Sustainable Futures Fund

Proposal timeline for the 2021-2022 academic year:

  • Proposals are due on or before December 10, 2021
  • Awards announced in January 2022

Fund information:

As the 21st century unfolds, we are faced with deeply complex challenges to our society and global ecosystem. Changes to the Earth’s climate are already negatively impacting human and natural systems, and at high cost. The increasing frequency of flooding due to more powerful tropical storms and extreme rainfall, for example, have already caused hundreds of billions of dollars of damages. Key challenges include the need to build more sustainable and resilient cities, to mitigate climate change, and to develop the needed social resiliency required to embrace rapid changes brought about by technology without bringing about social disruption. These are not just technological challenges, but challenges to our discourse and understanding of our role in the stewardship of our planet for future generations. The nature of these challenges are nearly always interdisciplinary and long term. Finding effective solutions will thus require a broad societal response, including leveraging all the intellectual resources of universities, ranging from the Sciences and Engineering to the Social Sciences to Architecture, Arts and Humanities. Rice should be an intellectual leader in Houston and the world in developing the technologies, policies, social framework and environmental understanding to be a force for an equitable, safe, and sustainable future on planet Earth. Houston is a model city for the impacts of climate change in low-lying coastal zones in the subtropics, where, globally, the highest development rates are occurring. This seed fund program will be used to support interdisciplinary research on this broad range of challenges where Rice could be a leader. Preference will be given to faculty teams that seek to establish new areas of scholarship.

Rice University’s Sustainable Futures Fund promotes the development of new research or academic partnerships that extend across multiple schools to engage faculty in new and creative scholarship.

These awards are for high-risk/high-reward proposals. It is expected that these awards will lead to new proposals that are critical for sustained research growth.

Awards are funded up to a maximum of $50,000 and may extend for up to two years ($50,000 total).

Sustainable Futures funds may not be used for faculty salary, subcontracts, purchase of research equipment, or reducing teaching responsibilities.


Full-time and research faculty members at Rice are eligible to apply. Proposals must be submitted by a team of at least two faculty. Preference will be given to proposals that involve new faculty collaborations across more than one School.

Review process:

The review of proposals will be carried out by the Vice Provost of Research with input from the interdisciplinary Envirofac network. Committee members who are applicants to this fund will not participate in proposal reviews.

Selection criteria:

Proposals will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  1. The quality, significance, and potential impact of the project;
  2. The contribution the project makes to furthering the Vision for the Second Century (V2C2), particularly in proposals that might help the University do any of the following:
    ○ Raise our research and scholarship profile (strong preference will be given to those proposals that develop new research relationships);
    ○ Promote Rice’s interdisciplinary activity (strong preference will be given to those proposals that extend across schools);
  3. The likelihood that the project will lead to outside funding.

How to apply:

Proposals must be submitted using this webform by December 10, 2021 at 11:59pm.

Proposals must include the following in a single PDF document:
1. A project description written such that a faculty peer will be able to understand the significance, scope, and objectives of the proposal (no more than three pages (in 12-point type), including figures);
2. A single-page budget indicating how the requested funds will be expended;
3. A single-page funding plan identifying a potential future funding opportunity (for example a NSF or foundation grant program)
4. A curriculum vitae for each applicant of no more than three pages per CV.

Award Requirements:

  • It is expected that these awards will lead to the pursuit of external funding or result in the publication of findings.
  • A one-page progress report will be required at the end of Years 1 and 2.
  • At the end of Year 2, awarded teams will present their findings to the Envirofac committee with an opportunity to compete for a $5,000 Excellence in Sustainability Research Prize.
  • It is expected that awardees will serve as proposal reviewers for upcoming Sustainable Futures Fund review cycles.