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New research initiative — Research Forward — builds on successes of UW2020

November 19, 2020 By Natasha Kassulke

As the UW2020: WARF Discovery initiative sunsets this year, a new research initiative is building on its success.

Six rounds of UW2020 have funded 95 projects since the first set of awards was announced in 2016. UW2020 projects have both generated significant extramural funding and resulted in research projects that have led to major campus advancements in the areas of data science, cryogenic electron microscopy (or cryo-EM), CRISPR-based tools, creation of an electronic music studio and more.

This success has led the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education to launch the next generation of research funding, Research Forward, to continue supporting highly innovative and groundbreaking research at UW–Madison.

The Research Forward initiative is supported by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and will provide funding for one to two years, depending on the needs and scope of the project. The maximum award amount is $500,000.

“I am gratified by the momentum that UW2020 fostered in research on campus and while we are in uncertain times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and fiscal challenges are very real, it is still an exciting time to be engaging in research that spans the disciplines and has the potential for making significant contributions to some of our greatest problems,” says Steve Ackerman, vice chancellor for research and graduate education. “As the name of the initiative implies, I look forward to research continuing to move forward at UW–Madison with this support.”

Like UW2020, the Research Forward initiative supports collaborative, multidisciplinary, multi-investigator research projects that are high-risk, high-impact and transformative. It seeks to fund research projects that have the potential to fundamentally transform a field of study as well as projects that require significant development prior to the submission of applications for external funding.

Collaborative research proposals are welcome from within any of the four divisions (Arts and Humanities, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences), as are cross-divisional collaborations.

“We expect these projects will also allow students to have a critical role in the research being done. It is not only a training experience. Students bring fresh ideas and a completely new perspective, which is crucial for innovation in any field,” says Cynthia Czajkowski, associate vice chancellor for research in the biological sciences. “With Research Forward, multidisciplinary teams of UW­–Madison researchers will have the opportunity to develop bold and innovative projects that they have dreamed about doing but never had the resources to pursue. We are excited about this initiative.”

To apply, the lead principal investigator must be a UW–Madison faculty member or a researcher with permanent PI status. A cover sheet with a 300-word abstract is due Dec. 21 and complete proposals are due Feb. 1, 2021.

For more information on the initiative and details on how to apply, visit For questions regarding eligibility or submitting an abstract and full submissions, please contact the appropriate divisional associate vice chancellor for research (see For technical questions or for general information, please send an email to

A faculty committee of subject matter experts will review the proposals to identify those that hold the most promise for meeting the goals of this initiative. The committee will then make recommendations to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education. The OVCRGE will make final selections.