Frequently Asked Questions

The Partnership | Initiative | Proposals | Proposers' Day | Funding Decisions and Renewals   

The Partnership

1.    Q.  What three institutions make up the Tri-Institutional partnership?

      A.   Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), UC Berkeley (Berkeley), and UC San Francisco (UCSF).

2.   Q.   Who is in the partnership’s Senior Leadership Group?

      A.   Horst Simon, Deputy Laboratory Director, LBNL

            Graham Fleming, Vice Chancellor for Research, Berkeley

            Keith Yamamoto, Vice Chancellor for Research, UCSF

3.  Q.  If we have technical questions on the initiative or seed funding who should we contact?

      A.   Contact one of the members of the Coordinating Group:

            Peter Denes, LBNL,

            Udi Isacoff, Berkeley,

            Eddie Chang, UCSF,

4.   Q.  If we have administrative questions on the initiative or seed funding, who should we contact?

      A.  There are institutional staff from each partner institution who can help:

            Kristin Balder-Froid (

            Suzanne Pierce ( and Dave Trinkle (

            Gretchen Kiser (


BRAIN R&D Initiative for Innovative Neurotechnology

1.    Q.  What are goals of the BRAIN R&D Initiative and its seed funding program?

      A.   We hope to strengthen the abilities of the partners to forge a strong network of Bay Area collaborations, in this case in neurotechnology and in response to US President’s BRAIN Initiative. 

2.   Q.  Who will lead the BRAIN R&D Initiative? 

      A.   A Coordination Group has been established to lead the initiative.  It consists of one faculty member from each partner institution.  The members are:

            Peter Denes, LBNL

            Udi Isacoff, Berkeley

            Eddie Chang, UCSF

3.   Q.  How much seed funding is available?

      A.  Each Partner has agreed to contribute $500,000 for a total of $1,500,000 for the first project year. The same level of funding is anticipated in additional years, subject to annual review.

4.   Q. Will the seed funding program be funded for more than three years?

      A.   The intention is to fund this neurotechnology program for three years. Beyond the third year, the overall program goals will be revisited.  


Proposals for Seed Funding

1.    Q. What are the technical areas likely to be supported by the BRAIN R&D Initiative?

      A.  Nanotechnology or technology-inspired solutions for neuroscience. For example, as described in the original nano-neuro whitepaper or indicated by NIH and NSF:

  • Advance current optogenetic techniques in model systems
  • Develop next generation nanoscale probes, which would allow high-frequency and high spatial resolution recording (and stimulation) from a large number of sites.
  • Generate a Census of Cell Types
  • Create Structural Maps of the Brain
  • Develop New Large‐Scale Network Recording Capabilities
  • Develop A Suite of Tools for Circuit Manipulation
  • Link Neuronal Activity to Behavior
  • Integrate Theory, Modeling, Statistics, and Computation with Experimentation
  • Delineate Mechanisms Underlying Human Imaging Technologies
  • Create Mechanisms to Enable Collection of Human Data
  • Advance quantitative and predictive theories of brain function
  • Create innovative technologies to understand and enhance brain function or treat brain disorders;
  • Develop cyber tools and standards for data acquisition, analysis and integration
  • Create multi-scale and multimodal modeling to relate dynamic brain activity to cognition and behavior
  • Generate comparative analyses across species

2.   Q. What would a successful proposal include?

      A.   A successful proposal will include a description of how the seed funding will enable a clear path to development of a competitive proposal for outside funding.  Innovative projects that engage a broad range of disciplines are especially encouraged.

3.   Q. Why is preference being given to projects involving at least two partner institutions?

      A.   The intent of the Tri-Institutional Partnership and seed funding is to inspire synergies (current and potential) across partner institutions, making connections that don’t already exist.  Projects that involve all three institutions are encouraged.

4.   Q.  Can proposals involving primarily one institution succeed if it includes new collaborations across disciplines within that institution?

      A.   No.  While those efforts are also worthy, they are not what this seed funding program is intended to promote.

5.   Q.  Can proposals involving primarily one institution succeed if minor efforts from the other partners are added?

      A.   No.  We seek true collaboration across institutions.

6.   Q. Can we propose other external partners in our collaboration, beyond the three institutions?

      A.   Partners outside of the Tri-Institution may be included but they would not be eligible to receive Tri-Institution seed funding. The external institution would need to provide its own funding.  The addition of an external partner does not change the requirement that seed funding projects must include at least two of the Tri-Institution partners.

7.   Q.  Do proposals have to include any specific scientific disciplines?  Will some disciplines be favored over others?

      A.   Proposals from any combinations of disciplines could be successful if they make the case for their relevance to the BRAIN Initiative and related federal funding opportunities.

8.   Q.  Can members of the Coordination Group be included in proposals for funding?

      A.   Yes, as each member of the Coordination Group will not be involved in final funding decisions.

9.   Q. How many years of support can I apply for?

      A.   The project performance period is one or two years, subject to a successful annual review of progress.

10. Q. How much funding can I request?

      A.   Most proposal budgets are expected to fall within the range of $50k to $400k per year in total across participating partners. Final funding will be subject to availability of funds.

11.  Q.  What sorts of costs are allowable using these funds? 

      A.  Graduate student and postdoc salaries, and travel expense, to name a few.  Capital equipment is generally not supported, but may, exceptionally, on a case-by-case basis, be considered.  Some funding restrictions may apply.  For specifics, check with the staff support person named above for your home institution.

12.  Q. Are indirect costs or overhead being taken out of the seed funding?  Do I need to account for them in the proposal?

      A.   Budgets in proposals do not need to account for overhead.


Proposers’ Day

1.    Q.  How can I learn more about the program and how to apply for funding?

      A.   A Proposers’ Day will be held where additional information will be provided regarding program objectives, process, and requirements of the seed funding program.  Proposers’Day will also be a forum for forging new collaborations and for interested researchers to talk.  Stay tuned for more information.

2.   Q. I can’t attend Proposers’ Day; will information from it be posted anywhere afterwards?

      A.   New information and initiative updates will be posted on the BRAIN R&D Initiative website:


Funding Decisions and Renewals

1.    Q.  What is the review and decision process for proposals?

      A.   Reviews and reviewers will be chartered by the Senior Leadership Group and organized by the Coordination Group.  The intention is to establish a balance of reviewers across the involved institutions.  Funding decisions will be made collectively by the Senior Leadership (or their designees) from all three institutions.

2.   Q.  How long will it take to make funding decisions?

      A.   Timing for funding decisions will be announced at the Proposers’ Day and posted on the website.

3.   Q. Will renewal funds be automatically allocated?

      A.   No. Applications for follow-on funding must provide evidence of significant progress and clear potential for continued success.

4.   Q.  What if I want to use the current year’s funding in a manner other than that for which I was awarded funds, due to new information about the President’s BRAIN Initiative, new funding opportunities, or exciting new scientific opportunities?

      A.   If you would like to spend a current year’s funding in a significantly different way, it will require resubmission and review by the Senior Leadership Group or their designees.