WM Keck Foundation


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The W. M. Keck Foundation is centrally managed. Please do not directly contact this foundation. For any questions, contact Tristan Barako, AVP for Foundation Relations.

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 support pioneering biological and physical science research and engineering, including the development of promising new technologies, instrumentation, or methodologies.

Funding information
Historically, grants range from $500,000 to $5 million and are typically $1 million or less.

Program priorities
• Focus on important and emerging areas of research
• Have the potential to develop breakthrough technologies, instrumentation, or methodologies
• Are innovative, distinctive, and interdisciplinary
• Demonstrate a high level of risk due to unconventional approaches, or by challenging the prevailing paradigm
• Have the potential for transformative impact, such as the founding of a new field of research, the enabling of observations not previously possible, or the altered perception of a previously intractable problem
• Do not focus on clinical or translational research, treatment trials, or research for the sole purpose of drug development
• Fall outside the mission of public funding agencies
• Demonstrate that private philanthropy generally, and the W. M. Keck Foundation in particular, are essential to the project’s success

Internal selection process
The Associate Provost for Research will announce this opportunity. BU may submit up to eight concept papers during the pre-application counseling period: four in medical research and four in science and engineering. After feedback, the faculty committee selects two nominees to submit one-page concept papers to Keck.

Things to keep in mind
• Keck funds high-risk research and wants to be the funder of last resort. Ideally, they would like evidence that your project does not fit neatly into the funding priorities of federal agencies or an indication from a Program Officer or other information from a federal agency that your project is too risky (not for technical issues or lack of preliminary data) or too interdisciplinary (includes a combination of disciplines not typically funded by an agency) to be funded by the agency. This makes your application more compelling to our faculty committee, and ultimately to Keck. Please keep this in mind when putting forth a project.
• The typical Keck grant is $1 million over three years. Because of their budget restraints, asking for more money for more years requires a very compelling justification.
• Keck cares most about the right team to address a problem and is not too focused on researchers’ titles.

Examples of success
• BU’s most recent successful Keck proposal met their high-risk, high-reward standard, as the PI who received the Keck award was establishing a new field in the physics discipline, rather than simply proposing the “next logical step” of a defined, discipline-specific research plan. BU’s Keck grantee was asking new scientific questions, was developing a novel approach, had the riskiness of a long-term research endeavor that involved scientists from different disciplines, and had a vision of changing the way people monitor and treat for health.
• Abstracts of former grantees: http://www.wmkeck.org/grant-programs/research/medical-research-grant-abstracts

Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does the foundation give grants outside the United States?
A: No, the foundation restricts its grantmaking to organizations located within the contiguous United States.
Q: Can a research collaborator be funded outside of the United States?
A: Yes, but only a maximum of 10% of the requested amount can be paid to a collaborator outside the United States.
Q: Does the foundation give grants for general operating support?
A: No, the foundation does not make grants for general operating support, nor sponsor events or dinners.
Q: How often can I apply for a grant?
A: Applicants, meaning institutions via the designated liaisons, may submit one phase I application online per grant cycle for the areas of medical research and science and engineering Research. If a grant is awarded to an institution, that institution must wait until the duration of the grant to be eligible to submit a new application.