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Request for Proposals: 2024 MIT Climate and Sustainability Consortium Seed Awards

Application deadline: August 1st, 2024

The MIT Climate and Sustainability Consortium requests proposals for its second round of seed awards.

Questions should be submitted to:

The MIT Climate and Sustainability Consortium is a cross-institute effort, aimed at generating new partnerships and approaches to building large-scale, cross-sector, real-world solutions that address global climate and sustainability (C&S) challenges. The MCSC works to innovate and rapidly scale solutions by intensifying C&S efforts through industry collaboration linked with MIT expertise across multiple disciplinary domains. This request for proposals (RFP) articulates one of several ways that the MCSC seeks principal investigator (PI) engagement to link the work of the consortium to ongoing and emerging C&S efforts on campus, particularly translational work across multiple domains of problem-relevant expertise. To learn more about the MCSC and PI engagement, please visit the MCSC website.

Current MCSC activities fall into eight focus areas that have been developed based on member company needs in collaboration with the MCSC team at MIT. Many of these areas offer opportunities to link with existing efforts on campus as well as the six Climate Project missions. This request for proposals seeks input and engagement from researchers in the MIT community related to existing focus areas and emerging areas of interest noted below.

Proposals are encouraged to incorporate multi-department and cross-institute collaborations. In particular, we seek projects that address socio-technical complexity, the human dimensions of climate and sustainability, and leverage expertise and interest within MCSC’s membership to address fundamental challenges and opportunities for the development of comprehensive solutions. We recognize that successful implementation requires responsive engagement with the fundamental challenges in moving towards sustainability, and methods to assess and scaffold processes of organizational and technical change. We encourage proposals to engage with this complexity through partnerships with experts in social science, community-based research, and stakeholder engagement. We would particularly welcome projects that engage human and community centered design, innovation, and translational infrastructure.

Ready to Submit Your Propsal?


Please submit your proposal using this form.

The budget template is downloadable here.

Deadline for Submissions: August 1, 2024

Reach out to us with any questions:

Funding Available and Eligibility

The MCSC anticipates there will be 8-10 seed awards, with a focus on supporting postdoctoral associates or research assistants. Award sizes will be $75k-$125k over one year. This RFP is open to all who, at the start of funding, are MIT faculty or members of the research staff with principal investigator privileges. No researcher may be listed as PI on more than two proposals submitted to this RFP. While not necessary, submitters are welcome to identify a specific postdoctoral associate or graduate student researcher at the time of submission.

Key Dates

  • RFP issued: June 11, 2024
  • Grant application deadline: August 1, 2024
  • Notifications made: August 21, 2024

Application Process

Proposals should be submitted using this link; they do not need to be routed through RAS. Download the budget template here.

Proposals should include the following (letters of support from industry are NOT expected):

  • Proposal title
  • Brief abstract (200 words max)
  • PI/co-PI names and affiliations
  • The following sections should be contained within three pages exclusive of figures and references
    • Motivation and research question
    • Work plan
    • Deliverables
    • Team expertise relevant to the topic at hand
    • Assessment of relevance to the MCSC
  • Additional information outside of the three pages:
    • References
    • Figures
    • Tables
  • Proposed researcher profile, if appropriate (e.g., an existing postdoctoral associate or graduate student at MIT, or one who is being recruited)
  • Preliminary budget (following the template) and narrative explaining the costs, which should focus on postdoctoral associate and graduate student support

Review and Selection Process

The criteria for selection will emphasize 1) the relevance to the consortium’s activities and mission, 2) importance to C&S and potential impact of the work, as well as 3) the extent of cross-disciplinary and cross-economy emphasis of the proposed activities. Consideration will also be made regarding how the proposed work complements ongoing research on campus and the prospects for long-term funding to continue the project beyond the period of performance.

The proposal review and awards process will be overseen by the MCSC leadership team as well as the MCSC Faculty Steering Committee, a group of twelve faculty experts across the Institute. Anyone considering submitting a proposal is encouraged to reach out to the MCSC leadership ( to discuss synergies with the MCSC member interests. The review process is iterative: the MCSC leadership will engage with submitters to refine activities to address the goals of the consortium as well as PI interests.


  1. Project management: The PI is directly responsible for performance of the work in the proposal and should not serve as proxy for others.
  2. Proposal Limit: No researcher may be listed as PI on more than two proposals submitted.
  3. Collaboration: Collaborations either within or between departments, particularly across schools, are strongly encouraged. Awards will be made to MIT PIs only.
  4. Deliverables: PIs are expected to develop a plan for engagement in collaboration with the MCSC leadership at the beginning of the award period and revisit this plan as changes emerge.

Emerging Focus Areas of Interest to the MCSC

Current MCSC activities fall into eight focus areas that have been developed based on member company needs in collaboration with the MCSC team at MIT. The aim of this seed call is to support projects in the following emerging and existing focus areas. 

