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W.M. Keck Foundation - Spring Cycle

Internal Due Date: 12-09-2015 Contact Lucy Grantham for details

Foundation Due Date: 05-01-2015 Due twice a yearly

Number of Applications: 4


Keck Grant Programs

The Keck Foundation was founded with the goal of generating far-reaching benefits for humanity, supporting outstanding science, engineering and medical research, undergraduate education; and, in Southern California, arts and culture, education, health and community service projects that will have a significant impact in addressing complex issues and problems. Keck strives to fund endeavors that are distinctive and novel in their approach. It encourages projects that are high-risk with the potential for transformative impact. "High-risk" comprises a number of factors, including questions that push the edge of the field, present unconventional approaches to intractable problems, or challenge the prevailing paradigm.

To make grant determinations, Keck relies upon a wide range of input, including assessments by its professional staff, site visits, peer reviews, the latest available scientific information, and presentations by experts in scientific, medical and health and human service fields.

Research Program

Supporting pioneering discoveries in science, engineering and medical research has been Keck’s mandate from the beginning. By funding the high-risk/high-impact work of leading researchers, Keck is laying the groundwork for new paradigms, technologies and discoveries that will save lives, provide innovative solutions, and add to our understanding of the world. Both Senior and Early Career investigators are encouraged to apply.

The Research Program seeks to benefit humanity by supporting projects in two specific areas: 1) medical research and 2) science and engineering, that are distinctive and novel in their approach, question the prevailing paradigm, or have the potential to break open new territory in their field.  Past grants have been awarded to major universities, independent research institutions, and medical schools to support pioneering biological and physical science research and engineering, including the development of promising new technologies, instrumentation or methodologies.  Historically, grants range from, $500,000 to $5 million and are typically $2 million or less.  Keck employs a very structured two-phase application process. Grants are awarded twice annually, in June and December. Only applications that reflect institutional priorities as certified by the applicant's President/Chief Executive Officer will be considered.

What Keck Wants

Research Field:  The Keck Foundation Research Program seeks to benefit humanity by supporting projects in two research areas—medical research and science and engineering research—that are distinctive and novel in their approach, question the prevailing paradigm, or have the potential to break open new territory in their field.  Both Senior and Early Career investigators are encouraged to apply. Keck is most interested in projects that:

  • will be transformative across multiple fields, with the possibility of founding a new field of research or new ways of looking at an intractable problem;
  • are “great leap” projects with the potential to develop breakthrough technologies, instrumentation, or methodologies;
  • focus on important and emerging areas of research;
  • are innovative, distinctive and interdisciplinary;
  • demonstrate a high level of risk due to unconventional approaches, or by challenging the prevailing paradigm; and
  • fall outside the mission of federal agencies and that demonstrate Keck Foundation support is essential to the project’s success. 

Clarity:  Keck seeks comprehensive but succinct descriptions of what the research team members will do and exactly how they will do it methodologically.  The text should be written for a highly trained audience familiar with reading scientific proposals, but whose members are not necessarily trained in the same field as the applicant.  The potential transformative impact of the project should be clear to all readers.

Need:  Keck seeks proposals that will convincingly describe why Keck funding is essential, compared to other private funders.

Distinction:  Keck likes to see proposals that explain how the team and its approach will be distinct from – and will add improvements to – others in the field. Demonstrating strong awareness of competing and similar research teams nationally and internationally is important. 

Benefit:  Given the often high-risk nature of transformative rather than incremental projects, it is important to describe the collateral benefits that will be produced by the project across multiple fields, even if the focused, principal aim of the project is not achieved during the grant period. 

What Keck Does NOT Want

Projects that are NOT eligible for Keck funding:  

  • involve clinical or translational research, treatment trials or research for the sole purpose of drug development;
  • have a narrow/specific disease focus, unless it has broader application;
  • are bricks and mortar;
  • involve establishment of core facilities; or
  • are eligible for any federal funding.

For other limitations and additional information, go to:


Please submit ONE-PAGE Abstracts to Lucy Grantham at no later than December 9, 2015.



  • Abstract Internal Due Date: December 9, 2015
  • Internal Committee Review: Keck Review Committee will select a maximum of 8 abstracts (4 in the area of Science and Engineering and 4 in the area of Medical Science) for pre-application counseling with the Foundation to take place between January 1, 2016, and February 15, 2016.
  • Review Committee Recommendations:  Based upon Keck feedback, the Keck Review Committee will inform applicants as to whether the concept will be moving forward. 

Phase I Proposal Due to Keck Foundation: May 1, 2016

ONE-PAGE Abstract Requirements

In one page only (in 12 point font with 1 inch margins), with a highly trained but lay audience in mind, include the following:

  1. abstract/overview of the research proposed emphasizing any unique aspects;
  2. mention of pilot studies or data, if any – including unpublished findings – that support the idea;
  3. brief description of the key personnel and methodologies;
  4. brief justification of the particular need for Keck’s support; and
  5. estimated budget broken down, if possible, by major areas, e.g., personnel, equipment, consumable supplies, etc. (Budgets can be rough approximations at this stage.)

Researchers are free to add other details (e.g., background to put the research into perspective, description of the institution’s prominence in the field, etc.) if there is room. Researchers should avoid illustrations in these single-pagers; they will need all the room for text. If a reference is absolutely necessary, abbreviate it as (Science, 323, 45, ’11).

Link to previous grant abstracts:

Lucy Grantham, Director of Development II
Emory University, Development and Alumni Relations
Office of Foundation Relations
1762 Clifton Road, Suite 1150, Atlanta, Georgia 30322
Office: 404.727.4096, Cell: 202-413-1793, Fax: 404.727.4492