SMART Exploratory Funding

For: teams of scholars in all disciplines

Projects: of one year or less

Requests: Between $5,000 - $35,000

Deadline: Feb. 24, 2017

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The Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotics Technology Community of Excellence (SMART CoE) is pleased to announce a call for proposals for the SMART Exploratory Funding program. The mission of SMART is to develop the next generation of technologies, products, processes and expertise for achieving global leadership in economic and ecological sustainability for design and manufacturing across scales of time, size, and complexity. Please note the application submission deadline of February 24, 2017.

The university funded the Community of Excellence program as a means of improving research, education and engagement in targeted research areas. A key component of SMART's evaluation it the community's ability to demonstrate major, interdisciplinary impacts that otherwise would not be possible. The SMART CoE Exploratory Funding program is focused on funding innovative, interdisciplinary projects with community-related themes and focus on scholarship, education and/or engagement. 

Example impacts include:

  • Preliminary data supporting competitive external grant applications
  • Prototype/proof of concept implementations
  • New curricular offerings that leverage SMART CoE personnel, space, and equipment
  • Improved undergraduate and/or graduate student experiences

For the 2016-2017 Exploratory Funding Call, SMART has identified the overriding theme of Reasoning and Interoperability in Unstructured Environments as the core focus area for this funding cycle. SMART is positioned to research and develop robust strategies to address the next generation of problems arising in unstructured environments, whether on a factory floor or construction site. Such unstructured environments are characterized with a low degree of organization, high variability, frequent disruptions and/or complex human-machine interactions.

Critical to understanding the physical, social and technical dynamics inherent in such environments is the development of approaches that ensure interoperability not only between disparate hardware systems, but also between software systems and between humans and machines. In addition, providing data-driven systems and technologies to support human decision making, advanced human-machine reasoning, or automated material-machine response in these unstructured environments is of paramount importance. 

Example contexts of unstructured environments could include factories that have a high mix of products, variability in the supply chain, or a high degree of co-robotic presence; construction sites; or robotic fabrication applications in the field (e.g., responding to humanitarian crises and extreme events).   

Available Funding

  • Awards will be between $5,000 and $35,000 for projects of one year or less.
  • Funding can support a variety of expenses, including student support (stipend and graduate tuition), prototype development costs, materials and supplies, and equipment usage.
    • Faculty salaries and indirect costs are not allowed.

Who Should Apply

Proposal teams shall include investigators from at least two different departments, preferably including members from different decanal units. Although at least one team member must be eligible to submit external proposals through the UB Sponsored Projects Services Office, teams including members from university centers or institutes are welcomed. 

Review Process

Ad hoc faculty panels will review the proposals and make recommendations to the director and the SMART Deans Advisory Board, who will make the final recommendation to the VPRED’s office for approval. They will use these general criteria (five points each) in reviewing proposals:

  1. Scientific, scholarly or creative merit
  2. Relevance to SMART community objectives (overview at
  3. Potential impact within 18 months of completion (community growth, funding, enrollment, engagement ROI)
  4. Project investigative team qualifications and degree of interdisciplinarity (i.e., representing different decanal units, departments or other units on campus)

In addition, the panels will review budgets for reasonableness in relation to the proposed project. Leveraging current resources or departmental/school cost-sharing is encouraged to ensure the project's success. 

Application Format

Applications are to be single spaced using 12-point font and 1-inch margins and must include:

1. Abstract: 250-word abstract using lay terms accessible to a broad audience. In addition, include the names, departmental affiliation and contact information for each investigator.

2. Three-page proposal (maximum) plus 1-page of references. The proposal must include sufficient detail to convince reviewers of the project's merit, and written in language understandable to non-specialists. The proposal should stress the merit of the project and potential impact, and include the following elements:

  • Introduction
    • State a clear research question that defines the purpose of the project
    • Describe how the project is innovative and distinct from other activities at UB
    • Provide background/rationale that addresses the significance and impact of the project to the theme of Reasoning and Interoperability in Unstructured Environments
    • Describe the project's short-term objectives and how meeting these objectives will impact SMART community outcomes
  • Proposed plan
    • Describe the research/scholarly methods that will be used to conduct the project
    • Describe what the  exploratory grant will accomplish that cannot be achieved through other means
  • Expected Outcomes
    • Articulate how the project aligns with SMART outcomes
    • Identify short-term community outcomes within 18 months of project completion (research, education and/or engagement) and timeline
    • Identify long-term deliverables (i.e., more than 18 months)

3. Key Personnel: Attach a 2-page biographical sketch/vitae summary for each investigator participating in the project

4. Project Budget: Attach a 1-page line item budget and a 1-page detailed justification including a description of other resources or cost-sharing that will be applied to the project. The budget justification is important since budget reasonableness will be considered.

Award Terms

Applicants can request funding up to $35,000 for projects of no more than a 1-year duration (starting in May 2017). Before the award is issued—via a non-sponsored Research Foundation account—all neccessary regulatory approvals must be in place.

A progress report must be submitted midway through the project and a final report is due within 90 days after the conclusion of the funding period. The report summarizes the results in relation to the stated goals of the application.

Impact on community outcomes related to a SMART CoE award will be tracked (e.g., attribution in proposals, acknowledgment of support in publications and presentations). Award recipients are expected to serve as reviewers in future SMART CoE funding rounds.

Submission Deadline: Feb. 24, 2017 (by 5 PM)

Applications must be submitted via email as a single PDto  smart-

Any questions can be sent to