CITRIS Core Seed Funding

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The CITRIS Seed Funding program issues short-term, targeted awards to further the institute’s research priorities for societal benefit, catalyze early results that can lead to significant funding and strengthen connections across UC campuses. 

Proposals are invited from principal investigators at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Davis Health, UC Merced and UC Santa Cruz. Awardees embody the university’s public mission and the innovative spirit of California.

Projects must address the following Grand Challenges in Information Technology:
🌱 Climate Resilience
🌱 Digital Health Innovation
🌱 Next-Generation Technology Policy
🌱 Automation and the Workforce


Overview

This year, up to 12 CITRIS Seed Awards will be chosen to address “grand challenges” in information technology. Each winning proposal receives $40,000–$60,000 and engagement with the CITRIS research community during the Jan. 1–Dec. 31, 2022, performance period.

Successful proposals will emphasize:

  1. Information technology in the interest of society
  2. Early-stage, proof-of-concept work with potential to scale for impact
  3. Human-centric strategies and solutions

Background

The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society and the Banatao Institute (CITRIS) create information technology solutions for society’s most pressing challenges. Established in 2001 by the state legislature, CITRIS leverages the interdisciplinary research capabilities of multiple UC campuses to advance the University of California’s mission and the innovative spirit of California. CITRIS was created to strengthen bridges between world-class laboratory research, state and national policymakers, and the companies and startups creating new applications and reshaping entire industries. 

To date, the CITRIS Seed Funding program has accelerated more than 220 applied research projects led by over 400 UC innovators. Selected through a competitive RFP process, CITRIS Seed Awards support the scientific groundwork, data collection and prototyping necessary to pursue larger research or commercialization awards that address major unsolved challenges in the IT sector. Funded projects offer a glimpse at new frontiers of technology and have attracted more than $60 million in follow-on support from federal, state, corporate and private sources.

Grand Challenges in IT

Through engagement with our academic, industry and government collaborators, CITRIS has identified the following critical Grand Challenges for the information technology sector. We seek innovative proposals that bring the university’s expertise and ingenuity to bear on these complex issues facing California and the world at large.

Below are the four Grand Challenges:

Primary ThemeAreas of Interest
1. Climate Resilience
  • Critical life support systems: energy, water, food

  • Transportation and the built environment

  • Disaster mitigation: fire, flood, heat, drought

  • Decarbonization strategies

  • See Full Description ⬇️
    2. Digital Health Innovation
  • Remote access to quality care

  • Data analytics for health improvement

  • Aging well in a digitized world

  • Public health addressing environmental hazards

  • Preparing tomorrow’s health care workforce

  • See Full Description ⬇️
    3. Next-Generation Technology Policy
  • Responsible artificial intelligence

  • Digital ID systems and blockchain applications

  • Computational propaganda and authoritarianism

  • Participatory tools for equity and engagement

  • IT supply chain stability and security

  • See Full Description ⬇️
    4. Automation and the Workforce
  • Design for inclusive, accessible, safe systems

  • Platform technologies: emerging and at scale

  • Remote sensing, geospatial, aviation applications

  • Preparedness for tech-enabled jobs and careers 

  • Economic mobility and technology literacy

  • See Full Description ⬇️

    Full Technical Descriptions

    Challenge #1: Climate Resilience

    As climate disruption accelerates, the effects become more visible through increased wildfires, flooding, hurricanes and other natural hazards. Within California, severe drought conditions pose a threat to food and energy production. New research into our interconnected life support systems (energy, water, food, transportation and the built environment) is urgently needed to improve society’s capacity for resilience and a more sustainable future. 

