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Vibrant Virginia Impact Funding

Introduction
The Virginia Tech Council on Vibrant Virginia (VV) invites faculty, and teams of faculty-mentored graduate students, to request funding for applied research projects or engagement activities that address a range of community and economic development concerns facing Virginia. The VV funds should support work that will impact communities across urban and rural regions of the state in areas such as job creation and entrepreneurship, talent development and education, community development and placemaking, health and community well-being, and civic innovation or leadership development. As a part of enhancing Virginia Tech’s regional impact, the university’s Beyond Boundaries Strategic Plan prioritizes funding a number of such projects.

Vibrant Virginia began in 2018, working to foster collaboration between the university and external partners, building connections between and within urban and rural communities, and striving to create a Virginia full of economic and social vitality. In addition to two previous rounds of project seed funding, VV provides the university community with facilitated opportunities for external outreach, professional development on engagement topics, opportunities for thought leadership through participation in a book on urban-rural issues, and a webinar series connecting national, state, and university participants around economic and community engagement issues.      

Projects
Examples of VV project activities might include but are not limited to:

  • working with school systems and/or community colleges to improve skills in a community,
  • connecting with groups of local companies to fill talent gaps that sustain employment in a region, 
  • providing technical studies or market analysis that help companies grow in a particular place,  conducting applied research that helps communities enhance individual and community well-being, or
  • delivering technical assistance to organizations working to connect or prepare individuals for opportunities that will enhance their economic and social outcomes.
     

The VT Council on Vibrant Virginia supports a database of Virginia Tech-led economic and community engagement projects that is currently in development. Those examples may be informative, but should not suggest limits to your responses. If you have work you would like to include in the database, please respond to the Vibrant Virginia survey.

Impact fund awards will range from $25,000-$75,000; however, in certain instances, grant award amounts either above or below that range may be provided. Proposed projects must include active engagement with citizens’ groups, local government agencies, private businesses or nonprofit organizations in Virginia regions as appropriate to the specific project.

Applicants must have external support for the project (cash or in-kind) either equal or greater than the amount requested. Preference will be given to projects with match commitments in-hand; however, contingent awards to provide match for external proposals will be considered. No VV funding will be expended before the match is confirmed. Multi-year projects may be supported, but VV funding must be spend in FY 22. The Virginia Tech Center for Economic and Community Engagement, along with a network of university and community partners, will provide technical assistance and guidance to applicants seeking matching funds or developing external partnerships in support of their proposal.       

Applicants are encouraged to consider engagement opportunities in the communities and regions near all Virginia Tech campus locations, including Blacksburg, Roanoke, Greater Washington, the five Commonwealth Campus Centers, the 107 local Virginia Cooperative Extension offices, the six 4-H educational centers, the 11 Agricultural Research and Experiment Centers, and any other satellite research and education facilitates at which VT maintains a presence.

While a broad range of submissions are invited, special attention will be given this year to projects touching on these areas:

1.     projects advancing community solutions and resilience to environmental change across Virginia

Climate change, infectious disease, invasive species, pollution, and other rapid environmental changes adversely affect communities across Virginia.  Accelerating impacts of these changes to agriculture, local economies, infrastructure, and health systems make it critical to find innovative solutions and build resilience for the future. We seek to support faculty engagement of local stakeholders to co-develop and implement projects that build capacity, resilience, and long- term prosperity in communities across the Commonwealth. Projects will be viewed most favorably if they include both 1) a connection of Virginia Tech’s research enterprise to quantifiable translational outcomes, and 2) experiential opportunities for students (undergraduate or graduate).

Examples of focus areas could include, but are not limited to:

  • Transitions to renewable energy or other sustainable community practices;
  • Economic development and job creation in communities transitioning away from fossil fuel production;
  • Equitable protection and creation of community infrastructure impacted by climate change;
  • Capacity-building in communities responding to environmental health crises related to rapid environmental changes (e.g., infectious disease, air pollution in coal mining communities);
  • Resilience of agricultural systems to increased frequency of drought, invasive pests, etc.; and
  • Innovative and equitable access to clean drinking water.
     

