New seed funding program will stimulate global research partnerships

global map of UK partnerships
This map shows the University of Kentucky’s global active partnerships. UK is currently party to 315 inter-institutional agreements with 230 institutions in 61 countries. Provided by UKIC.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 14, 2022) — UKinSPIRE (Seeding Partnerships for International Research Engagement) is a new internal funding opportunity for University of Kentucky faculty, jointly funded by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the UK International Center (UKIC).

UKinSPIRE seed funding is specifically aimed at creating a strong foundation for sustained, globally engaged collaborative research. The goal of UKinSPIRE is to stimulate high-impact research projects in any discipline linking UK faculty and international collaborators, and to establish collaborations with new international partner institutions or add greater depth to existing institutional partnerships. 

“Fundamental questions and those related to broad societal problems are not defined by national boundaries,” said Lisa Cassis, UK vice president for research. “The global landscape of research and development spending, research capacity and scientific talent means we must work together, strategically, to move research forward. Fostering sustained, productive global networks of research collaborators will be crucial in addressing today’s grand research challenges, and opportunities. We’re very pleased to collaborate with the International Center in supporting UKinSPIRE, which will help lower some of the initial barriers for our researchers in cultivating and expanding international research partnerships.”

“Global engagement in research is a key component of comprehensive campus internationalization. Transnational collaborations bring diverse perspectives and expertise, lead to diversified extramural funding opportunities, yield greater impact and visibility, and cultivate invaluable intercultural competencies and experience for our faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students. We’re excited to see where this UKinSPIRE seed fund takes our faculty, our students, and our research enterprise,” said Sue Roberts, UK associate provost for internationalization.

Tim Barnes, executive director of partnerships and research in the UKIC, said, “There is a very well-documented link between scholarly publications with co-authors based in two or more countries and significantly increased citation counts and field-weighted impact factors. International co-authorship — and the collaborations that produce such publications — lead to better science and scholarship, with broader reach, greater visibility and higher impact. The UKinSPIRE fund is intended to jumpstart productive international research collaborations among our faculty by providing seed funding for travel, hosting researchers here on our campus, initial data gathering and proof-of-concept work, and help pulling together proposals for external funding to sustain the collaborations.”

UKinSPIRE project proposals will be required to demonstrate a significant international collaboration component (the projects should propose something that could not be easily accomplished working alone) and identify at least one collaborator or co-principal investigator (PI) primarily affiliated with a research or higher education institution outside the United States. All projects selected for funding will be required to include sustainability plans for the collaboration beyond the initial seed fund allocation (extramural research funding potential, ongoing college/unit support).

Preference will be given to projects that:

  • Explicitly address or align with one of the seven research priority areas (RPAs) designated by the Office of the Vice President for Research.
  • Explicitly address or align with one or more of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, with the understanding that the projects may address these goals in local, regional, national and/or transnational contexts.
  • Are multidisciplinary, in that they involve co-PIs from different disciplines, either from the University of Kentucky or from the partnering institution, or both.
  • Develop or expand collaborations with existing international partners of the University of Kentucky.
  • Include plans for campus engagement events, at UK and/or at partner institutions, that highlight the collaboration and the benefits of global engagement to the campus communities.
  • Include some commitment of cost-sharing, as appropriate given available resources, from the proposed partner institution.
  • Include some commitment of cost-sharing from the home department/college of the UK PI.

UKinSPIRE will award between $10,000-$20,000 per project, for one fiscal year, beginning in FY23-24 (July 1, 2023 through June 30, 2024). Five or more projects will be funded each year, and submissions will be accepted from all departments, colleges and units at UK. 

Proposal submission will open in January 2023, and faculty can direct questions to To learn more, visit the UKinSPIRE site.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.