Artificial Intelligence Seed Grant

Earlier this semester, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School announced the University of Maine Artificial Intelligence Initiative.  Its vision is to make Maine a world-class hub for AI research, education and applications through its mission to develop transformative AI-based solutions that enhance the social and economic well-being of the citizens of Maine and beyond.

UMaine AI is dedicated to the advancement of AI and its applications — from discovery and learning in foundational AI to its high-impact uses and workforce development. In support of the workforce needs of the state, UMaine offers a multitude of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, interdisciplinary research collaborations and courses that train students in artificial intelligence and its applications. Opportunities abound for undergraduate and graduate students to engage in interdisciplinary research areas, from machine learning, data science and engineering to health and life sciences, business, engineering, and education.

The UMaine AI Initiative is a unique, Maine-based venture that brings together university, industry, government and community collaborators from Maine and beyond to advance the field of artificial intelligence. The initiative leverages the university’s strengths to bring a multi-disciplinary approach to solving problems through cutting-edge research. Additionally, AI related R&D is a major thrust of federal research and funding priorities with a goal to modernize the workforce and maintain US competitiveness in the global economy.

Maine’s land, sea and space grant university addresses grand challenges of global impact and local relevance in AI research projects covering issues from forestry modeling, cancer detection, climate change, space travel and autonomous vehicle programs, to name a few. UMaine AI has four areas of focus: foundational AI research; application of AI; education and workforce development; and social, ethical, policy and legal considerations.

It is my pleasure to announce a call for proposals for seed grant funding designed to help UMaine faculty better prepare for extramural funding support to advance our AI R&D agenda.

Program Guidelines

AI seed grant applications require three or more full time UMaine/UMM faculty to work together on an AI R&D pilot project that will generate preliminary data/proof of concept results leading to a proposal submission to an extramural funding agency by December 31, 2021. Research teams may include external partners. A limited number of twelve month projects with budgets of up to $60K will be selected and project performance periods will span July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021. Applicants will describe their proposed pilot study in a three page concept paper, include a separate one-page budget and justification, as well as team member biosketches (using 2-page NSF format). Applicants are required to articulate in their concept papers specific federal, state, and private funding programs that will be pursued and include clear timelines.

The following table provides guidance on how proposal budgets should be structured:    

Budget Category Funding Amount Details
Faculty research stipends Up to $7K/faculty member Limit of $21K total per award in this category
Student support Up to $30K Stipend or hourly wages for undergraduate and/or graduate student researchers
Other research costs Up to $9K Allowable expenses include: consumable research materials; access to datasets; external collaboration support; and other well justified research expenses.
Total award Up to $60K Researchers should consult with the Office of Research Development to build proposal budgets and review proposal plans
Investigators may participate in no more than three proposal submissions as a lead-PI or senior investigator. Faculty are allowed to be lead-PIs on one proposal. No single investigator may be awarded more than 150% of the faculty stipend from this initiative (1.5 x $7K stipend).

Areas of Research Emphasis

Special consideration will be given to proposals that target the following research areas:

  • AI in society
  • Real time machine learning
  • Use inspired AI
  • Fairness, ethics, accountability and transparency (FEAT) in AI
  • Workforce development – student research

Applications that can secure matching funds from MTI in the context of working with companies in Maine and/or state government as well as applications that target follow on funding through NSF REU, NSF NRT, NIH R-15, NIH T-32, or other similar research training programs are highly encouraged.

Due Date and Technical Assistance Information

Applications are due by 4:30 PM on Monday, June 1, 2020.  Proposals must be submitted via UMaine’s InfoReady Grant Review portal.  An interdisciplinary review team will be assembled to review proposals against the rubric that follows and make recommendations for funding.   Final funding decisions will be made by the Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School.  Research teams are encouraged to consult with the Office of Research Development (ORD) as they consider proposal ideas.  ORD staff can assist research teams with proposal writing, vetting of ideas for alignment with program goals, and with connecting to internal and external collaborators.  To set up an appointment, please contact Jason Charland, Director of Research Development at jason.charland@maine.edu.