CCIL Seed Funding Program

The Cancer Center at Illinois (CCIL) was founded to build campus capacity in cancer research. The CCIL Seed Funding Program provides support for Illinois cancer research teams to develop new ideas and innovative approaches bridging the engineering–biology continuum. The expected outcome of this seed grant program is a fundable interdisciplinary research proposal. The Seed/Planning Grants Program will be run annually and is designed to facilitate collaboration, build thematic research, and support data collection. Be on the lookout for the next request for proposals in Fall 2019.

Program Aims

The program has four distinct aims:

  1. Build Collaboration: Develop novel research ideas that require the involvement of multiple cancer investigators from different disciplines.
  2. Build Thematic Research: Formulate either a hypothesis-driven or technology-focused research project that relates to the scope of the two CCIL programs and their accompanying themes.
  3. Support Data Collection: Collect preliminary data or other relevant information to support a feasible approach.
  4. Develop Competitive Proposals: Garner external funding for multi-investigator research projects, using CCIL support as a catalyst.

The program will not provide interim or incremental support for existing research programs or projects that do not represent a significant opportunity for future externally funded research. Projects should not anticipate additional internal funding after the seed funds are exhausted, and investigators should plan to meet or exceed their proposed aims and goals by the end of the seed funding term. 


Research Team

Tenure-track Illinois faculty members are eligible to apply for CCIL seed funding. Active participation of faculty from more than one academic department is required and must reflect each CCIL program (see program descriptions). Proposals should include a description of the innovative nature of the research and the team’s capabilities, where the contribution of each collaborator’s expertise is evident.

Principal Investigator

Each project will identify a lead principal investigator (PI), who assumes organizational leadership for the project. A faculty member may only serve as PI on one submitted project. However, there is no limit to being a co-investigator on other projects. Applicants are highly encouraged to include faculty at the Assistant Professor rank on their teams.

Funding Levels

Funding provided by the CCIL to launch research projects is expected to be catalytic. Each research team may apply for up to $250,000, to be used over a two-year period. Project costs may include supplies, staff time, and research facility use fees. Projects should explicitly outline milestones in the development of a competitive, multi-investigator proposal for submission to the NIH, NSF, DOD, or other federal agency; industry; or foundation partners.

Proposal Preparation


Proposals should not exceed eight pages (single space, 0.5-inch margins, Arial 11-point font, including figures and tables). Guidelines and number of pages for each section are described below. Supplemental attachments are not permitted.

Proposal Content

Coversheet/Title Page: This page must include the project title, the names of the research team members and their primary affiliation (indicate the lead PI), their contact information, and the funding amount requested. (1 page)

Section 1. Project Abstract (1 page)

  • Limit length to 30 lines or less of text
  • Include the project’s hypothesis, broad, long-term objectives, and specific aims
  • Include a description of the research design and methods for achieving the stated goals
  • Write in plain language, so even a non-scientist can understand the importance of the project

Section 2. Project Narrative (3 pages)

  • Describe the research project including its potential for broad impact. Please note the review criteria listed below
  • Discuss how the proposed activities will leverage existing strengths across CCIL program and themes
  • Describe the role and qualifications of PI and rest of the team

Section 3. Project Milestones (1 page)

  • Provide a list of scientific and organizational milestones over the two-year period
  • One milestone at the end of year 1 must be the formulation of at least one “Specific Aims” page or equivalent for future submission to a funding agency
  • One milestone at the end of year 2 of funding will be a fully assembled project proposal. The CCIL will assist the team, when feasible, in assembling the proposal and obtaining external reviews prior to submission

Section 4. References Cited

  • 1 page; include titles of papers)

Section 5. Budget and Budget Justification (1 page)

Provide a budget estimate, with narrative justification, that does not exceed $250,000 over a 2-year duration. Estimates should be divided into major expense categories (e.g., personnel, equipment, services, supplies, travel, shared-resource fees, support). Indirect costs and salaries for the PIs are not permitted.

Review Criteria

Reviewers will evaluate each criterion on a scale of 1-9 as done for NIH applications.

  • Significance: Does the project address an important problem or a critical barrier to progress in the field? Is there a strong scientific premise for the project? If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge and technical capability be improved? How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?
  • Investigator(s)/Research Team: Are the PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If the PI is an early stage investigator or those in the early stages of independent careers, do they have appropriate experience and training? For this collaborative project, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise that spans the themes of the CCIL programs?
  • Innovation: Does the proposal seek to shift current research paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches, methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions?
  • Approach: Are the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses well-reasoned and appropriate to accomplish the specific aims of the project? Have the investigators presented strategies to ensure a robust and unbiased approach, as appropriate for the work proposed? Are potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success presented?
  • Milestones: Are milestones provided that ensure a high likelihood of progress? How likely is the formulation and submission of a multi-PI project application to a funding agency?


Contact Margaret Browne Huntt at