Proposing a Large SCRI Grant


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This is our strategy used when applying for large grants. It involves organization and team work.

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Proposing a Large SCRI Grant

  1. 1. Proposing a Large SCRI Project<br />Sanjiv Singh<br />CASC Principal Investigator<br />Marcel Bergerman<br />CASC Project Manager<br />
  2. 2. Background: Robotics Institute, CMU<br />Created in 1983<br />~400 people working on broad range of technologies<br />Growing 10-20%/year; doubling in size every 6 years<br />$60M/year in 2007<br />Largest department at Carnegie Mellon<br />Institute existed before academic program<br />Only Ph.D. program in Robotics (started 1989)<br />Majority of faculty in “soft money” positions<br />Funding from DOD, NSF, NASA, corporations<br />Long history of collaboration between researchers, universities, users and corporations<br />Commonly put together large proposals (&gt; $1M/year)<br />
  3. 3. Make up of a successful proposal<br />Work should<br />be doable<br />Ideas must<br />be novel<br />Results should<br />be measurable<br />Team should<br />be credible<br />Funding agency’s<br />interests and criteria<br />
  4. 4. Examples of agencies’ interests and criteria<br />NSF<br />Intellectual merit<br />Social impact<br />Not big on systems<br />DARPA<br />Paradigm shifting technology<br />Military relevance<br />Not big on social impact<br />NASA<br />Technologies for extreme environments<br />Space relevance<br />Dual use<br />USDA SCRI<br />Multi-disciplinary<br />Multi-state<br />Cross-cutting across crops<br />Gets out in the world (e.g. via ag extension)<br />Good chance that the enterprise will grow after USDA funding ends<br />
  5. 5. Challenge of large proposals<br />Scope can be so wide that no single person is a expert in all of the topics, BUT<br />Proposal needs to show an integrated approach, can’t be piece meal<br />WHOLE MUST BE GREATER THAN THE SUM OF THE PARTS<br />
  6. 6. Developing Large SCRI Proposals<br />Develop good links with industry being served<br />Get good research partners<br />Best partners are complementary, not your competition<br />Diversify between plant scientists, engineers, extension personnel and corporations<br />Get university behind project<br />Will need to sign off on match<br />Will need to cooperate on submission <br />Find matching funds<br />Best source is the community who will benefit: growers, industry consortia and equipment manufacturers<br />USDA rules make some equipment matches difficult<br />Match commitments must be firm<br />
  7. 7. Developing Large SCRI Proposals (cont.)<br />Leader (preferably the PD) for strategy<br />Selects collaborators<br />Negotiates budget allocation with collaborators<br />Final word on resolving conflicts<br />Sets proposal outline and page budgets<br />Proposal manager<br />Integrates contributions from team<br />Makes sure all requirements from solicitation are met<br />Review team<br />Not the researchers who write the proposal<br />
  8. 8. Comprehensive Automation for Specialty Crops<br />Four-year project focused on apple and nursery tree industry<br />Participants<br />Academia: CMU, Penn State, Washington State, Oregon State, Purdue<br />Industry: Vision Robotics, Toro, Trimble<br />Government: USDA-ARS<br />Farmers, growers, and associations<br />
  9. 9. How CASC was put together<br />Started discussions with Penn State/apple growers 9 months before proposal deadline<br />Identified movers and shakers in the industry, attracted them <br />Started and stayed with a single project lead<br />Created an outline of the proposal<br />Refused to accept text already written<br />No writing until outline accepted<br />Each theme required to articulate (3 slides)<br />Leader<br />Problem: agnostic to solution (e.g. need to detect disease)<br />Approach: how the problem is solved (e.g. use computer vision)<br />Milestones: Concrete results (e.g. will build a mobile sensor in year 1, test in year 2)<br />Criteria for success: (e.g. will drive 1 km in year 1)<br />
  10. 10. How CASC was put together (cont.)<br />Outline turned into a statement of work for each subcontractor<br />Once picture clear, asked team members to write in a structured way with fixed page limits<br />Core group of people huddled and wrote front end and back end<br />Conducted “Red Team” review by others who have written large proposals<br />Got much help from budget offices at PSU, OSU and WSU<br />
  11. 11. Summary<br />Start discussions with industry early<br />Land usage has great match potential, but cash contributions are the way to tell if the industry is really serious<br />Outline! Don’t write until content is clear<br />Set metrics (criteria for success) to clarify that your project will be beneficial<br />Get experienced people to manage proposal and run project<br />Proposal should read like it was written by a single entity<br />Get industry leaders on your advisory panel<br />
  12. 12. Thank you.<br />