Call for Letters of Intent to HiLIFE Grand Challenge Program

Call deadline May 15, 2018 (at the end of the day, Helsinki time)

 

The HiLIFE Grand Challenge Program provides an opportunity for the researchers at the University of Helsinki and participating partner organizations to collaborate in a mission-oriented way to provide solutions to topical challenges.  The Grand Challenges will deepen and strengthen the University of Helsinki research profile and form attractive nuclei for partnering. Based on evaluation by the HiLIFE Scientific Council five to eight Grand Challenges will be funded initially for a period of three years. The Grand Challenges are aimed to be inclusive and interdisciplinary to form an environment to where new ideas are born at the edges of research fields.

All principal investigators (PI) at the University of Helsinki (UH) and partner organizations are welcome to participate in consortia chaired by HiLIFE Fellows. While it is encouraged that PIs are proactive in generating Grand Challenge proposals in their research area together with the Fellows, it is also possible for a PI to participate in the call without an identified Grand Challenge at the first stage. In this case PIs may be approached by Grand Challenge consortia passing to the second stage.

 

Short Letters of Intent are to describe an important scientific challenge with global impact and a concrete plan and steps towards solving the challenge. Funding can be applied to support the Grand Challenge platform and its development (e.g. international and local networking), salaries and running costs, services, and local infrastructures. Committed funding for the Grand Challenge program is 0,6 M€ with additional support to be included in a Life Science PROFI 5 proposal. The total anticipated funding for the three-year program is 6 M€.

Applications are submitted online in English by May 15, 2018. Each Grand Challenge proposal consists of a single Letter of Intent (LoI) submitted by the chair of GC consortium, and multiple PI Expressions of Interest (EoI) submitted separately by each principal investigator (PI) contributing to the Grand Challenge. 

Information requested on the Letter of Intent (LoI):

  • Title of the Grand Challenge proposal
  • Name, affiliation and contact information of the chair (note, also the chair submits the PI EoI form; see below)
  • Description of the Grand Challenge (i.e. an important scientific challenge with global relevance) and added value of the proposed Grand Challenge consortia (max 3000 characters with spaces)
  • Description of the environment and participants’ capacities (e.g. collaboration within the UH and with partner organizations, links to CoEs, ERC grantees, H2020 projects etc.) (max 1500 char)
  • A concrete plan and steps in solving the challenge (max 1500 char)
  • Expected results in terms of breakthrough science and interdisciplinary collaboration, and utilization of the generated new knowledge (max 1500 char)
  • Budget proposal to reach the set goals for Sept 2018 - Aug 2021, and draft budget for Sep 2021 - Aug 2024

Information requested on the PI Expression of Interest (EoI):

  • Name, affiliation and contact information of the PI
  • Name and chair of the Grand Challenge proposal that PI is contributing to (or research field in which the PI is interested in joining a Grand Challenge proposal)
  • ERC LS panel and research areas
  • Year of PhD
  • Description of PIs research topic (max 500 characters with spaces)
  • Three key publications since 2013 with motivation for highlighting them (max 500 char each)
  • Number of scientific publications and citations
  • Patents, invention disclosures, and/or other important resent research output relevant to Grand Challenge
  • Current UH and external competed funding and planned major funding applications (ERC, CoE, AoP, H2020, etc.)

Based on Letters of Intent the HiLIFE Scientific Council proposes to the HiLIFE board full applications to be invited (stage 2). HiLIFE board decides on Grand Challenges based on full proposals. Grand Challenge activities may start in fall 2018.

The criteria for evaluation is

  • accumulation of scientific excellence (scientific quality), and
  • potential of proposed activities to provide added value in terms of
    • interdisciplinary collaboration and breakthrough science (feasibility and scientific quality) and
    • utilization of the generated new knowledge (expected impact in solving grand challenge).

This section is updated during the call.

Update 3.5.2018: additions to Q3.1, Q1.1, Q2.1
Update 7.5.2018: question categories and new questions Q1.2, Q2.2-2.4
Update 8.5.2018: Q2.5, Q3.2
Update 9.5.2018: Q7.1
Update 11.5.2018: Q2.6, Q7.2, Q7.3

Glossary
GC = Grand Challenge
LoI = Letter of Intent
EoI = Expression of Interest
PI = Principal Investigator
LS = Life Science

GRAND CHALLENGE CALL / LETTER OF INTENT

1) What is being sought: thematic platform vs. mission-oriented project, scientific vs. societal

Q1.1: Is an optimal application i) one describing a thematic platform profiling the university and where activities include networking, researcher exchange etc, or ii) a mission-oriented project aiming for a concrete step in solving a research problem/grand challenge?
A: Optimally both. A Grand Challenge proposal should present a collaborative plan to provide concrete steps to solve the scientific challenge with global relevance described in the application. Grand Challenges are also expected to form a collaborative platform as a nucleus for new ideas, collaborations and funding. As the HiLIFE board has decided that the 5-8 selected Grand Challenges should represent areas of strength and opportunity at the University, they are expected to include a number of PIs from the University and partner organizations.