    Proposals are invited that address critical challenges and opportunities in:

    • Energy infrastructure: grid connectivity, microgrids, storage, optimized controls, emissions reduction, powering rural communities
    • Water: monitoring, management, security, decision support
    • Food: resilient food systems, localized or low-energy food production, agricultural emissions mitigation
    • Transportation: decarbonized mobility, electric vehicles, aviation applications, shipping, alternative fuels including hydrogen
    • Built environment: smart cities, grid-integrated efficient buildings, electrification, building performance, digital transformation of infrastructure
    • Community-scale hazards: mitigation of wildfires, flooding, drought, extreme heat, air pollution, biodiversity loss, coastal degradation

    Challenge #2: Digital Health Innovation

    Spurred by recent advances in data analytics, the digital health revolution is ushering in a new era of transformative, scalable and sustainable IT solutions to improve health and wellness. These technology-enabled strategies aim to improve the quality of care and health outcomes while reducing health care costs. Current research priorities address the primary drivers affecting public health, including chronic disease, aging and health behavior. Interdisciplinary proposals should build upon the principal technology solutions of telehealth, sensors, wearables, mobile, cloud, informatics, robotics, and/or data analytics (artificial intelligence and machine learning) with an emphasis on solutions that integrate hardware and software. Proposals related to health policy, health equity, strengthening the health care workforce, and addressing the timely intersection of health and climate are also welcome.

    Proposals are invited that address critical challenges and opportunities in:

    • Digital access: telehealth, wearables, inclusive interfaces
    • Data analytics: AI or ML to improve health and health outcomes
    • Aging well: improving the well-being and resilience of older adults
    • Cognitive health: advances in diagnosis and treatment of complex brain conditions (e.g., Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke) 
    • Health care workforce: staffing, training, readiness for digital transformation
    • Health policy: IT-informed systems, strategies and governance
    • Public health: technology-enabled solutions that support adaptation to adverse environmental conditions (climate disruption, pollution, pandemics)

    Challenge #3: Next-Generation Technology Policy

    The rapid pace of technology innovation poses significant policy and governance challenges in the U.S. and abroad. CITRIS engages partners from the public and private sectors to drive rigorous and evidence-based policy proposals at local, state, national and international levels. Core questions address the role of formal and informal regulation in promoting technology innovation, amplifying the positive effects of information technologies, and mitigating potential harms. There is high demand for interdisciplinary technology policy research and engagement to ensure innovations serve the broader interests of society. 

    Proposals are invited that address critical challenges and opportunities in:

    • Responsible artificial intelligence: development and governance of AI-enabled technologies that are fair, accountable, trustworthy
    • Digital ID systems: ethical design, deployment, human rights implications 
    • Blockchain in the public sector: novel applications for social good
    • IT supply chains: policies to address vulnerability, fragility and security of technology supply chains for the U.S., particularly re: semiconductors 
    • Disaster risk reduction: policy implications of crowdsourcing platforms, high-performance computing and visualization tools for disaster readiness
    • Digital inclusion: equitable deployment and adoption of broadband internet 
    • Democratic innovations: digital tools for inclusive democratic discourse, participatory resource allocation and budgeting, constituent engagement 
    • Computational propaganda: identification or mitigation of harms related to algorithms, automation, mis-/disinformation, digital harassment campaigns
    • Digital authoritarianism: address rising use of internet blocking, facial recognition, spyware and related tactics  
    • Policies for equity in IT sector: monitoring, reporting and transparency regarding compensation, benefits, advancement, flexible work, or advancing corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals

    Challenge #4: Automation and the Workforce

    Today, the benefits of automation in the workplace are narrowly distributed and broadly misunderstood. How could the emergence of autonomous intelligent systems improve access to opportunity and equity for tomorrow’s workforce? The next frontier is automation that empowers human workers and expands career pathways. In the coming era of intelligent tools and systems, “good jobs” and strong economies must respond to the disruptive forces of technology and automation at scale. Inclusive Automation requires an integrated, interdisciplinary approach — from the drawing board, to the boardroom, to the production floor. We seek proposals at the intersection of technology and society that do one or more of the following: advance the capabilities of diverse workers, mitigate harms from existing systems (i.e., AI bias), broaden access to the benefits of automation, and/or create upward economic mobility and access to higher-quality jobs. 

