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Synergy Grants University of Houston/University of Houston-Downtown Synergy Grants: 2018 Guidelines


The University of Houston (UH) Division of Research (DOR) and University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) Office of Research & Sponsored Programs (ORSP) have initiated a pilot program to better harness the UH System faculty talent through targeted investment of seed research funds to promote collaboration. The goals of the UH/UHD Synergy Grants are:

  1. To promote equitable and mutually beneficial professional research partnerships that will lead to productive and long-lasting research collaborations between UH System campuses.
  2. Kick-start or expand research that has a high likelihood of leading to external funding and peer-reviewed publication.
  3. Engage UH and UHD undergraduate students into mentored research experiences that pipeline into UH/UHD graduate programs.

For this pilot round of funding, five 18-month awards at a maximum of $60,000 each are anticipated. Applicants will have 2 years to complete all activities, including the final report.


Synergy seed proposals must contain two PIs, one from each campus (UH & UHD) to make a team of Joint-PIs. In particular, interdisciplinary teams are encouraged to build capabilities and increase competitiveness. Full-time UH faculty members (tenured, tenure-track, or research faculty) and UHD faculty members (tenured or tenure-track faculty) are eligible to apply. Other eligible investigators at UH/UHD may participate as Co-PIs. No more than 2 Co-PIs per application should be included. A faculty member may serve as Joint-PI or Co-PI on only one funded application per calendar year.

Criteria for Award

Each proposal must supply convincing evidence that the following criteria have been met or will be met:

  1. The proposed activities must represent high-quality research of significant benefit to UH/UHD and society.
  2. an external grant proposal will be submitted in the selected research area during the first year of the award and in subsequent years as outlined in Deliverables.
  3. The proposed activities make substantive effort to engage UH/UHD undergraduate students in mentored research activities designed to motivate them to apply for UH/UHD graduate programs upon graduation. 

Proposal Preparation and Submission

The application to this program must be prepared following the requirements outlined below and submitted as a single PDF file via email to: by the Joint-PI’s affiliated pre-award research administrator in the College, DOR, or ORSP. Only one submission per team is required.

The proposal must be approved by the Chairs of the Departments and Deans of the Colleges involved from both campuses (see cover page requirements below).

Formatting Requirements

All documents should be prepared on US Letter size paper (8.5”x11”) with 1-inch margins on all sides, Arial font size 11 pt or larger. The proposal narrative must have exactly 1.5 line spacing; all other documents may be single-spaced. An Arial font size of at least 8 pt must be used for the captions to graphics and tables and may be single-spaced. The text in the captions must be legible.

Proposal Documents

  1. (1 page from each campus)
    One cover page from each campus is required for the application.  Both cover pages must identify the proposal title, Joint-PI and Co-PI names (if applicable), and their affiliations.  Each cover page must be signed by the affiliated Department Chair and College Dean from its respective campus.
  2. Proposal Narrative (Up to 6 pages, 1.5 line spacing, includes graphics, tables, equations, and formulas)
    The following sections should be included:
    1. Objectives and Specific Aims
    2. Significance and Impact
    3. Preliminary Results and Expertise
    4. Research Methods
    5. Timeline and Plans for Grant Submissions
    6. Plan for Involving Undergraduates in Research
    7. References Cited (no page limit) are in addition to the 6-page Proposal Narrative
  3. Biosketch (es) (2 pages per investigator)
    Provide a two-page biosketch for each Joint-PI and Co-PI. NSF style is preferred.
  4. Current & Pending Support
    Provide a list of current & pending support for each Joint-PI and Co-PI. Additionally, investigators with current funding should state clearly any overlap between the proposed project and their current projects.
  5. Budget
    Funding requests may be up to $60,000 depending upon the type and scope of the proposed work. The budget will be critically reviewed.
    1. Each campus should submit its own budget on the institutional budget template and a corresponding budget justification. The sum of these two budgets must not exceed $60,000.
    2. Support for faculty effort is limited to $6,000 (salary + fringe benefits ≤ $6,000) per campus for the entire project duration.
    3. Support for undergraduate student stipends is required and limited to $6,000 per campus (salary + fringe benefits ≤ $6,000). Other personnel support, such as graduate students, postdocs, and technical staff is allowed.
    4. Travel is only allowed if it is directly related to the completion of the research proposal, such as fieldwork, training on new equipment, and related examples clearly justified in the Budget Justification. No conference travel is allowed by this program.
    5. Unallowable expenses include: food, alcohol, and any type of refreshments; equipment (>$5,000); support for instructional development activities. 
    6. The maximum budget for one campus should not exceed 60% of the total budget. Any exceptions require approval prior to the submission deadline from the AVPs of both institutions (contact information is found at the end of this program).
    7. Upon award, the defined portions of the approved budget will be allocated to each Joint-PI to be housed in a cost-center at each Joint-PI’s campus.
  6. Budget Justification (Up to 1 page from each campus)
    All budget items should have written justifications. Requests for materials and supplies must be broken down to $1,000 or less.
    Any special exceptions to the budget made prior to the application must be documented with written approvals. These approvals (excluded from the page limit) should be attached immediately after the budget justification.

