6 Imperatives for Embarking on Grand Challenges

This research brief concisely reviews six imperatives to help universities select, equip, and launch a grand challenge initiative.

Six Imperatives

Who should read this?
  • Chief research officers (CROs)
  • Provosts
  • Assistant vice presidents for research
  • Deans

Five ways to use this research brief
  • Convince provosts, deans, and other university leaders the value of grand challenge efforts
  • Educate relevant stakeholders about process ahead
  • Planning internal processes before tackling a grand challenge
  • Develop deeper understanding of core components of grand challenge
  • Garner support for resources and operational changes necessary to take on grand challenge

While federally supported, peer-reviewed, individual investigator-driven research has long been the foundation of the academic research enterprise, it has stagnated and been unable to fulfill the growth goals of many universities in recent years.

In response, universities have been diversifying support for research by pursuing funding from donors, foundations, and corporations who are interested in funding large-scale initiatives focused on solving problems with a clear social benefit.

But it takes time to build effective large-scale collaborations. In fact, it is essential to begin the process well before any specific funding opportunities have appeared. Only established teams will be qualified to compete for tomorrow’s large funding opportunities.

On-demand webconference: How to create grand challenge teams

For this reason, many universities have focused part of their research strategy on building out (and self-funding) grand challenges—a focus on a big problem with a clear and compelling goal, on the hope that strong teams will eventually attract the levels of external funding necessary to keep these projects going. But competing successfully for these large grants requires an entirely new set of capabilities.

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URF Virtual Meeting Series, Session 2: Creating Grand Challenge Teams

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