CITRIS Core Seed Funding

Horizontal collage of five UC research photos: Crops growing in a field; a robotic arm in a laboratory; a close-up of a stack of silicon wafers; a drone in flight; a smiling man in a wheelchair holding a tablet computer.

The CITRIS Seed Funding program issues short-term, competitive awards to advance information technology research and catalyze early work that can benefit industry, the public sector and society at large.  

Team-based 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 innovative spirit of California, with a focus on interdisciplinary solutions.

Projects are invited in these critical research areas:
🌱 Aviation for a Changing Planet
🌱 Sustainability and Climate Resilience
🌱 Digital Health Innovation
🌱 People and Robots
🌱 Semiconductors and Systems


Overview

To encourage cross-campus, interdisciplinary approaches to societal challenges, eligible teams will include two or more principal investigators (PIs) from the different UC campuses named above. Proposals that engage multiple academic disciplines are encouraged. For example, a computer scientist and economist might collaborate on novel data applications, each leveraging the strengths of their home campus.

Competitive proposals will emphasize:

  1. Information technology applications to benefit society
  2. Early-stage, proof-of-concept work with potential to scale
  3. Solutions that address diversity, equity, workforce and/or policy questions are welcome in any category below.

Each winning team receives $40,000–$60,000 to pursue their research during the 12-month performance period. Awardees receive CITRIS Investigator status and can benefit from connections with the institute’s broader network and resources. At the conclusion of the award period, a brief outcome report is required to highlight the project successes and share next steps for the work.

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. CITRIS was created to strengthen bridges between world-class laboratory researchers, industry partners and public institutions that are charting the future and reshaping entire industries together.

To date, the CITRIS Seed Program has accelerated more than 235 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.

Areas of Interest

Through engagement with our academic, industry and government collaborators, CITRIS has identified the following critical challenges in 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 designated areas of interest for 2022:

Primary CategoryAreas of Interest
1. Aviation for a Changing Planet
  • Sustainable transportation and delivery: future fuels, energy, airports

  • Route planning, safety systems and algorithms for uncrewed flight

  • Remote sensing technologies, including for wildfires

  • Aviation workforce barriers and diversification: training, cost reduction, simulators

  • See Full Description ⬇️
    2. Sustainability and Climate Resilience
  • Resilient life support systems: energy infrastructure, water, food

  • Equitable transportation, logistics, low-emission fuels

  • Sustainable housing and buildings

  • Hazard mitigation: wildfires, drought, floods, extreme heat, pollution

  • See Full Description ⬇️
    3. Digital Health Innovation
  • Healthy aging in a digital world

  • Informatics and machine intelligence for health improvement

  • Equitable access to health care through digital tech innovation

  • Public health addressing environmental hazards

  • See Full Description ⬇️
    4. People and Robots
  • Emerging applications including health, agriculture, manufacturing

  • Algorithms and systems design for robust performance in new contexts

  • Human-robot interfaces that are intuitive and reliable

  • Design for inclusive, safe, accessible and/or assistive systems

  • See Full Description ⬇️
    5. Semiconductors and Systems
  • Next-generation devices, architectures

  • Ultra low-power, low-resource designs

  • Novel assembly, testing, packaging and systems integration

  • IT supply chain capacity, stability and sustainability across entire life cycle

  • See Full Description ⬇️

    Full Technical Descriptions

    Challenge 1: Aviation for a Changing Planet

    Aviation is on the cusp of transformative change. The promise of low-carbon commercial transportation, urban air mobility and next-generation logistics each have the potential to profoundly shape our lives and environment. In parallel, advances in remote sensing and earth observation can unlock new understanding about the multidimensional indicators and drivers of global shifts or disruptions. Exciting advances in aviation research sit at the intersection of these trends, including development of leading-edge technologies, applications and policies related to the future of flight. Interdisciplinary work is needed to advance primary discoveries in propulsion, batteries and materials — along with novel applications for imaging, sensing, mapping, automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).

