Office of Research

Science and Engineering / Medical Research 2013

UPDATE: We will concurrently solicit pre-proposals for both the Science and Engineering and Medical Research programs. Updated announcement below:


The W.M. Keck Foundation's Science & Engineering Research Program seeks to benefit humanity by supporting high-risk/high-impact projects that are distinctive and novel in their approach to intractable problems, push the edge of their field, or question the prevailing paradigm. Past grants have been awarded to major universities and independent research institutions to support pioneering science and engineering research and the development of promising new technologies.


The Medical Research Program seeks to advance the frontiers of the life sciences by supporting basic research that is high-risk and has the potential to transform its field. Successful projects are distinctive and novel in their approach to problems, push the edge of their field or question the prevailing paradigm. Past grants have been awarded to major universities, medical schools and independent research institutions to support pioneering biological research, including the development of promising new technologies, instrumentation or methodologies.


Programmatic criteria:

  • Focus on emerging areas of research at the forefront of science and engineering.
  • Have the potential to lead to breakthrough technologies.
  • Are innovative, distinctive and interdisciplinary.
  • Demonstrate a high level of risk in that the research pushes the edge of its field, represents unconventional approaches to intransigent problems, or challenges the prevailing paradigm.
  • Have the potential for transformative impact, such as creation of a new field of research, development of new instrumentation enabling observations not previously possible, or discovery of new knowledge that challenges prevailing perspectives.
  • Fall outside the mission of public funding agencies.
  • Demonstrate that private philanthropy generally, and the W.M. Keck Foundation in particular, is essential to the project's success.


Grant abstracts for research projects funded by the W.M. Keck Foundation can be found here:

Eligibility Requirements

Guidance for developing a strong proposal for the W. M. Keck Foundation


Through two programs — Science and Engineering Research and Medical Research — the W. M. Keck Foundation is seeking to fund “big ideas.” But in light of the foundation’s highly competitive research funding cycles — Keck receives more than 100 submissions for each Phase I call for proposals and funds only a handful in each category — it’s not enough just to have a really fantastic idea. Your proposal must absolutely sing — it must capture the imagination of the reader. Here are some tips to help you strengthen your case:


  • Consider your audience. Because the Keck decision-making committees comprise a mix of people with professional, lay and scientific backgrounds, the foundation recommends that proposals be written at the Scientific American level — sophisticated but accessible.
  • Be clear. Your goal is to achieve understanding. Avoid jargon. Any special terms — particularly field-specific terms and acronyms — should be defined.
  • Be specific. Keck needs enough information on which to base an informed decision. Be specific about what you propose to do and how you propose to do it. Be specific about the stage of your research (i.e., are you at the proof-of-concept stage or beyond?). Be specific about your goals and potential outcomes.
  • Convey impact. Be crisp and concise, but also use language to convey the power of your proposed endeavor. What impact will your work have? Who will benefit from it and how? What questions will be answered with your approach that could not be answered before? How is what you propose potentially transformational? Think big but ground your proposal in reality — and back it up with the details of what you plan to do.
  • Be forthright. What challenges do you foresee in the work?
  • Tout your team. Keck favors collaborative endeavors. Investigators perceived as “lone wolves” are unlikely to receive support. Name your collaborators and their strengths, and indicate the ways in which the proposed work represents an organic outgrowth of existing strong collaborations.
  • Why Keck? Keck looks particularly closely at the justification section of the proposal. They want to be the funder of last resort. Reassure them that you have explored funding via other avenues. If you have presented your idea (even verbally) to other funders and been rejected, articulate this in your pre-proposal. Quotes from a grant review to that effect (i.e., “too risky,” “great idea but beyond our scope”) would be especially convincing. Rejection from others works in your favor with Keck.

Application Instructions

To have a project considered for submission to the W.M. Keck Foundation, please submit a three-page narrative plus budget by email to by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 17, 2013. 


Note:  The eGC1 is not required for Phase I applications


Narrative Format Requirements

Applications not following these instructions will be not be accepted:

  • Re-state bolded outline words below and respond to each item within the stated page limitations
  • Print single-spaced on 8 1/2” x 11” paper with 1” margins
  • Type must be at least 12 point type using Times New Roman font
  • Captions and footnotes must be at least 9 point type


Project Summary [1 page]

  1. Abstract:  Provide an executive summary of this project, including overall goal, methodology and significance, for a well-educated lay audience.
  2. Unique Aspects:  Describe unique or distinctive aspects of this project.
  3. Key Personnel:  Name the key personnel and describe their expertise, role in this project, and any collaborations/partnerships.
  4. Budget:  State total cost of this project, amount requested from the Keck Foundation, and the amount of institutional support. Describe how funds requested from Keck will be allocated among capital, personnel and equipment. Please use the attached Excel budget template or visit:
  5. Justification for WMKF support:  Explain why support from the Keck Foundation is essential for this project and why it would not qualify for federal support.


Project Description [2 pages]

6.   Overview:  Provide an overview of this field and the need for this project.

7.   Relevant Efforts:  Describe past and current efforts at your institution that are relevant to this project, including institutional resources that will support the work.

8.   Peer Groups:  Name at least two other groups that are pursuing comparable or related work and explain how this project differs from their work.  If none, please explain.

9.   Goals and Methodology:  State the major goals of this project and summarize the methodologies and time frame to be used in achieving them.

10. Impact:  Describe the potential impacts of achieving these goals.

11. Fundraising:  Describe what amounts of funding have been committed to this project to date, including institutional funding.  Identify pending proposals, amounts requested, sources and expected notification dates.  If no government funding has been secured and/or if none will be sought for this project, please explain.


Budget Note:  Although Keck does not require formal cost sharing, the foundation does not like to be the sole funder of a project.  Successful requests will include support from within the UW, and/or other external funding sources.  Other funding sources should be reflected on the budget spreadsheet.  Keck does not pay overhead (F&A).  Waived overhead may be reflected as institutional support on line 31 of the budget form.


Abstract Suggestions: 

  • Be sure to state the major goals of the proposed research project, summarize the methodologies to be used in achieving the goals.  Describe the problems that need to be solved to achieve these goals.  What is the "grand challenge" you are seeking to solve and how?
  • Keck is looking to fund areas of research that have the potential to lead to breakthrough technologies.  Think about work that has the potential to alter the course of a field and clearly describe this potential.
  • The Foundation will want to know why Keck is an appropriate funder of this project. They are unwilling to fund work that could readily be funded elsewhere. They are willing, however, to fund high-risk, early-stage work that the government might not yet be willing to fund – or has declined funding.
  • Keck is willing to fund equipment but not core facilities.  Your request should be project driven and focus on the research question and not seem merely to be an equipment request.


If you have any questions about the program, please contact Joanna Glickler, Assistant Vice President for Corporate & Foundation Relations, at 685-6736 or

Opportunity Details

Program web page

Program Announcement No.


01/17/2013 UW Internal Deadline Closed
05/01/2013 Sponsor Deadline

W. M. Keck Foundation

Funding amount


Maximum Number of Applications

1 (1 Science and Engineering, 1 Medical Research)

Eligible groups
  • All campus

Inquiries and Contact Information

Investigators who identify a grant, award or fellowship program that restricts the number of applications that can be submitted from an Institution should immediately contact their Chairperson, Associate Dean for Research (or Dean, if no ADR) and the Office of Research (see below) if they intend to prepare a response. Failure to do so, or to meet the deadlines for submission of pre-proposal, will preclude submission of the application through the Office of Sponsored Programs.

For general inquiries, or to request a listing of a limited submission opportunity that should be but is not already listed, please email us at