Strategic Initiatives Program

Call for Proposals

Cal Poly resides in a uniquely beautiful environment and as a comprehensive university provides education in the arts, sciences, and technology under the umbrella of Learn by Doing. A strong foundation has been built to provide outstanding education through the teacher-scholar model, to create new knowledge that helps us to see the world in new ways, and enables us to address fundamental problems and opportunities that may face the Central Coast of California and beyond. We seek to make a difference through innovative proposals that reflect your best ideas that promise to transform Cal Poly and the surrounding community in California. Proposals should focus on impacts to the Central Coast and beyond and reflect the underlying goals to:

  • Enhance academic and student success
  • Create positive economic and social impacts
  • Enrich personal wellbeing of faculty, students, staff and community of Central Coast
  • Ensure financial success and sustainability

Eligibility and Funding Level

All faculty are eligible and encouraged to apply. Funding level for each proposal is $50,000 to $500,000 for one year, with subsequent funding negotiable pending progress as assessed by an annual progress report. The number of projects funded will be determined following proposal review and depending on the funding level for each proposal.  

Proposal Format

A three-page proposal (12 pt font and 1-inch margins) should include:
   I      Scope/background of proposed research, scholarship and creative activity (up to one half page)
   II     Specific aims/objectives/goals (up to one half page)
   III    Methods/approach (up to one half page)
   IV    Expected outcomes (up to one half page)
   V     Anticipated contribution to growth and impact of research, scholarship and creative activity at Cal Poly (up to one half page)

Additional Documents 

Cover page indicating project title, principal investigator(s), department, center, institute affiliations
   I      Biographical sketch and/or CV of principal investigator(s)
   II     Proposed budget and general budget outline (personnel, supplies, equipment, travel) for the first year and up to two additional years
   III    Potential for building a faculty cluster or for consideration of faculty cluster hiring
   IV    Matching funds, if available, and source, or existing funds (grants, donors, etc.)
   V    One page, or less, of references cited or addendum materials/figures

Proposal Evaluation Criteria 

   I      Innovation
   II     Interdisciplinarity
   III    Feasibility
   IV    Academic merit
   V     Expected outcomes
   VI    Ability to generate funding from federal, state, philanthropy and/or private sources
   VII   Anticipated contribution to Cal Poly undergraduate and graduate students 
   VIII  Anticipated impact on the Central Coast and California

Proposal Review Committee

Note: Principal investigators of top-ranked proposals will be invited to give 15-minute oral presentations to the Proposal Review Committee (PRC). 

The PRC will be co-chaired by the Provost, Vice President for University Development and Alumni Engagement and the Vice President of Research and Economic Development.  Members will include representatives from each of the following: Each of the six colleges, the academic senate, a center or institute, office of graduate studies, two undergraduate students, government affairs and two community members.  Qualitative assessments of the proposals and priority for further consideration will be presented to the President and his cabinet.  

Anticipated Timeline:

  • September/October: Draft RFP and receive input from faculty, department chairs and deans on
  • Late October: Finalization of RFP with President’s Cabinet
  • Early - Mid November: Launch meetings across campus
  • November/December: Ongoing communications
  • November/December: Presentations at college leadership meetings
  • December 15-January 5: Winter break
  • January 28: Proposal due
  • February 1 - 15: Staff review, assembly and distribution
  • February 16-28: Committee review – first round
  • March 1-7: Proposal teams are notified of outcomes
  • March 8-15: Finalists make presentations
  • March 15-31: Present recommendations for President’s cabinet consideration
  • April: Symposia on big ideas
  • April – May on: Team will develop resourcing plan (outward press, funding, student support, future funding strategies, potential for faculty recruitment and other as merited)

Additional Notes on Proposal Review and Follow-Up

In some cases, multiple proposals may reflect distinct aspects of the same challenge and may naturally appear to fit together into a larger framework.  In that case, the PRC may seek input from proposal writers on ability to combine efforts and proposed strategies, for further consideration of support.  

All proposals will receive follow-up attention and assistance in finding internal and/or external funding sources.  Additional support on further development of the ideas and concepts will also be provided, as requested.  

Submit proposals to: by midnight on January 28, 2020.  


Can FERP faculty apply?

Yes, as long as they have a full-time faculty as a co-PI on the proposal.

What is the hourly rate for me/my co-PI? 

At this stage of the proposal review, the focus will be on the idea and the programmatic information, not a detailed budget.  The budget information request in the RFP is intentionally general, so faculty shouldn’t be overly concerned about providing vetted numbers for the budget outline. At this particular moment, we are interested in the idea in the proposal, and budget details can be finessed later. However, we understand the need to check whether your proposed work plan can be supported for the funding that’s available. We suggest assuming $100,000 annual salary for each faculty member, plus 55% fringe for release time or 8.5% fringe for summer/overload hours. For summer/overload effort, the hourly rate is found by dividing the annual salary by 1360 hours.  You can find more information on these calculations, fringe rates, and student pay rates on the GDO website.

What WTU replacement rate should I use for release time? 

$2250 is a good estimate for 2020-21. The per-WTU rate is found by dividing the annual salary by 45 WTUs.

How much should I budget for a Postdoc? 

Speak with your department administrator to get a sense of what they would pay a postdoc. According to Sponsored Programs, the hourly rate for a postdoc needs to be at least $26/hour, which is double minimum wage. You also need to account for fringe benefits (the Corporation rate is about 59%).

How much should I budget for graduate/undergraduate pay? 

We typically budget graduate students at $18/hour with an additional 8.5% for fringe benefits. Graduate students are limited to 1400 hours per year. Undergraduates are typically budgeted at $15/hour with an additional 2.7% for fringe benefits.

Do I need to account for F&A (also known as IDC)?

No, the Cal Poly F&A rate will not apply to these grants as they are internally funded.

Other questions?

Please contact 

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