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The CALS Research and Innovation Office (RIO) launched the inaugural moonshot seed grant program in the fall of 2023. The overall goal of the moonshot seed grant is to mobilize college research to compete for various sources of large external grants and to accelerate the translation of basic discoveries into field application and commercialization in strategic areas.

Current applications requested

Proposal development award

The proposal development award is intended to help investigators generate key preliminary data missing for submissions of new and (or) renewed grants to federal and non-federal, major sponsors and enable a group of investigators (PIs in CALS) to develop interdisciplinary, large-sized grant applications. The successful awardees are required to submit their intended grant applications within 1 year.

Patent and (or) technology development award

The patent and (or) technology development award is intended to help innovators generate required data in enabling a patent application and issuing and (or) performing necessary tests of a prototype technology (such as seeds, software, procedure, etc.) to engage a potential licensee for the technology. Applicants for this type of grant must have developed a prototype technology and (or) filed an invention disclosure to the Office of Center for Technology Licensing (CTL) at Cornell University that has been/will be assessed by CTL for patentability. The patent applications should be filed, and the technology should be transferred (licensed) within 1 year.

Product and (or) company development award

The product and (or) company development award is intended to encourage the creation of startup companies by the CALS faculty and new product development by these companies. Applicants must have recently established a startup company or will establish one within 1 year to commercialize Cornell-patented technology.

Community impact award

The community impact award is intended to support the development and application of novel concepts and approaches to engage, inspire and help a partner community transform in a way that leads to economic, ecological and societal enhancements (e.g., improved human health and well-being, environmental sustainability and natural resource preservation). Achievements of the project goals should be assessed, and the results of this assessment may be used for applications of external grants that require an outreach or broader impact component.   


The application is open immediately and the deadline is October 31, 2023, at 5:00 p.m.

Funding decisions will be made by November 15, 2023. Selected grants can start on December 1, 2023, and access to funds will expire in 1 year. Unused funds must be returned to RIO.

Eligibility of applicants

All CALS tenure-track and research, teaching and extension faculty members are eligible to apply. Each applicant may serve as PI on one application and co-PI on another application (a maximal of 2 proposals per applicant).

In addition, co-PIs may include faculty outside of CALS, but the funding must run through CALS faculty accounts.

Budget & project requirements

The allocated funds should be used for the proposed research and innovation activity, but the actual use is flexible at the PI’s discretion. However, the funds cannot be used for faculty (summer) salary, purchasing major equipment over $5,000 or lab renovations. Awardees are expected to submit a first quarter progress report (1-page) and a final report (2-page) to the RIO. The final report should indicate if the proposal has led to the intended outcome (e.g., external grant submission and funding status) for the type of grant applied. Awardees may be invited to present their achievements to CALS leadership, stakeholders and donors.  

Evaluation criteria

Each application will be assessed based on its scientific significance and contribution to advance synthetic biology, carbon sequestration, digital agriculture and other key areas of moonshots described in the RFP; its probability to attract large external grant support; and its potential to innovate and commercialize new technology and/or make an immediate and significant community impact. Applications that emphasize human diversity, inclusion, and equity and/or integrate the natural and social sciences in the target areas are strongly encouraged.

Application instructions

Each application package should include the following items (12-point font size, single-spaced):

  1. Cover Page: Proposal title; PI and co-PI name, title and contact information; and type of seed grant you are applying for.
  2. Proposal Description (2 pages): Include project background and rationale, specific aims, experimental design or work plan, research or technical approaches, and expected outcomes and their relevance to the target seed grant mission. Please elaborate the key components or results that you intend to obtain from this proposed project to achieve your goal (e.g., submitting a large grant, acquiring a patent, licensing a technology or creating a company).  
  3. Signed Budget Justification (1 page): This document must be signed by a Department Chair or Unit Director. Please list major project milestones, timeline for each of milestones and corresponding budget items (categories such as personnel, supplies, per diem, etc.). Briefly justify the budget and have your Department Chair or Unit Director sign this page.
  4.  A copy of the PI’s and co-PIs’ NIH or USDA biosketch (1-3 pages per person).
  5. Please assemble all pages and submit your application as a PDF below. Inquiries regarding this RFP should be directed to Marius Weigert (pmw94 [at] (pmw94[at]cornell[dot]edu)).  

Submit your proposal

Select an award. A separate submission must be made for each award proposal.
Other investment needed for the success of moonshot proposal, e.g. equipment or specific facility upgrades.

Upload your proposal

One file only.
50 MB limit.
Allowed types: pdf.


The Research and Innovation Office supports faculty efforts in transdisciplinary research and innovation in pursuit of the Roadmap to 2050 CALS strategic plan. The RIO leverages CALS’s disciplinary strengths that tackle society’s grand challenges and promote the strategic, long-term, and mutually beneficial collaborations and business partnerships with our most important stakeholders: industry, governments, private sectors, and non-academic end users of CALS innovation and technology for economic development, environmental sustainability, and wellbeing of society. The RIO is led by Associate Dean, Xingen Lei, Professor of Molecular Nutrition, along with Marius Weigert, Director of Innovation and Engagement and the Director of Research Development (currently under search).