Bold Challenges launches 2024 research themes, events, funding support


The Bold Challenges Initiative has launched five new themes, ranging in scope from advancing human health to creating sustainable energy innovations, as part of its mission to support and catalyze research that tackles some of the world’s greatest threats.

Throughout 2024, Bold Challenges will host a series of workshops and events designed to help teams from across the University of Michigan conduct large-scale and impactful interdisciplinary research projects that address:

  • Advancing human health at scale.
  • Adapting to changing environments.
  • Creating sustainable energy innovations.
  • Improving lives through next-generation infrastructure.
  • Building trust and strengthening social connections.

Launched in 2021 by the Office of the Vice President for Research, Bold Challenges is a primary component of President Santa J. Ono’s universitywide Strategy to Amplify Research and Scholarship.

The initiative will host its annual kickoff event Feb. 20 at the Alexander G. Ruthven Building, where faculty and staff can learn more about this year’s research themes. The event also will feature lightning talks from U-M researchers, discussions on how to generate more competitive proposals, and opportunities to network with representatives from multidisciplinary centers and institutes.

“The 2024 themes aim to bring together researchers with overlapping interests and diverse areas of expertise so they can address problems that impact both communities across Michigan and beyond,” said Arthur Lupia, Bold Challenges’ executive director, associate vice president for research – large-scale strategies, and the Gerald R. Ford Distinguished University Professor of Political Science.

Throughout the winter semester, Bold Challenges will organize engagement opportunities so members of the U-M community can identify collaborators and find new sources of support for interdisciplinary innovations.

One of those sources includes Bold Challenges’ Boost program, which supports new and early-stage multidisciplinary teams whose ambitious, transdisciplinary projects have substantial potential for significant large-scale funding.

Unlike classic pilot funding programs, interdisciplinary teams that are part of the Boost program receive dedicated, expert support on topics like team building, effective communication for large-team science, and a wide range of facilitation and ideation support for highly competitive grant proposals.

Each team also receives $75,000 for activities that strengthen its capacity to conduct groundbreaking research and better position its work for future proposals from organizations like the National Institutes for Health and National Science Foundation. Funding can be used to purchase materials, conduct tests and hire undergraduate and graduate researchers.

The next application cycle for the Boost program begins Feb. 20.

“During its initial funding cycle, Bold Challenges’ Boost program supported some truly innovative research teams that are exploring critical topics ranging from electric vehicle manufacturing to mitigating environmental impact,” said Rebecca Cunningham, vice president for research and innovation.

“Multidisciplinary initiatives like Bold Challenges allow our incredible teams to pursue the type of work that is central to our mission of serving the world through research.”


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