IIN Social Innovation and Impact – Spring 2024

The University of Illinois System’s Office of the Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation (OVPEDI) is committed to advancing the Illinois Innovation Network (IIN) by providing supplemental (operational) funding for several projects.

Social Innovation and Impact has multiple meanings, including the broad economic, health-related, and social well-being of the state and its communities, and environmental sustainability of its food and water ecosystem, which includes addressing issues affecting groups who are underserved, under-represented, or under-resourced in a systemic and transformational manner. Proposals must address equity, diversity, and inclusion. Key issues facing underserved, under-represented, and under-resourced groups should be identified and addressed, and the target populations or representative group(s) must be specifically identified.

Social Innovation and Impact must be the dominant theme, and projects addressing multiple Social Innovation and Impact elements are preferred. Social Innovation and Impact project elements may include capacity-building, applied research, evaluation, community-based participatory research, coalition building, social entrepreneurship, utilization of research and transfer, scholarship to practice, and technical assistance.

Complex social problems generally involve interdisciplinary groups and multiple sectors, and the focus of these project solutions should be on engagements that are participatory, systemic, or multi-disciplinary, and present a path for continuity and sustainability. While for many that has meant demonstrating the impact on job creation and economic development or short-term or one-time activities, the spotlight is now extending to social innovation that translates research into projects that directly affect lives, address complex critical social problems, build trusted partnerships in the community, demonstrate longer-term engagements or depth of engagement, and are scalable or replicable. Examples of this transformative work include proposals addressing health disparities, affordable housing, digital inclusion, and food deserts where the transformative impact on the community to be served is the goal of the project rather than exclusively the research or technologies and tools to be tested or developed. While one-time activities may be considered, the preference is for projects with longer-term impacts or depth of engagements. The preference is for projects that are dependent on the existence of a community’s complex social problem(s) for the project’s transformational social impact.

To be most competitive, additional criteria should be incorporated specifically into the proposal: Organizational Capacity: identify approaches to increase organizational capacity or to otherwise provide organizational assistance for community-based organization(s) (e.g., scaling, coordination, entrepreneurship, technical assistance with research and grant writing, etc.) for community-based organization(s); Sustainability Plan: identify how the programming will continue after the seed funding ends; and Community Partnership: detail how the project will collaborate with a specific community or community-based organization. If no community-based organization is identified at the time of submission, detail how the project will include a community-based organization during the grant period.

Interdisciplinary and multi-sector projects are also preferred.

Proposals will be accepted no later than 11:59 P.M. Central Time on May 31, 2024.

For more information, please visit the Spring 2024 Funding Opportunity webpage. Any questions should be submitted to iincontact@uillinois.edu prior to the deadline.


  1. The Lead PI must be from an IIN Hub.
  2. At least two IIN hubs must be involved significantly in the project with at least one Co-PI from a second IIN Hub. Note that the University of Illinois Hubs are considered one Hub for this program and must partner with a non-University of Illinois Hub. SUIE and SIUC are considered separate Hubs and may partner under this program,
  3. Projects should include a Co-PI or collaborator from at least one Illinois community-based organization, which, depending on the region of the State, may include community organizations, government organizations, social enterprises, and for-profit businesses contributing financially. For example, a local public health agency may be providing wrap-around services beyond their primary mission. The most competitive proposals will reflect an equitable partnership with the community of service, such as a community organization as a co-PI or work with a specific target population.
  4. While there is no limit on the number of proposals a hub may submit, an individual may only be designated as PI or co-PI on one proposal.
  5. Project must represent a “seed” concept not previously funded by this or the IIN Sustaining Illinois program or in later stages of project development, regardless of “seed” funding source.
  6. The project must be completed within one year of funding.
  7. The proposed start date is anticipated to be as early as July 15, 2024, and no later than September 1, 2024.
  8. All proposals should be approved by the applicants’ sponsored program office(s) and IRB processes, as applicable.
  9. The project must confirm that the work will be completed within and for communities in the state of Illinois or benefit the state of Illinois exclusively.
  10. Previously submitted but unfunded projects to this program or the IIN Sustaining Illinois Seed Grant program may be submitted a maximum of 3 times in a three-year period to all IIN Sustaining Illinois Seed Grant programs.

PI Requirements

By proceeding, you confirm the following:

  1. This proposal (application) is submitted by and through an eligible institutions (see Eligibility);
  2. The Lead PI is employed by and acting on behalf of this eligible institution;
  3. Neither the Lead PI or any other Co-PIs are listed as PI or Co-PI on any other proposal (application) to this program;
  4. This project is a "seed" concept that has not previous received funding;
  5. This project has not been submitted to this or any IIN funding program more than three times in the previous three years; and
  6. You have read the notice of funding announcement and FAQs.