Simons Foundation: Grants for STEM Higher Education


OVERVIEW: The Simons Foundation has generally awarded more than tens of millions of dollars a year in scientific research and STEM grants, making it one of the largest STEM funders in the United States, providing grants to entire institutions and affiliated scientists. Its grantmaking supports mathematics, physical sciences, life sciences, autism research, and STEM education.

IP TAKE: Simons is a major player in physical science, life sciences, and autism research at all levels, from individual scientists and investigators to major research universities. Seasoned researchers and universities, as well as beginning scientists looking to make their mark, should look into funding opportunities at this foundation.

PROFILE: The Simons Foundation is one of the largest science and STEM grantmakers in the country, awarding tens of millions of dollars annually to science, STEM education, and individual scientist/investigator fellowships working within or in conjunction with large universities in the United States.

The foundation’s higher education science and STEM grantmaking includes the Mathematics and Physical Sciences and Life Sciences programs. Grant awards can range from as little as several thousand dollars to upwards of $2 million. This number can reach even higher when Simons is supporting the establishment of new departments or institutes at high-profile universities. For example, the foundation recently awarded $60 million to the University of California, Berkeley to establish the Institute for the Theory of Computing, as well as $40 million to the University of Hawaii to found the Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and the Economy.

The foundation also dedicates a portion of its grantmaking to autism research through the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI). According to the initiative’s website, SFARI operates with a budget of “approximately $75 million per year” that “supports over 250 investigators and since its launch has provided or committed more than $380 million in external research support to more than 350 investigators in the U.S. and abroad.” Higher ed grantseekers should keep in mind that postsecondary programs conducting autism research will have to compete with research institutions performing the same type of work. You can read more about the foundation’s work on autism in an in-depth IP article on the subject.

The Simons Foundation also awards individual fellowships in higher education. through its Mathematics and Physical Sciences program. Fellowships vary depending on the program but typically are awarded on a multi-year basis. In addition, the Simons Foundation recently teamed up with Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a $150-million grant program called the Faculty Scholars competition. Faculty Scholars will receive five-year nonrenewable awards ranging from $100,000 to $400,000 per year. Support for the final two years is contingent on demonstration of measurable progress after the first two years of funding, and applicants must meet an additional series of qualifications including degree, career stage, and existing research as specified in the program’s announcement.

In terms of its Education & Outreach program, the foundation’s signature effort is Math for America, which “focuses on reaching secondary school students with a corps of outstanding STEM teachers and leaders in U.S. public schools.” in order to “connect outstanding scientists with the general public, communicating the excitement of science and providing opportunities for discourse on emerging or important scientific topics of our times.” While the landing page for E&O highlights some of the programs and organizations Simon, it is not clear how outside organizations can go about seeking support from Simons through this program.

While Simons provides information about its current and past grantees, this information does not appear to be centralized in a single searchable location.  Instead, some digging is required to find more information about current and past awards in its Mathematics and Physical Sciences (individual and institutional recipients are listed separately), Life Sciences (found by clicking on each sub-program under the Awards heading of the Life Sciences page), and Autism Research programs. Simons also maintains a list of “funded institutions,” but this page does not detail the specifics of each organization’s relationship to the foundation.

Check the Funding Opportunities pages for new announcements and recently closed calls for proposals. The foundation's Policies and Procedures page also provides detailed explanations of eligibility requirements and grant terms and conditions.


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