BRIDGE Seed Fund 24-25


In March 2014, the University of Birmingham and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign formed the BiRmingham-Illinois Partnership for Discovery, EnGagement and Education (BRIDGE) creating an enduring framework for mutual collaboration and investment between the two institutions. Over the past decade, BRIDGE has evolved into a profound transatlantic alliance with more than 100 faculty members across various disciplines from both institutions. Together, the institutions invest in the BRIDGE Project Seed Fund which supports the development of faculty networks, builds cognate research areas, expands educational exchange opportunities, and strengthens strategic aspirations for institutional engagement.

Permanent staff at each institution are eligible and encouraged to apply for funding. All applications must be received by February 28, 2024.


The BRIDGE Project Seed Fund supports collaborative engagement between UoB and UIUC with the following priorities. Proposals in Social Sciences and Humanities are particularly encouraged, as are proposals that have identified funding for sustaining the collaboration beyond BRIDGE Funding for example via the NSF, NIH, EPSRC or other external funding bodies. Special consideration will be given to proposals showing the intention of leveraging collaboration opportunities with partners from the Global South region in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

a. Implementation Grants to support and strengthen existing faculty-faculty relationships leading to clearly defined outputs. Priority will be given to activities that have the potential to:

  • Progress joint research priorities;
  • Connect world-leading researchers;
  • Enhance our institutional research profiles through collaborative publications;
  • Build productive, impactful relationships with leading academic, scientific, cultural and policy communities in the region;
  • Evolve into jointly-submitted proposals to external funding agencies for sustained support of collaborative research activities.

b. Initiation Grants to encourage wider faculty involvement and expand institutional engagement. We invite funding applications from colleagues interested in developing new research relationships with counterparts at UIUC. Priority will be given to:

  • Applicants who can clearly demonstrate that they have established a potential area of collaboration with UoB/UIUC counterparts;
  • Activities with the potential to extend beyond individual links to wider – i.e., ‘research group to research group’ – collaborations;
  • Projects with the potential for sustained and enlarged collaborative activity.

c. Teaching and Learning Grants. We also invite funding applications from colleagues interested in developing educational relationships with counterparts at UIUC in order to enhance student learning. Priority will be given to:

  • Applicants who can clearly demonstrate that they have established a potential area of collaboration with UoB/UIUC counterparts;
  • Projects which will provide distinctive educational opportunities for our students;
  • Projects with the potential for sustained and enlarged collaborative activity.

Application Guidelines

There are no restrictions on the forms of activity undertaken with BRIDGE funding, providing they meet the criteria outlined above. The fund is available to support planning visits, workshops and exchanges with the partner institution for the purpose of developing the strategic partnership. The fund may also support meetings in third party locations where there is potential to develop and/or showcase collaboration.

Activities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Academic projects to extend UoB-UIUC academic networks and research outputs, joint conferences, workshops, symposia, collaborative experiments and co-authored publications;
  • Curriculum innovation and development of joint teaching and learning initiatives;
  • Partnership development to provide transatlantic mobility and internship opportunities to ensure the distinctiveness of our high-quality student experience;
  • Civic and cultural relationship-building to enhance our status as ‘engaged’ universities;
  • Trilateral activities that link research projects into wider UoB-UIUC strategic regions – including, for example, countries in Africa, Latin America, China, India, and Europe.
  • Professional staff exchanges or visits that will further enhance the academic collaboration between the two institutions.
Additionally, applicants are encouraged to:
  • Apply for reciprocal visit funding in order to broaden networks and cement engagement.
  • Demonstrate potential for relationships to become sustainable beyond the proposed project and initial seed funding term, whether through faculty and department commitment or the likelihood of externally leveraged grants and awards.

Funding Allocation

  • BRIDGE seed funding will be allocated locally, with UoB paying the travel and accommodation costs of UoB staff traveling to UIUC, and the costs of projects occurring at UoB; and UIUC paying the travel and accommodation costs of UIUC staff traveling to UoB, and the costs of projects occurring at UIUC.
  • BRIDGE seed funding will be subject to the travel reimbursement and other relevant financial policies of the institution providing the funding to its faculty or units.
  • Requests to support for non-standard costs such as research equipment costs or research assistant staffing will need particularly clear justification.
  • Typically, the maximum amount of funding available to support Implementation grants will be £10,000 from UoB and $10,000 from UIUC, and for Initiation grants £6,500 from UoB and $6,500 from UIUC.

Application Process

Please work with your UIUC co-PI to submit the application into the UIUC Special Programs portal and provide the following information in the application form::

  • Identified UoB and UIUC Principal Investigators.
  • Purpose and timescale of visit/programme activity.
  • Anticipated total cost and itemized budget for the proposed activities.
  • Academic rationale for support, such as strategic importance or added academic value of the collaboration for your home department/university or anticipated shared outcomes and benefits for the collaboration.
  • Anticipated means of sustaining the collaboration. What funding is available from other sources and what potential is there for future external investment?
  • Executive Officer of the Unit / Head of College approval. Email confirmation of this support will suffice, and should be saved in PDF format and attached with the application.
Further information can be found by contacting Lindsay Avery, Head of Global Engagement (North America and Australia), at the University of Birmingham or by contacting Dr. Sammer Jones, Director for Global Relations, at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

BRIDGE Strategic Leads & Contacts
University Contacts
University of Birmingham
  • Professor Robin Mason
  • Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International)
  • University of Birmingham
  • Edgbaston
  • Birmingham
  • B15 2TT
  • Lindsay Avery
  • Head of Global Engagement (North America and Australia)
  • External Relations University of Birmingham
  • Edgbaston
  • Birmingham
  • B15 2TT
  • Email:
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Professor Reitumetse Obakeng Mabokela, Ph.D.
  • Vice Provost for International Affairs & Global Strategies
  • University of Illinois
  • Urbana-Champaign 507 E. Green Street, Suite 426, MC 417 Champaign, IL 61820
  • Email:
  • Dr Sammer Jones
  • Director for Global Relations
  • University of Illinois
  • Urbana-Champaign 507 E. Green Street, Suite 426 Champaign, IL 61820
  • Tel: +1 217-300-5031
  • Email:

Review & Additional Requirements

The grant review panels at UoB and UIUC will liaise to jointly determine which projects will be funded.

Grant recipients will be asked to complete a short questionnaire highlighting their visit or activity for which the award was made and will be asked to present at the BRIDGE Steering Committee or Interest Group, and other appropriate forums (e.g., departmental/College presentations) as requested. Grant recipients will later be asked to provide an update two years after the visit to ensure that longer term outcomes of the engagement can be measured that would not have become apparent in the first-year report.

Application Timeline 2024/25

  • Applications open: Tuesday January 2, 2024
  • Applications close: Wednesday February 28, 2024
  • Successful awards announced: Wednesday April 10, 2024