W.M. Keck Foundation Research Program Grants

  • Limited
  • Anywhere
  • Applications have closed

Website WM Keck Foundation

Program Overview

In reviewing proposals, the W.M. Keck Foundation asks, “what’s new science?”  Concept papers should provide a compelling argument that new knowledge discovery will result from the proposed project.

The Foundation focuses on basic research enabling pioneering discoveries that overturn prevailing paradigms or promote new solutions to old problems. They encourage development of new technology, but also want to know what new science it will enable. Competitive LOIs will clearly articulate the specific problem you want to explore and how your approach is unique. Make a direct link between the new technology/methodology you are developing and the new questions you can ask with that technology.

Keck does not want projects that reflect the “next logical step” in your research, but rather encourages out-of-the-box thinking. If your project would be competitive at NIH or NSF, it is not going to be of interest to the Keck Foundation.

UCI has had remarkable success with this Foundation. Grantee teams include Chang Liu; Max Plikus, Andrej Luptak, Jennifer Prescher and Os Steward; Rob Spitale and John Chaput; Filippo Capolino and Eric Potma; Derek Dunn-Rankin; John Hemminger; Tony James; Enrico Gratton and Michelle Digman; and Kumar Wickramasinghe.


Budget requests may be for up to $1.5 million and may be expended over 3 years. The Keck Foundation does not pay indirect costs, nor does it allow for tuition and fees for graduate students.

Projects Not Funded

Research that is the next logical step for an investigator’s program, or that would be considered incremental, will not be successful. Translational or clinical research, vector and drug development, alternative energy and biodiversity studies, and further development of existing technologies are not considered. If Keck funded it recently, it is likely they will not fund a related project again. Abstracts for funded projects are found on their website (https://www.wmkeck.org/our-focus-research/) To justify funding from Keck, we suggest you provide evidence of declined proposals, conversations with program officers or other anecdotal evidence of non-fundability by federal agencies.

Internal Application Process

Interested applicants are asked to submit a preliminary concept paper to the VCR’s office by 11:59 pm on  Monday, May 13, 2024, via UCI Review, with the following information:

  • Brief Biosketch or CV (no more than 2 pages)
  • One-page concept paper (consistent with Keck’s requirements for a Phase I app; 12 point TimesNewRoman and 1” margins) with title of project and PI’s name in page header.  Use these paragraph headers:
  • Overview: Provide an executive summary written for a well-educated lay audience. Include your overall goal, any pilot studies or data that informs this project, what is unique about your approach, and the project’s significance short or long term. Be sure to clearly state what the new science is that this project will allow you to do. Indicate if you applying to the Medical Research (basic biology) program or the Science and Engineering Program.
  • Methodology and Key Personnel: With as much detail as possible, describe your goals and how you will approach them and highlight what is new or unique.  List the key personnel and briefly describe their expertise and role in this project. The team should include all expertise needed to address your question and likely will include more than one lab.
  • Justification for WMKF support: Explain why Keck support is essential (i.e. this project cannot be supported by typical funding agencies). Evidence of this non-fundability is important – reference any conversations with program officers, a declined proposal, or lack of appropriate RFPs.
  • Budget: State the total cost of this project and amount requested from the Keck Foundation (up to $1.5M over 3 years). If applicable, explain where other funding will come from. Breakdown costs into categories: personnel, equipment and supplies/operations.

If a reference is necessary, abbreviate it as (Science, 323, 45, ’11).  No images or illustrations.

When writing your concept paper, please consider whether it answers these typical questions from Keck program directors:

  • What will this [technique/software/instrument] allow you to see that others cannot?
  • What is the new science? What is transformational?
  • What is the scientific leap forward? How is this not an incremental improvement?
  • How is your team ahead of the pack? Why should Keck bet on your team over others also working in your field (if any are)? This is particularly important if you work in a crowded field.
  • How will this change how we see the world?
  • What have others said is risky or unfundable about this proposal?

After the internal deadline an ad hoc committee will convene to review the preliminary proposals. After the Office of Research consults with the foundation in July-August 2024, the selected PI(s) will be notified in time to meet the W.M. Keck Phase I (LOI) deadline of November 1, 2024.

For the complete W.M. Keck criteria for these awards, please refer to https://www.wmkeck.org/our-focus-research/

Roxanne Ford, Executive Director of Foundation Relations is a former Program Director for the W. M. Keck Foundation.  Please consider sharing your ideas with her before the concept paper submission: fordmr@uci.edu. Questions about our internal campus review process may be directed to Mike Gallo at magallo@uci.edu.

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