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Funding research to improve sustainability and efficiency of campus operations

The SEED2SOIL program aims to leverage the world-class research capacity of the University of Utah to generate ideas and knowledge that can improve campus operations while also contributing broader knowledge and/or application.

Research topics identified for an RFP are endorsed by Sustainable Operations Working Groups (SOW groups) as being valuable to campus. Research proposals are encouraged to address topics beyond those identified, as long as the information requested and other findings are made available to Operations. Questions on research topics may be routed through Lissa Larson.

SEED2SOIL is a collaborative effort from the University of Utah’s Facilities Sustainability & Energy group; Planning, Design, & Construction; the Sustainability Office; and the Global Change and Sustainability Center.

  • SEED2SOIL seeks to focus a wide array of campus expertise toward achieving ambitious improvements in the sustainability and efficiency of campus operations.

    Thematically-focused Sustainable Operations Working groups meet annually to prioritize strategic projects. As a part of this process, the SOW groups identify research topics that would advance innovation and research-based decision-making at the U. The SEED2SOIL program allocates funds each fiscal year to support these research needs. The funds are made available through savings realized from campus efficiency improvements and upgrades that are then reinvested in projects and research to support further progress. The research topics identified in the RFP are endorsed by Sustainable Operations Working (SOW) Groups as being valuable to campus.

    We anticipate that this RFP will occur twice annually and be facilitated by the GCSC. The GCSC will transfer grant funds to be administered by the PI’s home department.

  • Research topics for the current RFP are listed here. Questions on research topics may be routed through Lissa Larson ( to be forwarded to Operations contacts.

    The requirements and format of the proposal are listed below:

      A one-page list of the research team members, including area of expertise and a brief description of how each will contribute to the project. Projects must be led by a faculty PI and can include others on a team. Teams may include other faculty collaborators from across campus, postdocs, students, etc. Collaboration with community partners, transdisciplinary partnership, and/or involvement of students is encouraged.
      A two- to three-page summary of the research plan that must describe the following:
      • Problem or question to be addressed (see Research Topics)
      • Approach to be taken, i.e., research method
      • Timeline of project
      • Potential impact of collaboration with campus Operations
      • Anticipated products and outcomes of the project – Researcher is to define research deliverables, including identified topics and any additional goals
      • How the final products/outcomes tie into university operations, systems, or processes
      • A single figure/image/graphic may also be included (does not count toward page limit).
      A one-page summary of how the project will impact each of the SEED2SOIL values (see “Proposal Evaluation”).
      A one-page budget summary with a table of all costs, a description of how the funds will be used, and a narrative identifying areas of uncertainty/risk with proposed contingency plans. Expense types must be allowable as per University policy.
      Suggest three possible reviewers with appropriate technical expertise for the proposal. Suggestions must include at least one person internal to the UU, but the others can be professionals or academics in other organizations.
  • Proposals will be reviewed by a committee consisting of GCSC affiliated faculty and SEED2SOIL representatives. Proposals will be evaluated based on the following rubric.

    TEAM DESCRIPTION  Preparedness and expertise of research team including access to necessary equipment and facilities 15 pts
    RESEARCH PLAN SUMMARY  Alignment with research requests 25 pts
    Plan is complete, feasible, and well-thought out 20 pts
    Final products include both UofU applications and scholarly output for the broader world 10 pts
    SEED2SOIL VALUE CONTRIBUTION  Research addresses contributions to each SEED2SOIL value listed below: 30 pts
    Environmental Justice Positive impact to local marginalized and underserved communities supporting equity, social justice, inclusion, and accountability.
    Knowledge Generation Use of Campus as a Living Lab. Promotion of research and teaching excellence, student success, and partnerships. Generation of new technology, patents, and standards.
    Financial & Operating Vitality Economic impact from improved operational costs, productivity, asset lifecycle costs, and/or maintenance costs.
    Contribution to Sustainability Goals Impact to sustainability goals, ultimately the commitment to Carbon Neutrality by 2024.
    Local Impact & Resiliency Direct improvement to local quality of life, via improvements in local air quality, reductions in water use, generation and volume of hazardous waste. Direct impact to local health outcomes, network anchor support, and resiliency.
    BUDGET JUSTIFICATION  Budget is reasonable, follows university guidelines, all expenses are allowable Required
  • Researchers will meet with Operations contacts following the funding award to confirm that the research plan will provide sufficient data for Operations’ needs. Operations contacts will be available to support researchers throughout the project. The university will make data and facilities available to the researcher to support the proposed research. If research findings are implemented in university facility operations, the researcher will have access to the findings and can be updated on a regular basis (i.e. no more than quarterly).

    Researchers will be asked to provide the following:

    • Updates to be reported to the SEED2SOIL committee (funding partners) on quarterly basis
    • Report of accomplishments at the end of the project, including deliverables as defined by the Researcher in the Research Plan

    Researchers may be asked to provide the following:

    • Communications post (100 words or less; single image to describe project)
    • Presentation (approximately 10 minutes) of research progress/outcomes at a campus or SEED2SOIL event
    • Podcast interview with "Sustain” podcast to discuss research progress/outcomes
    • Student participants may present the research at the GCSC’s annual Environment and Sustainability Research Symposium

    Research faculty retains the right to intellectual property and copyright per university policy. However, the University of Utah shall have access to any patents, innovation, or data that result from these projects free of charge.