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UConn COVID-19 Rapid Start Funding (COVID-RSF) Program

Note: The guidelines below are for the first cycle of COVID-RSF funding, which is now closed.  Click here for updated and expanded COVID-RSF2 (COVID-19 Research Seed Fund) guidelines.



COVID-RSF is an initiative of the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) that supports the development of promising projects related to COVID-19.  Many funding agencies have responded to the pandemic by creating emergency/rapid funding mechanisms that address key scientific problems related to the detection, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of this disease.  A recent and notable example is the NIH RADx-rad program, which seeks to advance capabilities related to COVID-19 testing.

This internal funding mechanism seeks to identify and support novel technologies and approaches with strong potential to be competitive for emergency funding opportunities addressing COVID-19.  Proposals should be able to make a compelling case that the technology/approach is unique and can have a significant impact on COVID-19 related challenges in the near term.  Given the rapidly-changing nature of the COVID-19 funding landscape, projects with the potential for this kind of impact will be considered regardless of whether a specific external funding opportunity currently addresses it.

COVID-RSF seeks proposals for potentially high-impact projects that are ready to launch in a short period of time.  As such, early-stage seed projects or other developmental work will not be competitive.  Applications will be collected and rapidly reviewed in early September, with funding to be released by October 1.  It is expected that COVID-RSF funding will be used to support a short ramp-up period for these highly-competitive projects while they are being submitted and considered for rapid-response external funding.

To give a sense of the NIH’s current interests related to COVID-19, some of the topics addressed by the recent RADx-rad program include:

  1. Wastewater detection of SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19)
  2. Exosome-based Non-traditional Technologies Towards Multi-Parametric and Integrated Approaches for SARS-CoV-2
  3. Chemosensory Testing as a COVID-19 Screening Tool
  4. Predicting Viral-Associated Inflammatory Disease Severity in Children with Laboratory Diagnostics and Artificial Intelligence (PreVAIL kIds)
  5. Multimodal COVID-19 surveillance methods for High Risk Populations in densely populated facilities
  6. Novel Biosensing for Screening, Diagnosis and Monitoring of COVID-19 From Skin and The Oral Cavity
  7. Automatic detection and tracing of SARS-COV-2
  8. RADx-rad will also have a Data Coordination Center (DCC) which will provide management, direction, and overall coordination across RADx-rad awardees in areas such as data sharing, data management standards, terminologies, and common data elements.

Other topics from across all disciplines will also be considered, so long as they have potential to make an immediate impact on the detection, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of COVID-19.


  • Proposals (brief whitepapers, plus budget and biosketches) due Friday, Sept 11 2020 by 12 noon. Program now closed.
  • Submissions should be made via the UConn Quest portal.
  • Award notices expected by Sept 18.  Award setup will begin immediate after notice, pending the completion of compliance review.

Program/Award Details:

  • Several awards of up to $50K will be made
  • As these are rapid-response grants, it is expected that projects would spin up quickly following award and the scope-of-work completed within a few months.  Projects with a scope longer than 6 months are strongly discouraged.



The COVID-RSF Program is available to UConn / UConn Health faculty members, within the following parameters:

  • UConn Primary Appointment: PIs must be full-time faculty whose primary appointment is at UConn/UConn Health. Investigators with primary appointments to CCMC, Jackson Labs, TIP companies, or other institutions are not eligible to lead projects, but they may be named as Co-PIs, collaborators, or consultants on an eligible PI’s project.  Proposals that include external Co-PIs should be careful to describe how responsibility for the project will be divided between institutions, and ideally they will include cost-sharing commitments from external partners
  • Effort and Salary: Although no minimum effort level is required for COVID-RSF projects, a UConn/UConn Health PI/Co-PI must have departmental research time available during the award period or address in the application how they will handle the time commitment required by the project. PIs/Co-PIs must each make significant and distinct intellectual contributions to the design and direction of the project. Generally speaking, awards are only available to UConn/UConn Health tenure-track and clinical faculty and in-Residence faculty at the Storrs/Regional campuses. UCH in-residence faculty and research faculty are not eligible to apply as PI but can be named as Co-PIs, collaborators, or consultants on an eligible PI’s project.
  • Application Limits: Eligible faculty may submit multiple proposals, so long as each are scientifically distinct. Investigators may serve as collaborator on multiple projects.