2.     projects involving interdisciplinary faculty teams that are aligned with university research priorities and are eligible for seed funding from ICTAS

Specifically, these would be on the cutting edge of science and technology, addressing topics like health, artificial intelligence, security, and quantum computing. Click here to find examples of ICTAS Research Funding Opportunities

3.     projects advancing student experiential learning that are eligible for funding from the 4VA program 

As Virginia Tech is a 4-VA member institution, applicants are also encouraged to submit proposals aligned with the Collaborative Research Initiative of 4-VA and to seek collaborators at other 4-VA institutions. Well aligned with the Vibrant Virginia initiative to strengthen Virginia’s competitive edge, Virginia Tech provides 4-VA Collaborative Research grants to research teams collaborating across 4-VA universities. With access to this funding, teams can build evidence to show that their projects will make valuable, impactful contributions to their fields, thereby increasing their chances of winning larger external grants. Undergraduate and graduate research opportunities that support mentorships and build a pipeline for graduate programs can be considered, particularly if the proposal generates new research topics, and strong potential for submissions to external granting agencies.  Ideally, these research grants will fund activities that create experiential learning opportunities for student researchers in STEM fields.

4.     projects advancing individual and community health and well-being

There is a need for transformative change in health research to promote healthier lives for all. To meet the needs of communities in Virginia, prevention and intervention programs must engage members of diverse populations to promote healthy behaviors. Effective engagement necessitates an understanding of social determinants of health, and the development, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based programs designed to improve health and well-being of all citizens of the Commonwealth.

To achieve this goal of transformative change will require interdisciplinary partnerships, comprised of researchers, practitioners, and community stakeholders, to collectively engage in understanding local, regional, and state-wide health disparities, and to design programs for individuals and families across the lifespan within the communities in which they live so that they can thrive and prosper. 

Topic areas of interest include:

  • Health and wellness
  • Chronic disease prevention and intervention
  • Mental health
  • Opioid and other addictions
  • Disparities and inequalities


As part of their project, selected faculty members will be expected to:

  • Engage with appropriate external partners in Virginia regions
  • Demonstrate an approach to building sustained relationships with for Virginia Tech for their external partners  
  • Prepare a report for the external partner where appropriate
  • Prepare a manuscript of up to 3500-word for a future VV publication. Graduate students who apply must do so in tandem with a faculty co-applicant

Process
Interested parties should submit an initial expression of interest, including a short project abstract (250 words maximum) to John Provo. Please place Impact Funding Proposal, Vibrant Virginia in the subject line. For questions, please contact John Provo.

Informational webinars will be scheduled for June 3, 2021 from 11 - 12 PM. View the slides from the June 3 informational webinar here.

Expressions of interest will be accepted on a rolling basis as long as funding remains available. For full consideration, expressions of interest should be submitted by July 3, 2021. Initial invitations to submit full applications are anticipated for this summer, with decisions made this summer for work to be initiated next fall.    

Full application materials will consist of a letter (7 pages maximum) and the CV’s of project team members. The letter should clearly and succinctly describe the central issues addressed, the research strategy, and the expected outcome(s). Applicants should also include in the letter a description their background and familiarity with the topic; an indication of consultation with the regional agencies, groups, or organizations that will be involved with the project; and a consideration of the broader social implications of the research. Letters must also include the total funding amount requested, how funds will support project, and an approximate timeline and plan of work for completing the project.  Evidence of matching funds awarded or applied for should be provide as an attachment. Application materials may be used in Vibrant Virginia publications, press releases, or promotional materials.

Applicants will be provided technical assistance from the Center for Economic and Community Engagement and other university and community groups, including on issues of partnership development and identification of match.  

Decisions will be made by the Virginia Tech Council on Vibrant Virginia, which stewards this effort, is chaired by the Vice President for Outreach and International Affairs, Guru Ghosh. Members include:

  • Catherine Amelink, Associate Vice Provost for Learning Systems Innovation
  • Leanna Blevins, Assistant Vice President for Health Sciences, Education and Student Affairs
  • Guru Ghosh, Chair, Vice President for Outreach and International Affairs (Chair)
  • Jon Greene, Associate Director of Strategic Planning and Development at Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science
  • William Hopkins, Director of the Global Change Center
  • Matthew Hulver, Director of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute
  • Edwin Jones, Director of Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • Tracy Krauchun, Director of Foundation Relations, LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH
  • Erin McCann, Director for Strategic Planning for the Office at Strategic Affairs
  • Lisa McNair, Director of the Center for Educational Networks and Impacts & Senior Fellow at the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology
  • Karen Roberto, Executive Director of the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment
  • Karen Eley Sanders, Associate Vice Provost for College Access
  • Susan Short, Associate Vice President for Engagement