Funding to kick-start early-stage projects research between world-leading institutions


Applications are now closed.

As universities renowned for their scientific contributions that benefit society, both MIT and Imperial College London share a commitment to address key global challenges. The MIT-Imperial Seed Fund aims to help kick-start early-stage projects between two of the world’s leading universities that lead to high-impact research, discovery science and the deployment of frontier technologies. The 2023 call is an open call for research collaborations in any discipline across all departments and research groups at each institution.

The deadline for the current round of the Seed Fund is 12 December 2023 (23.59 Boston, USA time).  


Possible Activities

The MIT-Imperial Seed Fund aims to help kick-start early-stage projects between two of the world’s leading universities that lead to high-impact research, discovery science and the deployment of frontier technologies. The 2023 call is an open call for research collaborations in any discipline across all departments and research groups at each institution.

Activities that could be covered by the Fund may include, but are not limited to:

• Exploratory research, travel costs and other activities that often do not receive financial support at the earliest stages. Imperial funds can also be used to support small-scale experiments or the development of prototypes.
• Visits between the teams at MIT and Imperial for academics/faculty, research staff and students to investigate the potential for, initiate, follow-up, or work on a collaborative project or training opportunity.
• ‘Hackathon’ or other collaborative day or week-long events involving staff and students from both institutions to explore novel research directions and ideas.
• Networking events such as international workshops and seminars to bring together researchers to strengthen existing collaborations and foster new links.
• Longer stays for students or research staff (up to maximum 2 months) to learn new techniques, analyse results or undertake other activities in line with the seed fund goals.
• Set up of new networks to promote the exchange of ideas, best practice, and other research goals.
This list is not exhaustive, and applicants are encouraged to propose new and creative activities to explore and promote new ideas and directions for collaboration. Given the carbon footprint of travel, researchers are asked to consider which components of the proposed collaboration might be accomplished effectively via video, phone or other creative technology solutions.


The Seed Fund’s indicative overall annual budget is up to a total of $100,000 / £81,000. Seed Fund Grant requests are not expected to exceed $30,000-$50,000 / £25,000-£40,000 per application.

Funds can only be spent on activities which fit the purpose of this call. Funds will be available for use for a period of up to eighteen (18) months. Any unused portions of grants shall be returned to the Fund and distributed in equal shares to MIT and Imperial.

Use of funds

Eligible (Y/N) Imperial MIT
Salary N N
Limited Research Consumables Y N
Travel Y Y
Accommodation Y Y
Subsistence Y Y
Equipment N N
Bench fees N N
Indirect and estate costs N N

• Funding may be used to cover travel and meeting costs to facilitate projects and collaboration between Imperial and MIT.
• At Imperial, Grants may be used to fund small-scale experiments or the development of prototypes. Funds cannot be spent this way at MIT.
• Funds may not be used to cover salaries.
• Funds are not intended to be used for long-term stays (over 2 months) at Imperial or MIT.
• Funds may not be used to cover MIT Visiting Student fees.
• Funds will be made available to Imperial applicants via the International Relations Office and the applicant’s department. For MIT applicants, please see here.

Imperial – Travel expense guidelines

For funds awarded by Imperial, travel and other expenses must follow the College's Expenses Policy.

MIT - Travel expense guidelines

For funds awarded by MIT, awards may cover up to 75% of the US Department of State maximum per diem rate for the proposed travel abroad plus a reasonable estimate of the economy-class airfare. For travel to MIT, applicants are eligible for up to $250 per day in expenses, plus economy-class airfare.

How to apply

Applicants must submit their proposals jointly using the online application portal administered by MIT International Science and Technology Initiative (MISTI).

Applications should include:

a)    Brief abstract of the proposed project written for an audience of non-experts (250 words)

b)    Brief history of the collaboration, if relevant (250 words)

c)    Description of the proposed project (1500 words)

d)    Description of the exchanges and activities planned, including student participation (250 words)

e)    Additional activities planned outside of the seed funding, if relevant (250 words)

f)     A note on the sustainability of the project after the seed funding (250 words)

g)    Proposed budget for the projects, with spending by Imperial and MIT. Teams must draft a budget breakdown enabling the grant to be divided and managed independently between MIT and Imperial College London. For instance, a $40,000 proposed budget should include:

  • Approximately $20,000 to be managed by the MIT team for the MIT team to travel to London and/or workshops and meetings conducted at MIT.
  • Approximately $20,000 to be managed by the Imperial College London team for the ICL team to travel to Cambridge, MA and/or workshops and meetings conducted at ICL.