  • Advanced modeling for climate risk: Risk assessments for buildings, infrastructure, human health, and ecosystems rely on historical data to predict future performance. As the climate changes, new modeling approaches for evaluating system risk are needed that incorporate climate projections.  
  • Applications and implications of machine learning and artificial intelligence to sustainability: AI/ML have significant potential to address climate and sustainability issues across a wide range of applications including energy, transportation, buildings, infrastructure, and natural systems. However, the rapid growth of AI/ML will have significant environmental impacts from the production and operation of data centers. This focus area encompasses both the applications of AI/ML for mitigating climate impacts and approaches to reducing the burdens associated with AI/ML.
  • Carbon capture and storage: Reducing the cost of carbon capture and storage (CCS) will rely on technological, social and systems solutions. From the technological perspective, novel computational and experimental approaches to accelerated materials discovery for capture chemicals could identify chemicals to increase performance at lower costs. From the systems and social perspectives, we seek approaches to understanding challenges in CCS implementation despite significant investment, along with efficient implementation mechanisms. Government and industry policies to catalyze investments in infrastructure and cost-sharing among cross-sector partners will be a critical component of implementation.
  • Decarbonizing aviation, marine and long-haul trucking transportation: These tough-to-decarbonize transportation modes make up a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions, but decarbonization pathways are challenging due to strict power requirements and energy density constraints. This focus area includes technological solutions to decarbonization of these modes, and also system issues such as fuel feedstock availability, grid capacity and upgrade requirements, and mechanisms for pooling investments in vehicles and refueling/recharging infrastructure.
  • Decarbonizing thermal processes: Heat generation is a critical component of numerous industrial processes that produce chemicals, metals, minerals, paper, and food. Generating heat has typically relied on fossil fuels because of the high temperatures required, thereby making electrification challenging. Proposed solutions include alternative heating technologies and fuels, waste heat management, combined heat and power systems, and low- or no-heat technologies (same products with less thermal energy). 
  • Green premiums across supply chains, infrastructure, and the built environment: Low-carbon products, technologies, buildings, and infrastructure generally cost more than their conventional counterparts. This green premium is an indicator of progress towards carbon emissions reductions and can signify areas where investments are necessary. It can also be an opportunity to evaluate return on investment when the market is willing to pay for a green premium. There is a need to quantify green premiums for emerging products, technologies, buildings, and infrastructure, and analyze the drivers and implications of the premiums.
  • Material and product recovery and circularity: Solutions in the circularity space encompass material, design, and system dimensions. Approaches to evaluate material and product circularity are particularly of interest, particularly those that incorporate first principles and simulation-based tools. Systems-level initiatives that cut across industries are also relevant. 
  • Next generation sustainability assessments for carbon, water, and biodiversity: There is wide agreement that these are high priority topics for corporations and society, but the accounting methods are nascent (for carbon and water) or non-existent (for biodiversity). Robust approaches for sustainability assessments are critical to measuring progress towards corporate and societal targets, as well as regulated and voluntary markets. There is a need for carbon accounting methods that consider the complexities of implementing mitigation mechanisms across markets, water accounting methods that encompass scarcity and security, quantitative biodiversity metrics for flora and fauna, and improved allocation approaches for setting corporate science-based targets in line with global climate targets.
  • Social dimensions of climate and sustainability: Implementation of technological solutions to mitigate climate and sustainability impacts rely on societal acceptance and adoption. Furthermore, the opportunities for social advancement are abundant as capital is mobilized and systems are reimagined. As such, social dimensions of climate and sustainability solutions are critical to implementation. The dimensions may include policies, behavior change, equity, and justice. For industrial sectors, it is important to understand the inertial forces at play and bring this understanding to bear on the process of systemic change for sustainability in these hard-to-abate industries. More broadly, there is a need to chart the evolution and extent of governance mechanisms for sustainability and bring them to bear on technical work of established research streams. This will support the future of key discourses of relevance to large organizations charting sustainability strategy (resilience, risk, security).
  • Soil health and biodiversity: Regenerative agriculture is an important approach to decarbonizing the agriculture sector that focuses on improving soil health and minimizing soil carbon release. Current approaches to measuring soil carbon and biodiversity are costly and difficult to scale. Investment in regenerative agriculture by governments, companies, and voluntary carbon markets would increase if there were low-cost and scalable ways to measure and improve soil health and biodiversity, thereby enabling rapid assessment of carbon benefits of mitigation actions. Additional approaches outside the bounds of measurement should also be considered.
  • Water consumption and security: Water scarcity is a critical issue in many regions of the world, threatening livelihoods and ecosystem and human health. There is a need for improved methods to evaluate regional water consumption and security and provide solutions to decrease water consumption in industrial processes. 

MCSC staff (contact are glad to answer questions about emerging and existing focus areas and relevance to member companies. 

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