    Proposals are invited that address critical challenges and opportunities in:

    • Inclusive automation: human-computer/robot teaming, using cobots and tech to augment human capabilities
    • Safety and wellness: shifting dangerous, repetitive or precise work to machines to better protect and leverage human creativity
    • Human-in-the-loop design: inclusion strategies from concept to end-user within high-impact technologies, including assistive robotics
    • Remote sensing, geospatial or aviation applications: new meta-view capabilities to understand and interact with complex or distributed systems
    • Worker-centric platforms: understandable tools and technologies that address trust, transparency, provenance and biases in data 
    • On-ramps for emerging professions: tools and approaches that promote pathways into technology jobs, especially for under-included populations
    • Re-imagined workplaces: physical or virtual redesign to broaden the distribution and benefits of automation and remote collaboration 
    • Economic mobility: automation-informed innovations that proactively address technology literacy; gender, racial and geographic access gaps; generational wealth and ownership imbalances; or investment in diverse entrepreneurs

    Timeline

    • Sept. 10, 2021: Online application portal opens for submissions.
    • Sept. 28, 2021: Virtual info session (RSVP via Zoom below).
    • Oct. 4, 2021: Virtual info session (RSVP via Zoom below).
    • Oct. 25, 2021: Applications are due online at 5 p.m. PDT.
    • Early December 2021: Awardees are notified.
    • December 2021–January 2022: Awardee funds transferred per intercampus timelines. 
    • Jan. 1, 2022: Performance period begins. 
    • Dec. 31, 2022: Performance period ends. 
    • March 1, 2023: Final reports due for CITRIS Seed Award projects.

    Information Sessions
    Two online info sessions will be offered with live Q&A. Following the first session, a live recording (presentation only) will be posted below. 

    Apply

    Applications are managed through our convenient online portal below. You will be guided to create an account or log in to your existing account. Please use your UC campus email address to ensure messages are received. 

    We recommend that the lead PI initiates the application for each proposal team. Any co-PI(s) listed will receive an automated email link to log on and view or edit the joint proposal.

    Rules, Rubric & Resources

    1. To encourage UC-wide collaboration, each proposal must include at least two principal investigators (PIs) — each from a different CITRIS campus: UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Davis Health, UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz.
    2. Proposals between PIs on the main UC Davis campus and the UC Davis Health campus in Sacramento fulfill the multicampus requirement above.
    3. All applicants must have active PI or exceptional PI status on their home campus. Postdoctoral researchers or graduate students may engage with two or more designated PIs to submit a proposal. 
    4. CITRIS Seed Funding may not be used for faculty salary or nonresident tuition. 
    5. During each application cycle, principal investigators may participate in a maximum of two proposals, and only one in the role of lead investigator.

    The CITRIS Seed Funding program is designed to support innovative, early-stage work that can attract larger-scale support from federal, state, industrial and/or philanthropic funding sources.

    1. Feasibility: Can stated goals be achieved within the 12-month performance period?
    2. Potential for societal impact: Is the nature of the challenge and its scale clearly identified? What potential impact can this seed-funded work have on the challenge, field and/or society? 
    3. Potential for follow-on funding: How will investigators build upon the CITRIS Seed Award outcomes? Has the topic been identified by federal agencies or other funders for future investment? Projects demonstrating a clear path from seed investigation to expanded funding will be rated more favorably. Awardees will be asked to report on resulting proposals.
    4. Alignment with the CITRIS mission: Does the proposal address one of the critical challenges in information technology named in the RFP? Is an interdisciplinary approach applied? 
    5. Use of CITRIS and the Banatao Institute research assets including the Marvell NanoLab, CITRIS Invention Lab, or other CITRIS-affiliated facilities is encouraged, but not required.
    6. Inclusion of pre-tenured faculty is highly encouraged, but not required.

    • Required Reporting: Complete the CITRIS Seed Award Report Form at conclusion of your performance period.
    • How to acknowledge CITRIS Seed Funding:
      • A unique award number is issued to PIs for use in reporting, publication tracking, and follow-on proposals.
      • Please use this acknowledgment statement: “This research was supported by Seed Fund Award [CITRIS-Year-Award#] from CITRIS and the Banatao Institute at the University of California.”
      • Download CITRIS logos for poster, presentation, print, and online use related to your award. Please contact communications@citris-uc.org with questions.
    • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    Email the Seed Funding program management team at seedteam@citris-uc.org.