Applicant Eligibility
Applications to the MIT-Imperial Seed Fund must be submitted jointly by Imperial and MIT. At Imperial, applicants must be staff with an academic contract, or an independent fellow eligible to apply for external funding. At MIT, applicants must be faculty members or research staff with principal investigator privileges (principal research scientists and senior research scientists).  Although staff are encouraged to involve students in their proposed activities, applications must be led, developed and submitted by staff or faculty.

Student Involvement
Applicants are encouraged to involve Imperial and MIT students in their projects by including them in visits, workshops or other opportunities. MIT students participating in projects will be expected to attend country-specific training through MISTI. Please note that student housing is not offered as part of this programme, though Imperial and MIT will advise regarding housing options for visiting students at both institutions.

Deadline & Review


The deadline for the 2023 grant cycle is 12 December 2023 (23.59 Boston, USA time).  Applicants will be notified of results by April 2023.


All eligible applications will be considered for funding jointly by MIT and Imperial.

At MIT, applications will be reviewed first by a committee of MIT faculty knowledgeable about the field within which the proposal lies.

At Imperial, applications will be considered first by the Vice-Provost (Research) with the Cross-College Research Proposal Review Group with guidance from the Associate Provost (Academic Partnerships) and the International Relations Office.

MIT and Imperial will then jointly review applications to make a final decision on which applications will receive funding.

Selection Criteria

Following eligibility criteria and fit to call, priority will be given to projects that:
• Are likely to make an important contribution to the field
• Are new or are entering a new phase
• Include a balanced exchange between participating teams
• Demonstrate complementarity between participating teams
• Involve students in a meaningful way
• Are likely to be sustainable beyond the grant period.

 Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their application via email in April 2023.

At MIT, applicants will be contacted by MISTI.

Feedback on unsuccessful applications will be limited unless the joint committee decides that additional feedback is necessary or useful.


Accessing Funds & Reporting

Grants  will be jointly awarded by MIT and Imperial College London. MIT will transfer the portion of the grant allocated to the MIT team directly to the MIT PI; Imperial College London will transfer the portion of the grant allocated to the Imperial team directly to the Imperial PI.


Grantees who are successful in receiving an award are required to provide a narrative report by the end of the grant period directly to MISTI, as well as a brief mid-project report nine months after the award is granted. 

A report template will be provided and should include details of the funding provided, the relevant activities completed, how these have addressed the objectives of the call and possible next steps in developing the collaboration further.

MISTI will collect the final and mid-project reports from grantees and share them with Imperial.

Follow-on extra funding

NSF-UKRI Funding 

A key aim of the fund is to seed activity to support engagement with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Lead Agency Agreement and other related national and supra-national bodies/programmes.

You can include funding from one of the NSF-UKRI calls in your budget proposal or project to apply to one of the funding to scale up your seed fund application.

Current agreements between NSF and UKRI support funding through several open calls.

MoU between the EPSRC is open to any themes within the remit of the EPSRC and several NSF directorates

Signed in June 2023, New MoU between the NSF and UKRI creates an opportunity for lead agency collaboration between the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in the UK and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States. 

This MoU is a renewal of a previous agreement signed in 2019 between the EPSRC and the NSF Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences. It has been widened to include the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering and the Directorate of Engineering, hence increasing the number of eligible areas of collaboration to include energy, manufacturing, materials science, mathematical sciences, robotics, quantum, AI, and interdisciplinary research across engineering and physical sciences.

The lead agency collaboration aims to strengthen bilateral partnerships and foster scientific advancements in key areas of mutual interest. The collaboration offers an excellent platform for UK and US researchers to leverage complementary expertise and resources, driving innovation and addressing global challenges together.

UKRI/Defra and NSF and National Institutes of Health in the US: support collaboration to study ecological and evolutionary drivers that influence the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases of animals, humans, and plants. The call closes on the 15th of November 2023.