Review of Proposals

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 DOR/ORSP staff.

After the initial screening, full proposals will be competitively reviewed and acted upon by a UH Research and Scholarship (RSC) subcommittee that will include two UHD representatives and non-RSC members who have content area expertise from the campuses. Winning proposals will be selected by the UH Vice President for Research and the UHD Assistant Vice President for Research & Sponsored Programs based upon the reviews and recommendations of the RSC review subcommittee. Preference will be given to bold new ideas demonstrating clear evidence of a high likelihood of securing grant funding in the short term, and viability as a collaborative research program between UH and UHD faculty.

The proposals should be clear, concise, and explicit about the benefits of the activities to be undertaken. Proposals should be written to be understandable to reviewers who are from a range of disciplinary fields. Reviewers will be internal to UH and UHD, and some might not be disciplinary experts.

The review committee will rank each proposal in five domains on a 1 (highest) – 5 (lowest) scale:

  1. Plan for grant submission, including the timeline
  2. Impact and innovation of proposed research
  3. Quality of the research methods
  4. Investigator expertise and track record
  5. Long-term potential for collaboration between UH/UHD faculty, including the involvement of undergaduates in research.

Human Subjects Review/Animal Usage

All projects involving human subjects must be reviewed and approved by the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects at both campuses before the grant cost centers will be established. The protocol must undergo a congruency review to ensure that the activities are fully covered by the CPHS proposal. The two campuses are working on a reciprocity agreement or alternative arrangement so that the PIs will not need to submit separate IRB proposals.

All projects involving the use of animals in research must be reviewed and approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at UH before the grant cost centers will be established.

Intellectual Property

In accordance with UH System policy, faculty members at the component Universities share in net income generated from intellectual property. For additional information, refer to the UH Faculty Handbook or contact the Office of Intellectual Property Management at 713-743-9155.

Deliverables, Reporting, and Acknowledgement

The PIs are expected to complete the following activities and reporting during the 2 years following the activation of the award cost center:

  1. An external grant proposal in the same research area must be submitted during the first year of the award. If the applicants intend to apply for a competition that does not fit this timeframe, an exception should be noted in the proposed timeline. An exception can be granted by petition provided this does not delay the grant proposal submission more than 3 months.
  2. A resubmission is expected in the next submission cycle following the receipt of reviewer comments until funding is secured or a new application can be submitted while awaiting the outcome of the previous submission. In year 2, the PIs are expected to submit either a second proposal or resubmit the proposal from year 1.  
  3. At the end of the funding period, there will be a final report that captures the research output and funding garnered using this grant. Any investigators who fail to submit timely progress reports or fail to show adequate progress will have their funding terminated. It is the responsibility of each award recipient to provide information to the UH Division of Research and UHD Office of Research & Sponsored Programs concerning all external grant applications that are submitted or awards received as a result of this funding. Such information should include the date of submission, the title of the project, inclusive dates, agency, total amount requested, and the status of the application. Failure to comply with this reporting requirement will disqualify an individual for future consideration in all internal funding programs sponsored by the UH Division of Research and the UHD Office of Research & Sponsored Programs. 
  4. Notice must be given of publications or presentations resulting from the award. The grantees must acknowledge University support in all publications or presentations resulting from the award and must provide one copy of the publication to the UH Division of Research and UHD Office and Research & Sponsored Programs.

Program Dates

  • Program announcement: February 15, 2018
  • Application deadline: April 2, 2018
    Applications shall be submitted to by the UH Joint-PI’s affiliated pre-award research administrator in the College or DOR and received BEFORE 5:00 PM on the deadline day. No late applications will be accepted.
  • Initial review completed: May 1, 2018
  • Announcement of awards: May 15, 2018
  • Funding available/Project start date: June 1, 2018
  • Funding expiration: December 1, 2019
  • Project end date: June 1, 2020
  • Progress report due dates: November 30, 2018, May 31, 2019, December 2, 2019, with final report due on June 1, 2020.

For Questions

Questions related to this program can be directed to Dr. Jack Fletcher in the UH Division of Research at 832-842-2004, and Dr. Jerry Johnson in the UHD Office of Research & Sponsored Programs at 713-221-2720,

Faculty interested in assistance identifying potential collaborators should talk with Dr. Johnson or Dr. Fletcher.