Prairie Research Institute

Center for Advanced Climate Solutions (CACS) Joint Climate Solutions Program


Proposal Deadline: Friday, January 19, 2024 at 11:59 PM 
Program Contact: Trent Ford,, 217-244-1330 
Proposal Templates folder:
Proposal Submission form: Submission Form
Program Funding: $400,000 per cohort 

Synopsis of Program

The Center for Advanced Climate Solutions (CACS) was established in 2023 through the University’s Investment for Growth program with the broad goal of coalescing and expanding significant University expertise, research, education and student interest in climate solutions. The Center is an excellent opportunity to accelerate practical and scalable climate solutions by building on existing research strengths and developing new cross-campus collaborations. CACS will support research and education partnerships to study and develop climate solutions.

Program Goals

The goal of this request for proposals is to spark new interdisciplinary collaborations across campus departments and institutes by providing seed funding for innovative and cross-cutting climate solutions. These initiatives will be focused on enabling advances in climate solutions, creating opportunities for students and postdoctoral researchers to combine fundamental research with real-world problems, and developing partnerships and pathways to implementation. Projects are expected to address climate solutions in at least one of four CACS priority areas:

  1. Preparing for and responding to climate hazards
  2. Climate resilience in urban and peri-urban environments 
  3. Climate change and OneHealth (human health aspect) 
  4. Decarbonizing the economy


A diversity of project types and exploratory research efforts are welcome. Multiple projects are expected to be funded. Preference will be given to projects that have research and collaborative plans that will enable self-sustaining funding and create a clear path to the funding of large-scale initiatives. Cohort 1 (2024) teams should submit a two-year budget with a maximum of $100,000. This funding is anticipated to support shared student(s) or a post-doc, and other related project expenditures to strengthen the team for external competitive grants such as mini-workshops (with internal and external participants). The proposed scope of research efforts should be aligned with the program funding levels. Do not include indirect costs or tuition remission in these budgets. 

Growth Expectations

In addition to making technical and integration progress, each project will be expected to submit external proposals to sustain the joint projects beyond year two. During these initial awards, the PRI Office of the Associate Director of Research, in collaboration with the PI’s home unit, will help awarded teams in identifying potential opportunities.

Eligibility Information

Team composition

Teams need at least one PI/Co-PI from a University Department and one PI/Co-PI from a University Institute. Institutes include the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, the Digital Transformation Institute, the Cancer Center at Illinois, the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, the Humanities Research Institute, the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment, the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Center for Social & Behavioral Science, and the Prairie Research Institute.

Limit to number of proposals

Individuals can be PI on only one submission per competition but may serve as Co-PI on other proposals.

Proposal Preparation

  1. Document Format requirements:
    1. Arial 10/Times New Roman 11pt (or similar size), 1-inch margins, standard line and character spacing, single column, and portrait layout. Tables/figures can be smaller sizes but must be readable.
    2. PI last name, Unit, and page number in header/footer
    3. Please use Microsoft Word Template (
  2. Cover Page (1-Page Maximum, not counted toward page limit)
    1. Descriptive Title of project (no more than 180 characters)
    2. CACS Priority Area(s)
    3. Participant Table with Name, Affiliation (Dept/Survey), Relevant Expertise, Role (PI/CoPI/ Collaborator etc.), and email address of each participant
    4. 150-word abstract
    5. 2-3 Topical Keywords
  3. Project Narrative (Maximum 3 Pages)
    1. Overview & Motivation for Research
    2. Climate solution challenge
    3. Goals and Objectives
    4. Research & Collaboration Plan (task-based with timeline)
    5. Anticipated Scientific Outcomes & Impacts of Research
    6. Follow-up Funding/Growth Plan (campus and external opportunities)
    7. References (not counted toward the page limit)
  4. Budget Summary Template & Justification
  5. CV of PI and Co-PIs (Any format, 3-page max)

Proposal Submission 

  1. Cohort 1 proposals are due by Friday, January 19, 2024, at 11:59 PM.
  2. Proposals will be submitted through the OVCR Special Program system:
    Submission Form
  3. Upload the following separate documents:
    1. Cover Page (1-page Max)
    2. Project Narrative (3 Page max)
    3. Summary Budget & Justification
    4. CV of Institute Lead (3-page max)
    5. CV of Department Lead (3-page max)

Please send any questions regarding this proposal to Trent Ford at

Review Process

Evaluation Criteria

Successful proposals will have compelling responses to the following: 

  1. Potential of team success: 
    1. Why this specific topic? Does this project focus describe a compelling need for the proposed research that also has the potential to have meaningful national/international climate solutions impacts and a pathway to implementation.
    2. Why now is the right time to pursue this research? What recent technological advances, societal priorities, or changes to government policies have occurred that make this proposal cycle the best opportunity to succeed.
    3. Why this team? How does the complementary expertise, partnerships, and opportunities that this team brings together uniquely position them for success?
  2. How well do the goals and objectives align with the Center for Advanced Climate Solutions? How well do these activities foster new collaborations across the University? How well do the goals and objectives align with one or more of the four CACS priorities?
  3. Does the team have a sound plan and research potential for growing the research effort to secure self-sustaining funding, and does the initiative have a path to a large-scale funded research program?

Review Panel

PRI Office of the Associate Director of Research will coordinate confidential reviews of all proposals, and reviewers will be asked to disclose any possible conflicts of interest for all proposals they are assigned. Reviewers will be selected based on the topics submitted and comprised of representatives from the CACS Research Committee and Partner Units.

Award Administration

Award Conditions

Funded projects will be monitored quarterly to track integration and progress. A full project evaluation using the program review criteria and expenditure reports will take place at the end of each year.

Reporting Requirements

  1. Awardees will be required to submit a brief quarterly progress report using specified activity templates. 
  2. Awardees will be required to submit an annual report and summary slide by the 1st week of December each year, starting in 2024.
  3. Research teams will be required to present their project at the CACS Climate Solutions Symposium in Spring 2024 and Spring 2025.
  4. Awardees will be required to submit a brief outcome and impact cumulative summary using a specific, provided template in December of the final year of funding.