    Proposals are invited that address novel challenges and opportunities in:

    • Sustainable transportation and delivery: alternative fuels, electrification in aviation sector, energy inputs and storage, flight data analysis, next-gen airports
    • Uncrewed flight: route planning, safety systems and algorithms
    • Remote sensing: new technologies or applications related to wildfires, agriculture, habitat, transportation, air and water quality
    • Workforce diversification: barriers to entry or policies within the growing aviation sector such as career preparation, training or cost-reduction considerations (e.g., simulators)

    Challenge 2: Sustainability and Climate Resilience

    As climate disruption accelerates, the effects on society’s fundamental infrastructure become more visible through increased wildfires, heat events, power outages, flooding, hurricanes and other hazards. In California alone, severe drought conditions pose a growing threat to food and energy production. Information technology is a key layer of the “solution stack” to limit future harms from climate change, increase systemic resilience and enable a more sustainable, equitable and carbon-neutral future. New research into society’s interconnected and increasingly digitized life support systems is urgently needed — primarily in the areas of energy, water, food, transportation and the built environment. Special attention is called to issues of climate justice and equity when considering long-range infrastructure investments and improvements.

    Proposals are invited that address novel challenges and opportunities in:

    • Energy infrastructure: decarbonization, emissions reduction, grid connectivity, microgrids, storage, optimized controls, powering rural communities
    • Water: monitoring, management, security, decision support
    • Food: resilient food systems, localized or low-energy food production, agricultural emissions reduction
    • Resilient and equitable transportation: decarbonized mobility, electric vehicles, shipping and logistics, alternative fuels including hydrogen
    • Sustainable housing and built environment: smart cities, efficient grid integration, electrification, digital transformation and performance of buildings
    • Community-scale hazards: tech-enabled mitigation of wildfires, flooding, drought, extreme heat, air pollution, biodiversity loss, coastal degradation

    Challenge 3: 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 are invited that address novel challenges and opportunities in:

    • Healthy aging in a digital world: increase well-being and resilience of older adults
    • Data solutions: informatics and machine intelligence for health improvement
    • Equitable access to health care through digital health innovations (telehealth, wearables, hardware, software, inclusive interfaces)
    • Public health: technology-enabled solutions that support adaptation to adverse environmental conditions (climate disruption, pollution, pandemics)

    Challenge 4: People and Robots

    Robotics and automation are advancing rapidly due to innovations in machine learning algorithms, sensors, motors, computation and networks — all accelerated by government, corporate and private investment. These systems have enormous potential to reduce drudgery and improve human experience in health care, manufacturing, transportation, agriculture and a broad range of other applications in the interests of society. Achieving this requires sensitivity to human factors, rigorous theory evaluated on standardized benchmarks and modular systems built upon shared software toolkits. Multidisciplinary research is needed in key areas of deep learning, cloud robotics, human-centric automation, precision agriculture and bio-inspired robotics.

    Proposals are invited that address novel challenges and opportunities in:

    • Emerging applications for robots and automation in health care, agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, energy and other industries
    • Algorithms and systems design for robust and responsible performance — addressing inherent uncertainties in sensing, modeling and actuation used for control, learning and systems identification
    • Human-robot interfaces that are safe, intuitive, inclusive and reliable
    • Inclusive automation: human-robot teaming, using robots to augment human capabilities, design for accessible or assistive systems
    • Safety and wellness: shifting dangerous, repetitive or precise work to machines to better protect and leverage human skills and creativity

    Challenge 5: Semiconductors and Systems

    Semiconductor technologies are the foundation for innovations within devices, computing, communications, smart infrastructure, automation and manufacturing. Targeted research is needed to improve the hardware and systems that enable digital transformation across this growing number of sectors. With substantial federal investment on the horizon to expand and secure U.S. capacity, proposals for semiconductor research are especially timely given significant challenges faced by the industry. Special attention is called to advancing next-generation technologies, reducing energy costs and resource consumption, and bolstering the U.S. (and global) supply chains against a wide range of risks and vulnerabilities. Consideration of career on-ramps to expand diversity within the semiconductor industry is also encouraged.

