Bold Challenges awards $700K for eight research teams

May 1, 2024

Eight interdisciplinary teams from across the University of Michigan have received more than $700,000 from the Bold Challenges’ Accelerate Program to explore innovative research projects that address a wide range of societal challenges ranging from housing shortages to organ failure. Environmental political scientist Arun Agrawal is the principal investigator for a project titled, "Advancing Knowledge of the Complex Relationships Between Climate Change, Demographic Change, Conflicts and Health."

Bold Challenges, based in the Office of the Vice President for Research, launched its Accelerate Program last year to support the preliminary work needed to prepare for submitting proposals that have the potential to establish future initiatives and centers at U-M focused on the global challenges facing societies today.

Researchers are using the funding to cover costs associated with preliminary data collection, technical writers, workshops and support salaries. In addition to financial support, participants receive in-kind support, including team facilitation, project management, graphic design support, and proposal development and review.

The teams consist of researchers from nine U-M schools and colleges, as well as partners from peer institutions nationwide, including Boston University, Howard University and Cornell University.

Accelerate teams target grant values at least 25 times the funding they receive. The current cohort is writing proposals for grants ranging from $650,000 to $20 million from a broad spectrum of organizations, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Belmont Forum and the Wellcome Trust.

“The current cohort of Accelerate researchers are advancing research related to some of the most difficult challenges affecting communities across the globe,” said Arthur Lupia, interim vice president for research and innovation. “Their work, and the support provided by Bold Challenges, exemplifies the ambitious, interdisciplinary projects the initiative aims to bolster.”

Accelerate applications are accepted on a rolling basis from teams that will soon be or are currently seeking large-scale funding opportunities. Applications for the 2024 cycle of Boost, the Bold Challenges’ program designed to connect and support researchers in the preliminary stages of large-scale projects, are due May 13.

The research projects and principal investigators for the teams that received the latest funding are:

  • International Network of Pathogen Prevention Biorepositories — Kelly Speer, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, LSA.
  • Genetic Applications to Improve Vascular Health — Santhi Ganesh, professor of internal medicine and human genetics, Medical School.
  • Advancing Knowledge of the Complex Relationships Between Climate Change, Demographic Change, Conflicts and Health — Arun Agrawal, Samuel Trask Dana Professor and professor of environment and sustainability, School for Environment and Sustainability; professor of political science, LSA; and professor of public policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
  • Large Animal Modeling of End-Organ Failure in Sepsis — Robert Dickson, associate professor of internal medicine and microbiology and immunology, Medical School.
  • Lung Cells During Development and Regeneration in Health and Disease — Rachel Zemans, Henry Sewall Research Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and professor of internal medicine, Medical School.
  • Broadening the Research Enterprise: Inter-Institutional Research Capacity Building, Access and Collaboration — Irene Hwang, lecturer IV in architecture, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.
  • Smart Robotic Additive Architecture and Construction — Mania Aghaei Meibodi, assistant professor of architecture, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.
  • Center for Digital Twins in Manufacturing — Dawn Tilbury, Herrick Professor of Engineering, professor of robotics, of mechanical engineering, and of electrical engineering and computer science, College of Engineering.

Written by Kelsey Keeves, Office of the Vice President for Research, The University Record