W.M. Keck Foundation – Research Program


Participating Organization:

W.M. Keck Foundation

Funding Opportunity Title:

Research Program


1) Medical Research; 2) Science and Engineering



Award Budget:

$500K – $5M; typically $2M

Award Project Period:

1 to 5 years

Planning/Strategy Meeting:

06/09/2015; 12/15

Internal Pre-Proposal Description of Research to OSP:

06/26/15; 12/15

Phase I Proposal to Keck:

11/01/2015; 05/01/2016

Notification of Invitation to Submit Full Phase II Proposal:

01/15/16; 07/15/2016

Phase II Proposal to Keck:

02/15/16; 08/15/16

Grant Award Approval:

June; December




The Research Program seeks to benefit humanity by supporting projects in two specific areas (1) medical research and (2) science and engineering, that are distinctive and novel in their approach, question the prevailing paradigm, or have the potential to break open new territory in their field. Past grants have been awarded to major universities, independent research institutions, and medical schools to support pioneering biological and physical science research and engineering, including the development of promising new technologies, instrumentation or methodologies. Historically, grants range from $500,000 to $5 million and are typically $2 million or less.


Not Eligible for Funding

  • General operating expenses, endowments or deficit reduction
  • General and federated campaigns, including fundraising events, dinners or mass mailings
  • Grants to individuals
  • Conference or seminar sponsorship
  • Book publication and film or theater productions
  • Public policy research
  • Institutions that are located outside the United States
  • Institutions that do not have a tax-exempt ruling from the federal government and (if located in California) the State of California
  • Institutions that do not have at least three consecutive full, certified, audited financial statements
  • “Conduit” organizations, unified funds or organizations that use grant funds from donors to support other organizations or individuals
  • Institutions that are subsidiaries or affiliates of larger entities that do not have a separate board of directors and independent audited financial statements


Program Priorities

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


Limited Submission Program Process (see posted announcements for full details):

  1. Applicants provide their Research Associate Dean with a 1 page description of research.
  2. Colleges select candidates and fill out the Limited Submission RFP Nomination Form cover page.
  3. Colleges forward nominations, including the Limited Submission RFP Nomination Form cover page, to Sponsored Programs via e-mail.

(Each College may submit up to three concept papers. Due 06/26/15; 12/15.)

  1. The Vice President for Research and the VPR leadership team, in consultation with the Deans or other advisory groups as necessary, will determine which proposal(s) will be sent to the program.

(The University will choose two proposals to submit, one from each Keck program area. Chosen proposals announced 09/01/15; 03/01/16)

Internal Pre-Proposal Description of Research to Sponsored Programs: 

  • Due 06/26/15; 12/15
  • 1 page limit
  • Sections:
    • Header (Title; Project area; Names/Titles of PIs)
    • Overview (Field; Need for this project; How it is a high-risk and transformative project)
    • Relevant Efforts (Past/Current efforts; Supporting resources; Contrast to other efforts; Unique attributes)
    • Goals and Methodology (Goals; Methodology; Time frame)
    • Impact (Impact within CSU and more broadly; Impact for other researchers and in what fields)
    • Justification for WMKF Support (Why ineligible for federal support; Why Keck is essential)


Phase I Proposal to Keck (Hard copy):

  • Due 11/01/15; 05/01/16
  • Sections:
    • Project Summary – 1 page limit
      • Abstract; Unique Aspects; Key Personnel; Budget; Justification for Support
    • Project Description – 2 page limit
      • Overview; Relevant Efforts; Peer Groups; Goals and Methodology; Impact; Fundraising
    • Project Budget Form
    • Fundraising History Form
    • Project Requirements
      • List of Reviewers
    • Organizational Requirements
      • CSU financial docs; Board; Fact sheet

The Keck Foundation Research Program has two program areas: 

1) Science and Engineering Research. High-risk/high-impact projects in physical science and engineering. “High-risk” comprises a number of factors, including unconventional approaches and emerging areas of research. “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.

2) Medical Research. Basic research that is high-risk. Past grants have been awarded to support pioneering biological research, including the development of promising new technologies, instrumentation, or methodologies. Research projects should focus on basic research and questions and not be clinical in nature. Projects should also focus on basic mechanisms with broad applications and not specific diseases.


Keck is looking for:

– Projects that fall outside the mission of public funding agencies;

– Potential to develop breakthrough technologies, instrumentation or methodologies

– Innovative, distinctive, and interdisciplinary projects;

– A focus on important and emerging areas of research;

– High risk – unconventional approaches or challenge to the paradigm;

– Transformative impact – founding a new research field, enabling observations not previously possible, or altered perception of a problem.

– Lasting impact on the department, college, or university as a whole;

– Extensive involvement from students, both graduate and undergraduate.