proposed in the pilot grant application involve critical collaboration with other investigator(s) or the essential use of facilities, equipment or reagents that are under the purview of another investigator, include a letter(s) from that investigator(s) to document their contributions to the proposed research. Do not include any other attachments.

An Internal Approval Form is not required at the time of submission, but in the event that funding is recommended and strategic plan requested, an IAF will be required.

For research involving human subjects or tissues, animals or biohazards approval is not required for submission of a proposal.

Instructions for Preparing an Innovation and Impact Budget in SIMS Expand answer

Maximum request: $75,000 direct costs per project

Earliest possible start date: June 1, 2021 (anticipated)

Using the SIMS budget program:

  • Create a budget using PA Tobacco Settlement Fund (TSF) as the sponsor name
  • Up to $75,000 direct costs
  • Plus 20 percent F&A
  • Total cost of out-of-state personnel, subcontractors or consultants must not exceed 2 percent of the total grant ($1,500)
  • Apply current NIH Salary Cap

Budget justification: Include a detailed budget justification.

Questions regarding the SIMS budget process should be directed to the Office of Research Affairs at 717-531-8495.

Review Process Expand answer

Applications will be evaluated by a Scientific Review Committee, who will consider:

  • Scientific and technical merit
  • The level of innovation and impact
  • The likelihood that the proposed aims will be completed within the stated project period with the requested funding
  • The likelihood that the preliminary data generated will support an external proposal for future funding

Written reviews will be provided. Funding recommendations will be made by the Vice Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in consultation with the Director of Research Development, in consideration of the scientific merit review and the availability of funding from the CURE program.

The principal investigators of pilot projects that are recommended for funding will be invited to prepare strategic plans for submission to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for final approval of funding from the CURE Program. If the proposed research involves human subjects, IRB approval must be obtained before the application can be submitted to the Department of Health. For proposed research with animals and/or biohazards, IACUC and biohazard protocols must be approved prior to the initiation of the award.

Evaluation Process for Funded Projects Expand answer

Principal investigators will be required to submit detailed annual reports in June of each year and a comprehensive final report in 2025 following the completion of their project. Subsequently, the Pennsylvania Department of Health will arrange an evaluation of the project by at least three independent experts in the field who will review the strategic plan, the annual reports and the final report and rate the project as outstanding, favorable or unfavorable. The principal investigator and the institution will then be asked to respond to each of the critiques and all this information will be posted on the Pennsylvania Department of Health website and made available to members of the Legislature.

It is therefore essential that principal investigators who accept support from the CURE Program make every effort to achieve the stated aims of their project and that they commit to complying with the detailed reporting requirements of this program.

In addition, principal investigators of funded projects will be expected to serve on the Scientific Review Committee upon request.

Previous Awardees Expand answer

Previous recipients of funding from the Innovation and Impact Pilot Research Grants are listed here.

For Details

Questions on this award should be directed to Research Development at 717-531-6949 or

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