For Applicants

The 2020 RISE competition will accept Round 1 applications by Monday, October 19th, 2020.

Distributed on Thursday, September 16th, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

We invite you to apply to the 2021 Research Initiatives in Science and Engineering (RISE) competition. RISE awards seed monies to support innovative, interdisciplinary, high-risk, and potentially high-impact research collaborations that are not ready to receive funding through conventional sources. All Columbia-employed, full-time researchers eligible to serve as Principal Investigators may apply for this internal seed funding opportunity, albeit with seven important restrictions and recommendations:

  • PIs and Co-PIs currently funded by the RISE program may not submit applications;
  • Applications must be fully collaborative, and must include at least two Lead PIs. Applications from only one PI, or who name a Lead PI who is not a full-time Columbia faculty member, will not be accepted;
  • At least one of the two PIs must be a researcher from a scientific, engineering, and/or medical discipline;
  • Applications from PIs that span two or more departments are strongly encouraged;
  • Applications from PIs that have never previously collaborated are encouraged;
  • Proposed projects must not have received support from Columbia’s other seed funding programs;
  • Multiple applications from the same PI are discouraged.

We recommend that you communicate with potential collaborators from different departments, conceptualize highly innovative and risky projects, and submit an application for the RISE competition in order to contribute to the growth and diversity of Columbia’s research enterprise.

About RISE

The RISE competition provides up to $80,000 for one year – with potential for a second year of funding – to enable researchers to produce the preliminary data necessary to obtain follow-on funding from conventional sources. RISE supports projects that are perceived as too risky and unfamiliar to receive traditional sponsorship, and affords researchers the opportunity to establish an initial proof of concept before submitting the proposal to government agencies and/or private foundations. Therefore, proposals currently suitable for submission to such conventional mechanisms should not be submitted to RISE. The most frequent reason that RISE rejects proposals is because reviewers believe that the project appears ready to apply for conventional sponsorship.

Since its inception in 2004, the RISE competition has provided approximately $12.1 Million in seed funding to 83 project teams. RISE-funded projects have subsequently won over $58 Million in extramural grants. Last year’s 2020 competition received 37 applications, of which eight advanced to the secondary stage of consideration, with four teams awarded funding. 145 Columbia faculty participated as peer reviewers of the applications.

Other Internal Seed Funding Programs

The RISE competition is one of multiple seed funding programs internal to Columbia University. Should the project you are conceptualizing not fit within RISE’s limited purview of basic and early-stage research, we encourage you to review other internal programs, which are identified here:

How to Apply

To apply for the 2021 RISE competition, please submit your application via InfoReady by 5:00 p.m. EST on Monday, October 19th, 2020. All complete and eligible applications will be evaluated by an internal peer review committee composed of senior researchers across the University. All eligible applications will receive substantial, constructive, and anonymized feedback relayed by the RISE administrator team.

A small handful of the very strongest applications will be invited by January 2021 to submit a four-page Round 2 proposal. Up to six teams from Round 2 will be awarded RISE funding, to be announced by Spring 2021.

For more information pertaining to the RISE program, including a list of Frequently Asked Questions and past awarded teams, please visit the website at You may also refer to the sample Evaluation Form that reviewers will use when evaluating applications, which is attached to this email.

With questions about the RISE competition or how to design the strongest application, please email [email protected].


The Office of the Executive Vice President for Research