Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems Initiative

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
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EPiQS Flexible Funding: Call for Ideas 2021


The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation announces the second annual call for ideas for flexible funding grants, as part of the Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems Initiative (EPiQS).

Through EPiQS, the foundation strives to accelerate progress in the field of quantum materials — solids and engineered structures characterized by novel quantum phases of matter and exotic cooperative behaviors of electrons. Flexible funding grants are a key funding approach within EPiQS, which enables the foundation to respond in a timely manner to emerging opportunities in this field of research.

Description of flexible funding grants

The goal of flexible funding grants is to drive scientific innovation by enhancing experimental capabilities at leading research institutions and supporting projects with significant potential to create breakthroughs in the field of quantum materials. These grants have two varieties: equipment grants and rapid response grants

  • Equipment grants support the development of sophisticated and sometimes one-of-a-kind instrumentation at institutions with active research programs in quantum materials. 
  • Rapid response grants support projects that are exceptionally timely and have a very high potential impact. These projects may include experimental tests of novel important theoretical concepts and innovative, unconventional research endeavors that are unlikely to be supported through traditional funding channels due to their high-risk nature. 

The total budget for flexible funding grants is about $19 million for the period 2020-2024. We anticipate that most of the grants will be in the range between $300k and $1.5M. We will be very selective and focus on projects that stand out in originality and potential impact to make breakthroughs in the field. We have no commitment to funding a fixed number of projects in any given calendar year. We estimate that the 2021 call for ideas may result in 2-3 funded projects. 

Eligibility criteria

We are looking for the best ideas and are committed to designing a review process that focuses on the quality of ideas and minimizes bias. We encourage applications from individuals regardless of their age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, national origin, religion, or disability.  

Any scientist with a permanent appointment at a university or another research institution is eligible to submit their project idea. This includes tenured, tenure-track, and research faculty, as well as research staff members at US national laboratories, other government-funded research laboratories, and independent research institutes. Although EPiQS is primarily focused on US researchers, international applications with outstanding potential will also be considered.

Researchers should submit their project ideas individually through this application portal. Budgets, cover letters, or official institutional endorsements are not required at this time. However, we strongly encourage applicants to review the foundation's indirect cost policy and verify that their institution can comply with this policy. There are no restrictions on the number of applications from any given institution. 

Each applicant can submit only one flexible funding project idea as a principal investigator (PI). In addition, an applicant can serve as a co-investigator (Co-I) on one additional project idea, proposed by another PI. Both single-investigator and multi-investigator projects will be considered. In the case of a multi-investigator project, only one investigator (the PI) should submit the idea, whether or not the investigators reside at the same institution.  

Current Moore Foundation grantees, both those funded through EPiQS and those outside of EPiQS, are eligible to apply, with the following exceptions: Materials Synthesis Investigators and Experimental Investigators selected in the 2019-2020 EPiQS Investigator competitions, and PIs of current flexible funding grants cannot apply as PIs; however, they can be listed as Co-Is. 

The scientific and technical scope of this call for ideas

Candidates are invited to submit ideas in one of the two categories:

  1. Equipment grant: Development of complex instrumentation for synthesis and/or experimental investigations of materials, which has the potential to significantly elevate the level of scientific research at your institution and beyond;
  2. Rapid response grant: A high-risk, high-impact project that presents a timely opportunity to advance understanding of quantum materials or produce new discoveries in the field. The research project can be experimental, theoretical, or a combination of the two.

If your idea is relevant to both grant categories, please use the following guideline: if your estimated budget would allocate more than 50 percent of the funds toward equipment acquisition, choose the equipment grant category; if equipment acquisition presents 50 percent or less of the estimated budget, choose the rapid response category.  

The classes of materials of interest to EPiQS are: 

  • Strongly correlated systems, including but not limited to high-Tc and other unconventional superconductors, Mott insulators, heavy fermion systems, multiferroics, and correlated oxide heterostructures;
  • Frustrated magnets and other solids exhibiting exotic magnetic behavior;
  • Materials exhibiting topological order;
  • Two-dimensional crystals and layered systems, including but not limited to graphene, dichalcogenide monolayers, and van der Waals heterostructures;
  • Other low-dimensional systems, including but not limited to quantum wells and quantum wires with emergent electronic properties;
  • Various ‘synthetic quantum materials’ created in any physical platform, as long as this platform hosts emergent phenomena relevant to the understanding of electronic/magnetic emergent properties or real materials. Examples include, but are not limited to, cold atom systems and circuit QED systems.

Although organic-based materials exhibiting emergent electronic properties are currently not represented in the EPiQS portfolio, we will consider compelling ideas in this area as well. EPiQS is primarily concerned with advancing the fundamental understanding of emergent properties of quantum materials; therefore, ideas that are focused on devices and other near-term practical applications of materials will  receive low priority.

Selection process and criteria

The selection of flexible funding projects will have multiple stages. This call for ideas is the initial stage, whose goal is to collect brief descriptions of innovative projects. The ideas submitted through this application portal will be subjected to a dual-anonymous peer review process, in which candidates’ identities will be concealed from the reviewers, and vice versa. At this stage we are focused on evaluation of the quality and potential impact of the ideas rather than the applicants' track record. About twenty highest-ranked ideas will be selected for the pre-proposal stage. After another round of peer review, a small number of the pre-proposals will be selected for the final, full-proposal stage. The full proposals will be reviewed by an expert panel. As the final stage of the panel review, the identities of finalists will be revealed to the panelists, such that they can verify the applicants' ability to carry forth the proposed projects.

The ideas will be selected for the next stage in the selection process based on the following main criteria: 

  • The potential of the proposed experimental instrumentation to enable novel or superior approaches to probing the fundamental properties of quantum materials and/or to the synthesis of novel quantum materials (equipment grant ideas);
  • The extent to which the proposed instrumentation brings benefits to multiple researchers at a given institution and beyond (equipment grant ideas);
  • Applicant's willingness to take risks to explore unproven and uncertain research avenues with potentially transformative impact (rapid response grant ideas);
  • The extent to which the proposed project is timely, i.e., responds to a recently emerged opportunity in the field (both types of grant ideas).

Accommodation Statement

This flexible funding competition is open to all qualified applicants, regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, national origin, religion, or disability. If you have any questions or need assistance or accommodation in completing this call for ideas, please contact us directly at EPiQS@moore.org or by phone at 650-213-3064.

Application process and deadline

As the first step, please register as a user of the Apply portal if you have not done so in the past. During the registration process, please enter an email address that you check frequently, as we will use this email address to contact you with updates. After registering as an Apply user, enter the portal to start your idea submission. The deadline for submitting your project idea is Sunday, April 25, 2021, at 5:00 PM U.S. Pacific Daylight Time. We expect a large number of submissions and cannot commit to providing feedback to applicants. Only applicants whose ideas have been selected for the next stage will be contacted and invited, by mid-July, to submit additional information. We anticipate that the final selection of EPiQS flexible funding grants will be completed by November 2021.

Should you have any questions about the submission process, please contact us at EPiQS@moore.org.

ASU Information:

Submissions to this sponsor/donor are managed by the Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations. Please contact your unit-assigned ASUF Director of Development or Research Advancement Specialist at your earliest convenience to ensure ASU's strategic coordination and management of funding applications.

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