Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Goals of and overall information about Bold Challenges

How and why were these 6 research themes chosen and are there plans for new themes in the future?

The themes were selected after getting a tremendous amount of input from members of the research community at U-M, especially those that have roles that look beyond their own disciplinary expertise (e.g., center directors, chairs, etc). Care was taken to balance both how broad and how narrow to make the themes. They are intentionally not meant to encompass the entire breadth of research at U-M but rather to focus on areas where specific additional efforts can reinforce U-M strengths. Bold Challenges is being launched as a two-year initiative at this time, but may be continued to address other research challenges in the future. 

Why is Bold Challenges focusing on bringing together social and technical expertise as part of these teams? Isn’t this interdisciplinary work happening already across our campuses?

There is an incredible amount of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work happening across U-M, spanning social sciences and technical fields like engineering or medicine. The goal of Bold Challenges is to more closely integrate these two domains together from the beginning of the research collaboration because the big societal challenges that Bold Challenges aims to tackle will not be solved by any one discipline working in a silo. 


How does this initiative differ from ongoing programs that hope to stimulate interdisciplinary research (seed funding or otherwise)?

Bold Challenges is not meant to supplant or replace existing efforts but rather to pull these efforts together in a strategic way so as to empower multidisciplinary teams and maximize their impact. In addition, one of the key ways this differs from a lot of other support mechanisms currently being offered is the infusion of research development activities (facilitated workshops, dedicated staff support, the value creation forum, etc.) as an intentional effort to position teams to best compete for external funding and make a real world impact.

How are the partner institutes and centers across campus involved?

Bold Challenges stitches together a lot of what centers and institutes across the institution are already doing with new parts of campus that they may not already be working with closely. In addition, the partners will also help identify faculty participants by both encouraging them to apply and participating in the selection process. The goal is for the partners to be able to leverage some of this momentum to strengthen or help promote their own ongoing activities in these areas so that there is a multiplier effect that leads to more productive research all around U-M.

How do the health sciences fit in alongside social sciences in these themes?

Health permeates most of the 6 research challenge areas and also across the overarching themes of sustainability, infrastructure, and equity. There are, however, two challenges with potentially more space than others for the health sciences to play an active role: 1) “Better health outcomes through better built environments” which includes topics such as integrating urban design with public health interventions; addressing food insecurity in urban and rural communities; and improving air quality in low-income neighborhoods; and 2) “Smart health care systems for equitable access”, which includes aligning healthcare policies and services with needs; developing new technologies for increasing access to healthcare providers; and using data science to identify early risk factors of disease. Teams that are seeking to address a specific research problem that integrates health, however, are welcome to apply to the research accelerator under any of the 6 themes as long as the problem they are addressing is related to the topic.


Can this initiative be used for a newly established center or initiative?

Yes, teams that have recently formed through internal centers/institutes are welcome to apply as long as they are working to address one of the 6 research challenges. They could apply to participate in the incubation phase for the winter, but could also participate in the pollination workshops and later phases as well.


What is the goal of the white papers and how will they be used?

The white papers will be team outcomes of the semester-long phases and be used by Government Relations and others to discuss U-M research and strengths with federal agencies and other stakeholders. In addition, the white papers may be used by the Office of University Development and campaign planning teams.

Participation and Application Information

How closely does the research project have to fit within the defined themes?

The topic needs to fit in one of the 6 bold challenge areas directly. If you have questions about the relevance of the topic, please contact

Can assistant professors without significant external funding but research on one of the research challenges and desire to work with established investigators submit an application to this initiative?

A junior faculty member with interest and expertise in a topic, but no history of external funding for it, is welcome to participate in a Pollination workshop and/or as part of a team in the Incubation or other phases.


What would make a successful team for this initiative?

For the Incubation Phase (the Value Creation Forum in the Winter), teams need to: have already been working together for a while; be working on a problem in the space of the 6 bold challenges; and be interested and willing to go through the process. In addition, the team should include both social and technical science expertise.


I am really interested in one of the Pollination workshops but I have a conflict and can’t attend on that day. What can I do?

If you are interested in but not able to attend a Pollination workshop, you are encouraged to submit your information through this brief form. By doing so, you will be added to an email list so that you can receive the names and expertise of other interested faculty in your topic area of choice, the workshop synopsis, future collaboration opportunities and other information.


How many rounds will there be?

In a sense, Bold Challenges is a linear four-phase process that will begin in the winter with Pollination workshops. A pilot Incubation phase is also being run, however, this winter for teams that are already established to help them get up and running now without waiting. There will be at least two full rounds through the research accelerator over two years and then capacity and demand to continue will be assessed after that time.



How can we find other disciplinary members if we currently are part of a small team in one of the domains?

Please apply to attend a Pollination workshop and/or contact the centers and institutes relevant to your topic of interest so as to be introduced to additional colleagues and other networking opportunities.



Other Resources

What other research development resources are available if a faculty member or team is not focused on one of the 6 Bold Challenges research themes?

Any U-M faculty member can request research development services from the OVPR RD team, which can provide ideation/facilitation services around any topic, as well as proposal management and editing, consultations on funding and research strategies, and proposal graphics support. Other units on campus also offer RD services, including several centers and institutes (e.g., MICHR, IRWG, CEDER), and services units, such as Foundation Relations. Services vary and may include facilitations, consultations, proposal management, editing and/or seed funding.

Where can I find other internal funding programs?

OVPR offers the Research Catalyst & Innovation (RCI) program; any U-M faculty may apply for RCI Large-Scale Planning Grants that are not related to Bold Challenges. Many centers and institutes around campus also offer seed funding for research projects, e.g., Graham Sustainability Institute’s carbon neutrality initiative. You can find a comprehensive list of open internal funding opportunities on Research Commons, which is updated regularly.