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Strategic University Research Partnerships

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FY19 Research Initiative & Student Research Initiative Concept Call

TO:All JPL Employees
FROM:The Office of the Chief Scientist and Chief Technologist
SUBJECT: FY 2019 Call for Strategic University Research Partnership (SURP) Program Research Initiative and Student Research Initiative Research Concept Papers

Research Initiative and Student Research Initiative Concept Paper
Deadline: Monday, December 11, 2017, by 4:00 pm PST

The JPL Strategic University Research Partnership (SURP) Program is soliciting one-page concept papers for the FY 2019 funding cycle. This call is one of the avenues the SURP program uses to strengthen the link between the Laboratory and its most strategically important academic partners:

Arizona State University
Carnegie Mellon University
Cornell University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Princeton University
Stanford University
University of Arizona
University of California, Los Angeles
University of Colorado, Boulder
University of Michigan
University of Southern California
University of Texas, Austin

Responses to the call should identify collaborative research ideas in the forefront of Earth and space science or associated technology development. Proposals should initiate, or significantly strengthen, collaborations in support of JPL’s strategic vision. Concept papers should show how funding will provide benefits to the Lab that go beyond the technical accomplishments of the proposed effort, emphasizing the long-term value of the partnership.

Proposed activities come in two types:
  1. Research Initiatives are for collaborative basic and applied research. Proposals are for one year only, up to a cap of $100k to be shared between JPL researchers, partner faculty, and students. Research Initiatives must have a JPL PI and a university faculty collaborator. They are encouraged to have one or more students or postdocs, but it is not required.
  2. Student Research Initiatives should also be for collaborative basic and applied research, but with an emphasis on significant student engagement. They can be for up to three years, with a cap of $60k/year, to be shared between JPL and the partner. They can be focused research tasks for individual graduate students, they can be undergraduate and/or graduate student group research projects, or they can support JPL collaboration in university classes. Student Research Initiatives must have a JPL PI, a university faculty collaborator and one or more students. The Student Research Initiative funding cap has been increased this year with the aim of generating research concepts that support half of a graduate student’s time per year over an extended period (up to three years), leading to significantly enhanced research outcomes. Concept papers should describe how undergraduate and/or graduate student involvement would support building a strong partnership based on the faculty’s research interests and alignment with JPL strategic goals. While there are no restrictions on funding levels, provided that they stay within the cap, in the past undergraduate class projects have been funded at the $25k - $35k level, and such projects are still encouraged.

Additional Elements: Concepts containing additional enhancing elements are strongly encouraged. For instance, we encourage proposers to seek out and highlight contributions from our partners that are synergistic with JPL’s investment. Example contributions may be reduced overhead, in-kind funding of students or faculty, or the provision of unique capabilities. Another way that proposals can be enhanced is by exchange of personnel. While proposed research efforts can include activities to be performed at JPL or at the partnering university, concepts that employ the exchange of personnel, such as students working at JPL under the co-supervision of the JPL PI and university faculty, JPL investigators working at the strategic partner university, or faculty working at JPL (including sabbatical), are encouraged. A third enhancing element is diversity. The SURP program seeks to be a positive force in creating a more diverse population at JPL. An effective way of doing this is through participation of students from under-represented groups in SURP Initiatives. Proposers are encouraged to make note of any enhancing elements in their concept papers.

Topic Areas

We have identified 14 science and technology areas that are important for JPL's continuing contribution to NASA's future success and for which JPL's leadership is key. SURP concepts should address one or more of these strategic topic areas:

Submission Process Overview

The submission process has two steps: A concept paper submission followed by a full proposal submission for approved concepts. Submission instructions can be obtained via the guideline links below, and the due date is shown above.

All NEW concepts require a one-page concept paper in response to this call. PIs with ongoing Student Research Initiatives need not submit a concept paper for their renewal proposal. Concepts will be reviewed by JPL line and program managers. The JPL Office of the Chief Scientist and Chief Technologist will approve which concepts will go forward to full proposals, with a Call for Proposals anticipated in January 2018.

Principal Investigators must be full-time JPL employees and may submit more than one concept paper, however a Student Research Initiative cannot be used to supplement a Research Initiative nor any other funding source.


The concept paper template can be found at

The concept paper guidelines can be found at

Concept papers should be submitted via the site below

If you have any questions about the SURP Program or this Call, please contact Jordana Blacksberg, (, 626-390-9121) or Neil Murphy (, 818-354-8718). For technical questions about the submission website, please contact Lori Williams (818- 393-6392;