Shaping the Future of UVA Research Through ‘Grand Challenge’ Investments

Arial view from inside of the Rotunda looking down at a student walking up the steps of the Rotunda

Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications

The University of Virginia’s Great and Good 2030 Plan identifies five priority areas for research: democracy, environmental resilience and sustainability, precision medicine, the brain and neuroscience, and digital technology and society.

In June, the University announced a $100 million investment in its Institute of Democracy. The University will advance the other focus areas through Grand Challenges Research Investments, sponsored by the offices of the Provost and of the Vice President for Research. This year, the University will make targeted investments of $20 million to $50 million in environmental resilience and sustainability and in the brain and neuroscience. (In the 2022-23 academic year, the Grand Challenges Investments will focus on the remaining priority areas, digital technology and society and precision medicine.)

“We want these investments to make a real difference, to move the needle and not just fund business as usual,” UVA Provost Liz Magill said. “We plan to focus on investments that are likely to have high impact, such as significant research infrastructure or new faculty, including cluster hires and key leaders.”

The offices of the Provost and of the Vice President for Research plan to engage faculty and gather input on the specific areas for investment in several different ways. For each area of emphasis, they plan to host virtual events and set up online platforms to begin gathering ideas and developing more specific areas of focus.

In this first phase, the provost and vice president for research are partnering with the Environmental Resilience Institute and the UVA Brain Institute to hold virtual idea-generation events starting Aug. 23.

To find more information on the idea-generation events, see the webpages for the UVA Environmental Resilience Institute and the UVA Brain Institute. Faculty can also share ideas and suggestions through the Grand Challenges Research Investments site through Sept. 10.

Using this input, Magill and vice president for research Melur K. (Ram) Ramasubramanian, with the support of UVA President Jim Ryan, will co-sponsor a conference in each emphasis area later in the fall semester. These conferences, which will be open to the UVA community, will consist of interdisciplinary faculty panel discussions focused on the future and “grand challenges” of the area, as well as the opportunities for UVA to play a leading role in solving these challenges. There will be opportunities for discussion after each panel session. The ideas generated by the events will help develop specific topics and proposals for investment. The investments will be announced early in the spring semester.

“Grand Challenges investments will help build a critical mass at UVA and grow research through the generation of large-scale extramural funding, while addressing the pressing global challenges in these areas,” Ramasubramanian said. “We look forward to hearing ideas from researchers as we embark on this exciting process.”

Media Contact

Meredith Cole

Office of the Vice President for Research