Proposal Guidelines

Proposals for COVID-RSF Awards should contain the following elements and follow the structure and guidelines indicated.  All length guidelines assume 1” margins, 11-12pt fonts, single spacing and single side pages.

  • Cover Page: Title of Project, Principal investigator(s) with contact information, List of other team members, Specific funding mechanism targeted, Target submission date
  • White Paper: Briefly describe the project, how it will be conducted, and anticipated outcomes. White papers should address the following areas and should not exceed 2-3 pages in length:
    • Core Research Questions to be addressed and their significance
    • Currently available resources and personnel and how they will support the project
    • Proposed activities under COVID-RSF Award and how they will advance the project towards the goal of impacting the fight against COVID-19.  If you have a specific funding mechanism in mind for follow-up funding, also address how the work under this award will improve competitiveness for that mechanism.
  • Budget describing and justifying use of COVID-RSF funds.  You can use this budget template.
  • Biosketches / CVs for all PIs and Co-PIs: Please include an updated biosketch consistent with NIH (max 5 pg)/NSF (max 2 pg) format.  If your field is not typically funded by NSF/NIH, please include a brief CV following your discipline’s conventions.
  • NSF/NIH-style Letters of support from any facilities providing support during the COVID-RSF award period

Budget Guidelines

Below are general guidelines regarding allowable/unallowable costs that are consistent with other OVPR internal funding opportunities.  Given the unique nature of the COVID-RSF mechanism, we understand that these guidelines may not include all budget items that are necessary to enhance competitiveness for your targeted external mechanism.  If you have a budget need that does not fit within these guidelines, you may include it, but we ask that you provide strong justification in support of the request.  You can use this budget template.

  • Allowable costs include: graduate research assistant salary, Postdoc or other Research Assistant salary, Undergraduate Researcher salary, Course buyouts (approval letter from Department Head required), Fringe costs, equipment purchases, travel to conduct research or meet with collaborators (Provost approval may be required), materials and supplies, participant support costs, animal/animal care costs, contractual services
  • Unallowable costs include: faculty member salaries, clerical or administrative personnel salaries, including personnel whose primary purpose is to explore funding sources and/or prepare grant applications; service/maintenance contracts on equipment; laboratory renovations, or other infrastructure renovations; institutional memberships in professional organizations; travel to professional meetings to present the results of the research; travel to explore extramural funding opportunities; costs associated with the publication of results of the research, including page charges, purchase of reprints, or journal costs.

Review Criteria

  • Timing – Is the project capable of spinning up immediately?
  • Significance/Importance – Does this project address a significant scientific question / technical problem?
  • Innovation/Novelty – Does this project approach the problem in a new/innovative way?
  • Feasibility of Approach – Does this project have a clear and methodologically sound approach?  Is the plan of work described likely to succeed?
  • Environment/Resources – Are available resources/facilities sufficient to successfully complete the work?
  • PI/Team qualifications – Who will be working on this project, and how are they uniquely suited to accomplish this work?  Does the team have a strong track record of external grant success?
  • Outcome – Does the project promise to produce significant value / high impact?
  • Assessment – Does the project have a reasonable plan for measuring and determining success?
  • Budget – Are funds to be used efficiently and effectively to achieve project goals?

Post-Award Considerations and Reporting

  • Reporting requirements: PIs will need to prepare a brief report summarizing project progress within six months.
  • Further reports on project outcomes may be requested in the future to track return on investment.

Program Contacts

    • Administrative contact: Matt Mroz, PhD, OVPR Internal Funding Coordinator. research@uconn.edu;
    • Program Director: Mark Aindow, PhD, Executive Director for Innovation, External Engagement, and Industry Relations. m.aindow@uconn.edu