Radical Ideas in Brain Science Challenge

The current application cycle is closed.  Check back at a future date.

Seeking real breakthroughs in the biggest neuroscience challenges facing our society, Berkeley is pioneering campus-wide collaborations to significantly advance our understanding of the mind and brain through high-risk, high-reward Radical Ideas in Brain Science.

In partnership with visionary philanthropic partners, we are seed-funding small team interdisciplinary collaborations to explore novel concepts and open new pathways of innovation into the circuitry, signaling, and function of the brain from earliest development through advanced age in health, injury, illness, and recovery.

Berkeley is composed of world-renowned faculty and inventive students who can create such leaps. The Radical Ideas in Brain Science Challenge is catalyzing bold, potentially transformative interdisciplinary research that otherwise would not advance, as no other funding mechanism currently exists for these types of projects.  As such, Radical Ideas aims to support ‘proof of concept’ work and the fundamental research necessary to establish these endeavors as candidates for higher level funding consideration.

Proposal Team Composition Requirements

Given the interest in fostering new cross-disciplinary approaches, we require the following team composition:

  • At least one participant should be a faculty member of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute (HWNI).
  • At least one additional participant should be a UC Berkeley ladder-rank faculty member who is from a discipline different from that of the HWNI member. This could include additional HWNI members. Teams that include faculty from social sciences and humanities are encouraged to apply.
  • External participants from industry, national labs, or peer universities are encouraged, but not mandatory.

Proposal Guidelines

Proposals will describe objectives for new cross-disciplinary research relationships and areas of new knowledge development, target gaps in our current knowledge, and will propose a clear path from research concept to formal research and development. Eligible activities include, but are not limited to: research and development, conferences, and postdoc/graduate student support. Faculty salaries should be no more than 10% of total expenditures.

Applications are to be submitted electronically as a single PDF file that includes:

  • Title page with proposal title, PI and co-PIs, and their department affiliations
  • 1-paragraph lay summary of project
  • 3-5 page project description
  • 1-page budget and justification
  • CVs or biosketches of the PI and co-PIs

The lay summary should be accessible to non-scientists and speak to the goals as well as the potential societal impact of the project. Send applications to neuroscience@berkeley.edu.  Please direct questions to neuroscience@berkeley.edu. Proposals should not be routed through SPO. Please name the PDF as follows: lead PI “Last name_first name_RadicalIdeas_20XX.pdf”.  Include a running header on the top right-hand corner of the PDF with the lead PI’s last name, first name, proposal title, and year.

Selection Committee and Process

The selection committee is composed of the director of HWNI and a panel of faculty selected from the HWNI membership, with faculty asked to rate proposals based on a rubric created by HWNI leadership, and to make a recommendation to the director for final determination.

Reporting Requirements

Annual installments of the award will depend on the completion of an annual progress report. At the completion of the project, a final progress report will be required along with a presentation of findings, to which the sponsoring donor will be invited.

Past Recipients

2018:  Blood-brain barrier dysfunction as a novel mechanism of age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease

2017:  Tools to Illuminate a Missing Dimension in Neuroimaging: Neuromodulation