    Proposals are invited that address novel challenges and opportunities in:

    • New devices and interconnects to scale Moore’s Law beyond 3 nm, including advanced nanoelectronic switch prototypes operating at ultra-low power
    • New architectures for integrated circuits (IC): domain-specific architectures for targeted applications in data centers; Internet of Things; smart grids; machine learning; and cloud, edge or quantum computing
    • AI/ML techniques to accelerate research and development (R&D) and optimize semiconductor design and manufacturing
    • Power optimization: ultra-low power design and technologies to reduce energy consumption during device operation
    • Fabrication: energy, water and materials usage reduction during fab operation
    • Heterogeneous integration including monolithic 3D fabrication and advanced packaging
    • Manufacturing: novel control, sensing, metrology, testing, assembly, packaging or systems integration
    • Supply chain: innovations that address material inputs, alternative production processes, manufacturing capacity, inventory shortages or overall supply chain stability
    • Sustainability: innovations (including system-level design) to enhance sustainability in the entire semiconductor life cycle including manufacture, operation and end-of-life

    Timeline

    • Jun. 15, 2022: Themes announced in CITRIS newsletter, team formation begins.
    • Aug. 15, 2022: Full RFP published on CITRIS website, online application portal opens for submissions.
    • Sept. 22, 2022: Online info session (slides available below).
    • Oct. 10, 2022: Applications are due online at 5 p.m. PDT.
    • By Dec. 15, 2022: Awardees are notified.
    • January 2023–February 2023: Awardee funds are transferred per intercampus timelines.
    • Jan. 1, 2023, or Sept. 1, 2023: Formal performance period begins. Awardees will be asked to select either a Jan. 1 or Sept. 1 project start date to accommodate necessary hiring, IRB approval and/or procurement timelines.
    • Dec. 31, 2023, or Aug. 31, 2024: Formal conclusion of 12-month performance period and spend down of funds, with respect to January or September 2023 start dates.
    • March 1, 2024, or Nov. 1, 2024: Outcome report is due online 60 days after conclusion of the CITRIS Seed Award performance period.

    Information Session
    An online info session with live Q&A was offered Sept. 22. Slides from the presentation are available in the Resources for Applicants section below.

    Apply

    Applications are managed through the secure online portal below. You will be guided to create an account or log in to your existing account from prior years.

    For account management purposes, we recommend that the lead PI initiates the online application for each proposal team. The lead applicant can invite co-PI(s) to receive an automated email link to view or edit the joint proposal.

    Please use the UC campus email address for all participating PIs to ensure messages are received from our “CITRIS Opportunities” alias account at @mail.smapply.net. Email seedteam@citris-uc.org directly for help with any access issues.

    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. Collaboration between PIs from different academic departments, disciplines and/or diverse backgrounds is highly encouraged, but not required.
    4. Up to five PIs may be included per proposal (two or three is typical) as long as requirement No. 1 is met. Proposals that additionally engage postdoctoral, graduate or undergraduate students are encouraged, with space to acknowledge these contributors in the final report.
    5. Only designated PIs from the UC campuses listed above may receive award funds. Nonfunded collaborators from UC or other academic institutions are allowed if their participation substantially benefits the project.
    6. CITRIS Seed Funding may not be used for faculty salary or nonresident tuition. 
    7. During each application cycle, a PI may participate in a maximum of two proposals, and only one in the role of lead investigator.
    8. For prior Seed Awardees: if the lead investigator on a new proposal also received a previous CITRIS Seed Award, they must ensure the final report for the earlier award is submitted by Oct. 10, 2022 (or approved extension date), before a new award will be considered.

    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. Potential for societal impact: Is the nature of the challenge and its scope clearly identified? What are the anticipated societal benefits and effects of this work? What implications might the research have for workforce development, diversity and inclusion, or tech policy?
    2. Potential for follow-on funding: How will investigators build upon the seed award outcomes to attract further resources? Has the topic been identified by government, industry or philanthropic sources as a priority area for funding? Are the project goals and milestones calibrated toward these later-stage resources?
    3. Alignment with the CITRIS mission: Does the proposal directly address one of the central information technology topics named in the RFP? In support of the CITRIS mission, a multidisciplinary team with representatives from diverse backgrounds is highly encouraged, but not required.
    4. Inclusion of pretenured faculty is encouraged, but not required.
    5. Feasibility: Can the stated project objectives be achieved within a 12-month performance period, taking into account academic calendars and team member commitments?

    We look forward to celebrating and highlighting your research findings, follow-on developments and/or future funding plans.

    • Required reporting: Complete this brief CITRIS Seed Award Report Form within 60 days after the conclusion of your 12-month performance period.
      • If extenuating circumstances delay the project or fund expenditures, please submit a No-Cost Extension Request Form for consideration at least two months before your performance period ends.
    • How to acknowledge CITRIS Seed Funding:
      • Please use this acknowledgment in publications, presentations and follow-on funding proposals: “This work was supported by 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 management team at seedteam@citris-uc.org.