W. M. Keck Foundation Research Program

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 Limited Submission

The Keck Research Program awards pioneering discoveries in science, engineering and medical research by funding high-risk/high-impact work of leading researchers. They fund projects that:

  • Focus on emerging areas of research at the forefront of medicine, science and/or engineering
  • Have potential to lead to breakthrough technologies, instrumentation or methodologies
  • Are innovative, distinctive and interdisciplinary
  • Demonstrate a high level of risk due to unconventional approaches, or by challenging the prevailing paradigm
  • Have the potential for transformative impact
  • Enable observations not previously possible, or alter perception of a previously intractable problem
    • Fall outside the missions of public funding agencies
    • Demonstrate that private philanthropy generally, and the W. M. Keck Foundation in particular, is essential to the project’s success

Keck’s Research Programs do not fund clinical or translational research, treatment trials or research for the sole purpose of drug development. Other funding restrictions include disease-specific research, bricks-and-mortar and core facilities, public policy research and projects that receive federal or other public agency funding.

Keck Foundation awards are highly competitive with only four to five grants awarded per semiannual program cycle.


$1,000,000 over 3 years (if proposals are very compelling, they can request up to $1,200,000 over 3 years)


  • Internal Deadline: January 10, 2020
  • Sponsor Deadline: May 1, 2020


View eligibility requirements here.

Selection Criteria

Address these to be competitive.

Keck’s interest in a research proposal focuses on the following five criteria:


  • Why is a research project important?
  • When the proposal is competing with other projects in the same research area, what makes it distinctive?
  • How can it be transformational to a discipline or field?
  • How is the project a “leap forward?” (To receive Keck support, the proposal cannot seem to be merely the logical next step in an ongoing research program.  It has to promise a significant leap forward.)


  • How exactly will the PI achieve their goals?
  • In what ways is the project high-risk?


  • Why is the proposed team the right team to address a problem?

Justification for the Keck Foundation’s support:

  • Justifications for Keck funding need to clearly state why federal or other funding is not an option—either because previous approaches to NIH/NSF/etc. have been rejected (ideally due to riskiness) or because of explicit reasons why such funding is not appropriate.
  • Lack of preliminary data is not enough to justify a Keck award.
  • Keck wants to be the “funder of last resort,” after all other options are exhausted.

Focus on fundamental/basic science:

  • Keck does not fund disease-specific research, meaning the research’s driving motivation cannot be to cure diseases or to develop therapies (however, the research could in the future lead to new clinical approaches).
  • The driving force must be about fundamental/basic science.

Submission Information

  1. One-page concept paper to include:Send the following as a single PDF document to Jennifer Kluge at jck67@georgetown.edu
    • overview of proposed project emphasizing unique aspects and pilot studies;
    • description of key personnel and methodologies;
    •  justification of need for Keck support; and
    • budget estimate using major categories (e.g., personnel, equipment, supplies).
  2. NIH-type biosketch (5-page limit)

Additional Information

View additional guidelines and application information on the W. M. Keck website.

For further questions about the sponsor, contact George Kosar, Assistant Vice President, Office of Institutional Partnerships at george.kosar@georgetown.edu

Please note that only Georgetown University’s designated Keck Foundation liaison (George Kosar) is permitted to contact the foundation.