Q1.2: Are the Grand Challenges expected to emphasize scientific or societal challenges?
A: The Grand Challenges are expected to address both aspects. HiLIFE’s mission is to support outstanding research and its translation to the benefit of society. The Grand Challenge Program uses challenges to focus attention and effort on specific problems rather than e.g. disciplines. The definition of six LS themes in HiLIFE included several which focused on a specific problem relating to health, food, biodiversity etc. A successful GC proposal is expected to be based on outstanding research at UH and partner organizations and to describe a problem and a concrete plan to provide a solution to part of it. Proposals based on supporting a scientific field are not expected to succeed.

2) Participation of PIs and chairing

Q2.1: Can a PI participate in more than one Grand Challenge proposal?
A: Yes. In this case the PI should submit one Expression of Interest (EoI) for each GC proposal.

Q2.2: Can PIs be added later? E.g. if the LoI(s) a PI is involved in are unsuccessful, is there a possibility to announce interest in joining one of the successful ones, or, is it possible to also register in as interested PI at this stage, to cover that possibility later?
A: Yes. Grand Challenges are aimed to be inclusive and there will be a possibility for PIs to announce their interest at a later point. However, all PIs that are interested in a particular GC are recommended to fill in EoI at this stage (by 15.5.2018).

Q2.3: Why are the Grand Challenge proposals chaired by HiLIFE Fellows?
A: HiLIFE Fellow and Tenure Track calls 2017 identified 60 UH life science researchers with high potential to generate breakthrough research in the next few years, and therefore the HiLIFE Board considered the Fellows (including HiLIFE assistant/associate professors) as outstanding candidates to chair the Grand Challenges. Chairing Grand Challenges is one channel for Fellows to concretely contribute to the development of HiLIFE.

Q2.4: Can others than HiLIFE Fellows submit a Grand Challenge proposal (LoI)? If not, how other Principal Investigators (PI) can apply?
A: No, Grand Challenges should be chaired by HiLIFE Fellows (including HiLIFE assistant/associate professors). Other PIs are encouraged to contact Fellows in their research area and collaborate with them in formulating a GC and link their EoI to GC in question. Alternatively, PIs may submit EoI without linking it to particular GC. In such case, PI should specify the areas of interest, so that she/he can be approached by a GC at a later stage.

Q2.5: Is there minimum or maximum number for participating PIs per Grand Challenge?
A: No. However, note that Grand Challenges are aimed to be inclusive and interdisciplinary and bridge campuses.

Q2.6: Is there a way to connect with other PIs before the call deadline? Or after the deadline?
A: There is a Yammer discussion group established to facilitate GC discussions. After the call deadline, HiLIFE will display the GC proposal chair information, name of the proposal and short public description of the GC on its web site with consent of the GC chair.

3) Budget

Q3.1: What activities may be funded in HiLIFE Grand Challenge program and what kind of a budget can we plan?
A: Funding can be applied to support the Grand Challenge platform and its development (e.g. international and local networking) and for concrete steps to solve the challenge. Funding can be for salaries and running costs, services, and local infrastructures. Examples of possible activities are researcher visits, workshops, seminars, internationalization, networking, coordination, local infrastructure, publication strategies etc. According to the anticipated funding (see above) there would be 2 M€/year for the entire program; e.g. if five GCs are selected this would mean on average 0,4 M€/year/GC. However, there are no minimum or maximum limits on applied budgets. Budgets for a second three-year period are not expected to be detailed.

Q3.2: Should full cost model (kokonaiskustannusmalli) be used in the budget proposal? What percentage should be used for personnel side cost?
A: No. Overheads should not be included in the budget. Use 30% for calculating the personnel side costs, and indicate salaries and salary side costs on separate lines. Note that more detailed budget is requested later from consortia passing to the second stage.

4) Relation to research programs and LS themes

Q4.1: Do HiLIFE Grand Challenges restrict participation in other research programs at the faculties/units?
A: No, a HiLIFE Grand Challenge may encompass partly or completely research programs at faculties or other units and are expected to join strengths regardless of organizational borders and across campuses.

Q4.2: What is the relationship of Grand Challenges to the previously defined six Life Science themes?
A: The themes, many of which could be reformulated as a Grand Challenge, will be replaced/supplemented by Grand Challenges, and together they will include cutting edge research at the UH life science faculties and units.

5) Partners

Q5.1: What are the partner organizations?
A: Initial discussions have been undertaken with Aalto, HUS, Luke and Syke. However, relevant researchers from any organization are welcomed.

6) Continuation of Grand Challenge program

Q6.1: What happens to the Grand Challenges after the three-year term?
A: The aim is to continue the Grand Challenge program, and previously selected Challenges are welcomed to reapply.

PI LETTER OF INTEREST

Q7.1: What "Total amount of current competed funding" means? How should it be calculated?
A: This refers to total amount of competed research funding of the PI granted for year 2018. Competed funding in this case means both external research funding (e.f. Academy of Finland grants) and UH competed funding (e.g. HiLIFE Fellow, UH 3-year funding). Estimate is enough.

Q7.2: Is there a way to connect with GC chairs before the call deadline? Or after the deadline?
A: There is a Yammer discussion group established to facilitate GC discussions. After the call deadline, HiLIFE will display the GC proposal chair information, name of the proposal and short public description of the GC on its web site with consent of the GC chair.

Q7.3: How PIs whose primary research field is not in Life Science choose ERC LS panels describing their research area?
A: They should select the ERC LS panels closest to their research projects, and indicate their primary field (e.g. physics, chemistry) in the “Research topic” or “Key words”.