W.M. Keck Foundation December 2021 Research Grants Program

The Syracuse University Office of Foundation Relations and the Office of Research are pleased to announce the launch of the Limited Submission competition for the December 2021 cycle of the W.M. Keck Foundation Research Grants Program. The W.M. Keck Foundation supports pioneering science and engineering research and the development of promising new technologies. The deadline for 1-page concept papers is November 19, 2020.

Click here to view the full competition information.

Sponsor Link: Keck program announcement
Number of Possible Internal Nominees: 4
Internal Submission Due Date: Thursday, November 19, 2020
Selection Notifications: mid-December 2020
Sponsor Deadline: May 1, 2021

A Limited Submission is a funding opportunity for which the sponsor sets an institutional limit for the number of proposals it will accept. In order to participate, Syracuse University must organize to submit our most competitive proposal(s). This requires an internal competition.

Synopsis of the Keck Research Program

The W.M. Keck Foundation supports pioneering science and engineering research and the development of promising new technologies. The Foundation strives to fund endeavors that are distinctive and novel in their approach. It encourages projects that are high-risk with the potential for transformative impact. “High-risk” comprises a number of factors, including questions that push the edge of the field, present unconventional approaches to intractable problems, or challenge the prevailing paradigm. In all our programs, “transformative” may mean creation of a new field of research, development of new instrumentation enabling observations not previously possible, or discovery of knowledge that challenges prevailing perspectives.

Funding is awarded to universities and institutions nationwide for projects in research that:

  • Focus on important and emerging areas of research
  • Have the potential to develop breakthrough technologies, instrumentation or methodologies
  • Are innovative, distinctive and interdisciplinary
  • Demonstrate a high level of risk due to unconventional approaches, or by challenging the prevailing paradigm
  • Have the potential for transformative impact, such as the founding of a new field of research, the enabling of observations not previously possible, or the altered perception of a previously intractable problem
  • Does not focus on clinical or translational research, treatment trials or research for the sole purpose of drug development
  • Fall outside the mission of public funding agencies
  • Demonstrate that private philanthropy generally, and the W. M. Keck Foundation in particular, is essential to the project’s success

Note: It is the University’s experience that the W.M. Keck Foundation supports only basic science & engineering research projects. Proposals should, therefore, place greater emphasis on the fundamental research that will be pursued rather than the project’s potential applications. Additionally, the Foundation prefers to fund projects that fall outside the mission of federal funding agencies. The Foundation will expect applicants to provide evidence, including indications from agency Program Officers or other information from federal agencies, that their proposed project is too “high-risk”, and therefore, falls outside of bounds of what would normally be funded by organizations such as NSF, NIH, DOE, etc. Applicants should ensure that their project meets all of these guidelines before submitting a proposal for this internal competition.

See the Keck web site for a list of project types not available for funding. Abstracts of successfully funded projects are found on this Keck web site.

Eligibility and Funding

Senior, Mid and Early Career investigators are encouraged to apply. Co-PIs are permitted.

Historically, grants range from $500,000 to $5,000,000, and are typically $2,000,000 or less. In the last cycle, awards were $1,000,000-$1,100,000, so we advise applying for $1,000,000.


Pre-application Counseling* Phase I Application Deadline Notification of Invitation to Submit Full Proposal Full Proposal Deadline
January 1 to February 15 May 1 July 15 August 15

Application Materials

Applicants must submit a 1-page research concept page and a summary CV for the PI. Full details of application requirements may be found on the Syracuse University Application Portal.

Limited Submission Selection Process

Only one Phase I application may be submitted to the Keck Foundation during any given grant cycle. The Foundation has established a pre-Phase I application counseling process to assist institutions in choosing the most competitive application for Phase I submission. Through this process, Foundation program staff will review and provide feedback on up to four concept papers. These concept papers will be selected through internal peer-review; PI’s whose concept papers have been chosen to move forward for pre-application counseling will be notified by mid-December. Selected PIs will work with the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations to revise and finalize concept papers for submission to the Foundation. Following the pre-application counseling, the internal peer review committee will review the Foundation’s feedback and select the project deemed most competitive for Phase I application submission. Note: The peer review committee may decide to withdraw from the Phase I application stage if the Keck Foundation’s program staff expresses insufficient support for any of the proposed projects.

For the first step of peer review, concept paper will be scored in several categories, including:

  • Does the applicant propose a project that focuses on important and emerging areas of basic science research? Does it have the potential to be transformative in its field?
  • Does the applicant sufficiently describe the proposed project to a general science audience? Are the proposed outcomes reasonable given the scope of work?
  • Has the applicant made a sufficient case that this work is high-risk and unlikely to be funded by other sources? Evidence of rejection by federal funders is viewed favorably by Keck.
  • Does the PI and/or project team possess the necessary expertise to conduct the proposed activities?

Questions: Email LimitedSubmissions@syr.edu

View competition