California NanoSystems Institute Noble Family Innovation Fund

Seed Funding Program – Letter of Intent Solicitation


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The California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA (CNSI) has recently received a philanthropic commitment of $10 million over three years to establish the Noble Family Innovation Fund. The Noble Fund will focus on identifying, supporting and accelerating high‐risk, high‐reward research, from basic to translational, with promise for commercialization and societal impact. Our goal is to create a model for academic research and entrepreneurship that enables strategic investment to seed discoveries that have the potential to be translated for the public good.


The objectives of the Noble Family Innovation Fund at CNSI are to:

  • Drive leading‐edge research in materials, energy, information technologies, environmental sustainability, life and biomedical sciences and related areas for the benefit of society
  • Accelerate high‐risk/high‐reward interdisciplinary research, from basic to translational, and the development of new tools and technologies with exceptional promise
  • Provide investigators with resources to jump‐start new research efforts and directions by providing seed‐funding to generate results that will lead to follow‐on funding (i.e., federal, foundation, private, and/or other University fund sources such as the TDG-sponsored UCLA Innovation Fund).
  • Support discovery, innovation, invention, and entrepreneurship at UCLA


  • The Principal Investigator must be a current or new CNSI member with campus eligibility to serve as a PI. (CNSI membership information and application materials available at: https://cnsi.ucla.edu/members)
  • Priority will be given to team science projects that propose to advance bold research concepts for maximized societal impact
  • Proposed projects should exhibit the potential to secure external funding (i.e., federal research support, foundation support, capital investment, etc.) at the end of the funding period
  • Applicants are encouraged to collaborate with and/or utilize CNSI Technology Centers to advance their research mission

Award Duration and Budget:

Proposals may request up to $250,000 (total direct costs) for up to 2‐years of funding. Awarded amounts will depend on the scope of work proposed and the availability of funds. Projects with shorter timelines are also encouraged, and budget requests should be based on realistic expected expenses. We expect to fund approximately 10 new projects per year for each of the next three years.

The following budget items will not be supported:

  • Faculty salaries
  • Equipment acquisition over $25,000, with the exception of equipment to be housed in a CNSI Technology Center
  • Travel
  • Subcontracting outside of UCLA unless prior approval is obtained

Letter of Intent: Due April 15, 2021

The Noble Family Innovation Fund application process involves two steps. First, applicants must submit a letter of intent by email to grants@cnsi.ucla.edu with the header “Noble Family Innovation Fund LOI.” Letters of intent received on or before April 15, 2021 will be reviewed by the steering committee and, if selected, PIs will be invited to submit a full proposal (guidelines provided upon invitation). Invitations for full proposals will be extended within 15 days of the LOI submission deadline and will be due on June 1, 2021.

Letters of intent should be no longer than 2 pages and include the following:

  • Proposed Project Title
  • Lead Investigator(s) and Affiliations
  • Project Abstract (one paragraph lay language summary)
  • Brief Project Description (0.5 – 1 page concise description of research project and goals
  • Estimated Project Duration (maximum 2 years) and Estimated Budget (brief description of major anticipated budget components – detail budget not required at this phase).
  • List of suggested reviewers
  • Current NIH or NSF format biosketch for PI and Co‐PIs (not included in 2 page limit)









Review Process:

Support from the Noble Fund will be provided to highly meritorious projects that fulfill the Fund’s objectives. A steering committee of faculty investigators and entrepreneurs with relevant expertise will be convened and chaired by the CNSI Director. The committee will survey the research landscape at UCLA to identify opportunities for funding and will oversee the solicitation and evaluation of project proposals. Proposals will undergo a competitive and confidential review for scientific merit, impact, and potential for translation and commercialization. Advice will be obtained confidentially from outside experts as needed. Project leadership will be a critical factor, and only faculty with excellent track records of publications and extramural funding, or newly recruited faculty with exceptional promise, will be competitive for support.

Award Requirements:

We anticipate announcing the first round of awards on or before July 1, 2021. Acceptance of an award will require acknowledgement of the following terms:

50% of the requested funds will be released upon award

A brief progress report will be due prior to the award mid‐point and evaluated before the remaining funds are released

PI must commit to presenting their project at the end of the funding period in a CNSI seminar, and a short final report will also be due

All publications resulting from the project shall cite the California NanoSystems Institute and the Noble Family Innovation Fund as sources of support in the acknowledgements section, and the PI and Co‐PIs must also list the CNSI as one of their UCLA affiliations

Submit Letter of Intent via email by April 15, 2021 to: grants@cnsi.ucla.edu