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Bridge Funds Program

The strength and reputation of a research university is inseparably tied to the continuous achievement of high-quality research by its faculty. A great deal of university research and scholarship requires funding from external sources. Faculty research at the University of Houston (UH) has been supported from a multitude of sources, ranging from long-established federal agencies (such NEA, NEH, NIH, NSF, DOE, DOD and NASA), state and local government agencies (such as CPRIT), private foundations (for example American Cancer Society, the Petroleum Research Fund), and private industrial grants, contracts, and partnerships (for example from Shell, Pfizer). The availability of these funds has fluctuated over time, depending on governmental and agency budget decisions as well as the overall economic climate. In recent years, competition for all of the funds that support research, both public and private, has increased considerably and the percentage of all applications that are successfully funded has dramatically decreased to historically low levels, requiring multiple applications to obtain funding for research and scholarship projects.

Scholars with long track records of productivity have often spent many years working with highly trained personnel and specialized equipment essential to running the laboratory and maintaining continuity. In many cases, these staff have unique skill sets that cannot be readily replaced, even if funding is restored some time later. Organizationally, a funding gap for a scientist with loss of these highly trained staff necessitates retraining once funding is restored, meaning significantly diminished productivity and loss of faculty competitive edge.

The conclusion is that it is in the best interest of universities to protect and foster the research careers of productive scholars from factors that may lead to early termination of productivity. In recognition of this, most top tier research universities have set aside funds to provide a bridge to support productive faculty who face a gap in their funds. The purpose of the present document is to describe a similar program that will be administered by the Division of Research (DOR) at UH.

Purpose

The purpose of the Bridge Fund Grant (BFG) program is to ensure the continuation of research projects that have the highest likelihood of restoring external funding. The UH BFG is intended to support full-time tenured faculty, or in rare cases tenure-track faculty, who have no other source of funds, and who can demonstrate that their programs have a reasonable likelihood of renewed funding. This program is not intended as a seed funding for high-risk projects (the Grants to Enhance and Advance Research (GEAR) program may be a venue for such projects) or for new faculty who have not yet developed a sustained track record of external funding, or for senior faculty who have not had external funding for more than one or two of the funding cycles from their historical sources. For the year 2021-2022, total funds allocated to the BFG program is $300,000.

Temporary Eligibility Criteria to Allow for Exceptional Circumstances

  1. Full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty in residence. Investigators with previous track record of consistent funding as principal investigators that has terminated within the last nine months or prospectively over the next three months, and who have submitted renewal or new applications that can sustain the program. Under exceptional circumstances, such as inability to acquire data due to COVID-19, the requirement of having submitted a renewal or new application can be waived upon request. However, other evidence must be presented indicating that a grant application would have a high likelihood of being successful. Priority will be given to faculty whose external funding is from federal sources that pay the full negotiated overhead, and who have high but non-fundable priority scores on previous submissions, or those who have attracted private funds with a high likelihood of being re-established within the next nine months.
  2. At the time of application
    1. funding must have terminated within the last nine months or will terminate over the next three months;
    2. applicants must have submitted renewal or new applications that can sustain their program (see above for exception);
    3. proposals must have been reviewed and received high but non-fundable priority scores suggesting that the proposal just needs some additional work to become fundable (see above for exception); and
    4. permission to submit a proposal for BFG has been granted by Dr. Claudia Neuhauser cmneuhauser@uh.edu, Associate VP for Research and Technology Transfer.