UT Grand Challenge Grants

Turning great ideas into transformative, sustainable, and high-impact solutions for Tennessee!

About the Grand Challenge Grants

Launching into a transformative journey to address critical challenges within Tennessee, the University of Tennessee System is proud to introduce the Grand Challenge grants program. In this spearheading initiative, the System is committed to investing up to $5 million over the next few years in community-tied projects and research.

Our vision is to foster innovative solutions for some of Tennessee’s most pressing issues across the three Grand Challenge areas: Strengthening Rural Communities, Overcoming Addiction, and Advancing K-12 Education.

Through this ambitious program, we seek to make a lasting impact in Tennessee communities, and beyond. Exceptional projects will be chosen through a rigorous and competitive review process. These projects are expected to build new knowledge and bring about tangible improvements to the quality of life for Tennesseans.

Join us on this exciting journey as we strive to create a brighter future through collaboration, partnerships, and research. Together, we will make a difference that resonates far beyond the walls of our institutions.

10,000 ft. Overview

  • Teams choose to apply for either Type 1 or Type 2 programs in one of the three Grand Challenge areas*
  • Winning proposals/teams are enrolled in the Grand Challenge consortium and receive funds
  • Type 1 projects begin in fall 2024 with periodic reporting
  • Type 2 projects begin in winter 2025 with periodic reporting
  • Teams expected to present projects at a Grand Challenge summit (date TBD)
  • * Note: Individuals may apply for Type 1 or Type 2 programs with different proposals. The same proposal can only be submitted one time in one area.

Grand Challenge Consortium

We envision this consortium as a platform:

  • To exchange, network, and collaborate among members to share best practices and foster relationships that benefit all teams.
  • To receive mentoring and feedback from both internal and external experts.
  • To work with researchers from different campuses/institutes to facilitate the growth and impact of research from all campuses/institutes.
  • To leverage the expertise and resources of the team to advance a particular Grand Challenge area.
  • To advance potential synergies between the projects and enable cross-pollination.

The consortium is designed to be self-sustaining, allowing teams to pool their resources to undertake other initiatives that would be difficult for individual members to accomplish alone.


  • Open to all faculty and staff at all campuses, institutes, and extension/field offices.
  • Each proposal should select one of the three Grand Challenge areas to address.
  • Proposals should present innovation/transformative approaches that greatly impact one of the three Grand Challenge areas.
  • Proposals will be submitted using an online application form. Proposals should clearly respond to all questions. Character counts will be restricted. Any button that’s pushed on a keyboard counts as a character, including spaces. You can use the following as a rough guideline in anticipation of the word/character limits:
    • Desired word limits of 250 and 500 are roughly equivalent to 1500 and 3000 characters.
      *Please note: For Type 2 applications, this initial proposal is to be more of an executive summary designed to help reviewers narrow down the number of applications for a semi-final round. The semifinalists will be asked to present their proposals to a panel for 30 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of Q&A. At that time, you’ll be able to go into the details of your proposal.
  • All winning teams will be required to actively participate in the consortium and provide periodic reports.

Awards – up to $5 million total

Type 1 proposals:

  • Available funds of up to $3 million will be allocated according to project needs up to the maximum of $100,000 per project.
  • Fund requests will typically be between $50,000 up to the $100,000 max.
  • The committee will select projects across the Grand Challenge areas.

Apply for Type 1

Type 2 proposals:

  • Available funds of up to $2 million will be allocated with each winning team receiving a maximum of $500,000.
  • Fund requests can be between $400,000 up to the $500,000 max.
  • The committee will select projects across the Grand Challenge areas.

Apply for Type 2

Look for the forms labeled “Type 1 Grand Challenge Grants Program” or “Type 2 Grand Challenge Grants Program” in the UT System and Other Campuses section of the site.

Proposal Requirements

Attention: All Type 2 awardees must actively participate in the consortium and present every two months. Type 1 invited and strongly encouraged to participate.

1. Project Description

  • Select one of the three Grand Challenge areas that your project will address.
  • Clearly outline the identified need that will be tackled.
  • Clearly articulate why the proposed idea/approach is innovative and transformative.
  • State the current level of development or stage of the proposed innovation.
  • Type 2 proposals should also address the implementation plan and potential risks to its success.

2. Team

  • Who will be involved in the project?
  • Type 2 proposals should identify external partners.

3. Work Plan

  • Describe the work that will be done and provide a timeline with milestones for completion.

4. Outcome and Impact

  • Describe the anticipated outcome.
  • Type 2 proposals should also include measurable outcome metrics and a sustainability plan.

5. Budget and Budget Justification

  • Funds should be directed to labor, materials, and services necessary to achieve the proposed deliverable(s). Indirect costs are not allowed.
  • Up to 20% of the budget can be allocated to external partners.
  • Up to 20% of the total allocation can be used for researcher salaries (P.I./co-P.I./Lead Researchers).
    Note: the 20% is not per-individual, but total. These funds can be shared among a group researchers.
  • Additional funds may also be used for student, postdoc, or technical staff support.
  • Travel expenses to the Summit are expected to be covered with grant funds.

Budget Documents

Your proposal must include a completed budget summary. You are required to use the Grand Challenge Grants Budget Overview Word doc. which you can download here. You will be able to upload your budget Word doc. in the online application form. We have attached an Excel doc. to aid in your calculations. The Excel doc. does NOT need to be uploaded with your application. Thank you.

Evaluation Criteria

Light bulb representing the Innovative and Transformative Icon

25% Innovative & Transformative

Collaboration Icon: depicts a handshake

25% Collaboration

Impact Icon

25% Impact

Sustainability Icon: depicts a clock

25% Sustainability

Extra consideration will be provided for the following:

  • Team comprises of at least two faculty or staff from different departments, preferably spanning campuses across the UT system.
  • Collaborations with external partners such as K-12 school systems, daycare centers, economic development entities, religious organizations, community centers, for-profit companies, not-for-profits, etc.
  • A clear strategy for sustainability to ensure community impact due to this funding.
  • Clearly defined success metrics to ensure accountability and transformative change.


Feb 8, 2024 Grant Launches at the State of the University Address and Grand Challenge mini summit
March 19, 2024Grand Challenges Grants Informational Session. The sessions will be held 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. EST / 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. CST.
April 30, 2024All proposals due
August 2024Type 1 winning proposals announced
Fall 2024Type 1 projects begin
September / October 2024Type 2 finalists invited for panel presentation
November 2024Type 2 winning proposals announced
Fall 2025Type 1 projects complete
January 2025Type 2 projects begin
January 2027Type 2 projects complete

Propose Your Innovative Idea

Look for the forms labeled “Type 1 Grand Challenge Grants Program” or “Type 2 Grand Challenge Grants Program” in the UT System and Other Campuses section of the site.

Have Questions? Visit the UT Grand Challenge Grants FAQ Page.