Funding Opportunity for Sustainability Research at USC


The USC Center for Sustainability Solutions (CSS) is a multidisciplinary initiative of the Viterbi School of Engineering and the Price School of Public Policy, funded by both schools with matching funds from the Provost’s office (  The CSS seeks policy, technological, and behavioral solutions to the most pressing sustainability problems of the Southern California region and the world.  We do this by conducting basic and applied research aimed at making a real-world impact.

The CSS, through its Research Advisory Board, is issuing a request for proposals (RFP) to provide seed-funds for the development of external proposals for major multi-year research projects that address topics related to sustainability solutions. Examples are proposals for NSF engineering research centers (ERCs), NSF Expeditions in Computing, a variety of DOE/EERE programs, proposals for significant foundation funding on sustainability, and many more. The priority topics solicited for the FY 2020/21 round of CSS proposals are given in Table 1. Note that the examples given in the Table 1 are by no means exhaustive, but that they are provided to help establish context.

Proposals should involve principal investigators from at least two different schools at USC. The proposals should describe one or more specific sustainability problems and include multidisciplinary approaches to developing and evaluating solutions. In addition, we encourage proposals that develop new methodologies or technologies that are broadly applicable to a broad range of sustainability problems. Furthermore, we encourage proposals that address the complex interactions between health, disease, environment, and the economy.

The proposal process will be as follows. The timeline is summarized in Table 2.

  1. Release of RFP: 01 April 2020
  2. Expressions of interest are due by April 15, 2020 to [email protected] and [email protected]; those expressing interest will be invited to a webinar
  3. The Board will accept proposals until May 15, 2020
  4. The Board, with input from domain experts, will select up to 6 projects for funding, depending on the receipt of meritorious proposals
  5. Selections will be announced about June 15, 2020
  6. Project start dates will be July 1, 2020 (start of university fiscal year, FY 2020/21)
  7. The performance period for the proposal should be commensurate with the proposed scope but not to exceed 9 months
  8. The maximum requested budget per proposal is $50k; smaller budgets are encouraged and will allow the selection of a larger number of proposals
  9. The total available funding is $200k


The proposal submission/selection timeline is given in Table 2.


1. Technical sections: 8 pages total, single spaced, 12-point font, no less than 12-point line spacing, 1-inch margins on all sides

2. Sections to include with exact headings and order:

1. Introduction

2. Problem Formulation and Project Objectives

3. Technical Approach

4. Expected Significance and Roadmap to Implementing Solutions

5. Prospective Funding Agency Targeted for Full Proposal (program name, funding amount, how the outcomes of this project will benefit the external proposal, etc.)

6. Plan of Work and Milestones (should include schedule for submission of external full proposal)

7. Team Member Contributions 

3. Additionally, please include the following sections, which do not count in the 8-page limit:

8. References

9. Investigator Bios (no more than 2 pages each)

10. Current and pending research support

11. Budget Details

12. Budget Justification


  1. Technical merit
  2. Relevance to the solicitation
  3. Quality and interdisciplinarity of team
  4. Likelihood of enabling major external funding
  5. Reasonableness of costs and schedule

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