Grant Categories

How grants are determined and distributed

WARF's board of trustees approves an annual grant to the university each year to support expenditures for the following fiscal year (July through June). The board establishes the mission and objectives of grants to the university; approves the budget for grant making; reviews recommendations by the grants committee; and maintains close and open communications with the chancellor, vice chancellor for research and graduate education and others.

On campus, distribution of WARF's annual grant is administered primarily by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE). In the faculty recruitment and retention category, requests for funding are received from all schools and colleges; then faculty recruitment and retention packages are negotiated by the four divisional faculty associate vice chancellors. In the case of graduate fellowships, disbursement decisions come from as many as 13 different committees composed entirely of faculty to ensure competitive distribution in the physical and biological sciences as well as the humanities, social sciences and other areas including graduate students who meet the university's definition of underrepresented minorities.

At the conclusion of the committee work and administrative process, the OVCRGE drafts a report detailing the impact of grant expenditures on campus to ensure the overall funding direction remains consistent with WARF's mission. The following list identifies key funding categories.

Recruitment and Retention
Recruitment and retention funds are provided to entice new faculty or retain existing faculty. This may be done through salary packages, equipment purchases or funding flexible research.

Graduate Fellowships
These awards support graduate student education, primarily in the form of student tuition and living expense stipends.

Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowships
These graduate fellowships originated in 1998. The concept involved spending part of the WARF grant as initial matching funds for the UW Foundation to seek donors for additional fellowships. WARF's original commitment was made to get the program started, though it has continued as earnings of the UW Foundation are credited to the donor accounts.

Matching Grants
The OVCRGE reports that there are more than 2,000 active awards on campus using some type of matching funds. Extramural funding matches are often mandatory for research grant opportunities, and WARF funds are leveraged for purposes of securing additional support for the university.

Areas of matching opportunities cited by the OVCRGE include: the Major Research Instrumentation program of the National Science Foundation, NSF's Integrative Graduate Education & Research Traineeship program, NSF fellowships, trainee programs of the National Institutes of Health and Title VI awards.

Leadership, Personnel, Policy & Implementation Support
These awards fund compensation, benefits and general expenses of the OVCRGE administration team that manages research programming.

Biochemistry Innovation
This award helps fund important research in the biochemistry laboratory of Hector DeLuca, WARF's most prolific inventor.

Wisconsin Crop Improvement
The Wisconsin Crop Improvement grant is awarded under a memorandum of understanding among WARF, UW–Madison, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the Wisconsin Crop Improvement Association to provide research awards to faculty engaged in the development and production of high quality seeds and plants, including research on new varieties.

Fall Research Committee Competition
Faculty and staff are invited to submit research proposals to an annual fall competition. The stated priorities for evaluation of the proposals are to: support new areas of research; provide leverage for extramural proposals; assist junior faculty; and support multidisciplinary research.

UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative
The UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative was established in 2015 and is intended to propel excellence, creativity and innovation at UW–Madison. Federal research funding has become increasingly focused on established research programs and ideas rather than fresh approaches in their infancy. That reality forces researchers to focus much of their energy and grant requests on their more tried and true research in order to support their labs and overall research program. The UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative intends to provide seed funding to researchers to begin research that they could otherwise only dream of undertaking and which could lead to significant new discoveries and outside funding. WARF sees this as a new way to tap the creativity and inventiveness of researchers on the UW–Madison campus.   

Faculty Fellowships
This program provides flexible research awards in three named areas:

  • WARF Named Professorships, for $100,000, are intended to recognize distinguished research contributions.

  • Kellett Mid-Career Awards, for $75,000, are intended to recognize and support mid-career faculty in the period seven to 20 years after their promotion to a tenured position.

  • H.I. Romnes Faculty Fellowships, for $60,000, are intended to recognize and support junior faculty up to six years after their promotion to a tenured position.

Endowment for Excellence

The Endowment for Excellence program, also referred to as the Madison Initiative or Cluster Hiring Initiative, was launched in 1998 during David Ward's initial tenure as chancellor to recruit related interdisciplinary clusters of faculty. These funds are earmarked for faculty compensation and involve a commitment by WARF, UW Foundation and the state of Wisconsin.

Established as a WARF affiliate in 1998 to develop stem cell technology, WiCell Research Institute operates as a nonprofit organization that creates, distributes, tests and banks human pluripotent stem cell lines. Funds from WARF advance WiCell’s efforts to support basic stem cell research on the UW–Madison campus.

Funds from WARF cover UW–Madison's assessment by UW System to support WiSys Technology Foundation. WiSys works with the UW System to facilitate scientific research, protect and generate patentable discoveries and foster career development and scholarship.

Department Royalty Share
The purpose of the department royalty share grant is to offer incentives to campus units that provide an environment in which faculty can be creative and develop innovations.

WARF returns 15 percent of licensing revenue directly to the departments of faculty inventors as department royalty shares. Annual department shares that exceed $100,000 are held by WARF on behalf of the department and managed as royalty funds. Royalty funds participate in any appreciation or depreciation of the WARF investment portfolio. A distribution of 4.5 percent of the 12-quarter average market value of each fund is made annually. Distribution of additional royalty funds may be requested by the head of the department, subject to the approval of the chancellor and that the use of the funds will be for purposes consistent with WARF’s charitable mission.