MSSI Seed Funding 2020

The Expression of Interest phase of this seed funding round has now closed.

The Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute is calling for Expressions of Interest (EOIs) to a combined seed funding round that seeks to support a number of sustainability-focused, transformative research projects.

Proposals are required to advance the aims of one or more of MSSI’s central themes around Climate Change, Cities, and Water.

The 2020 seed funding round is set against a compelling and complex backdrop of climate crisis, bushfire catastrophe and recovery, and far-reaching social and economic implications of COVID-19 which are global in scale, but localised in their impacts.

Amidst this extraordinary setting, up to three projects with budgets not exceeding $20,000 will be awarded, and firm plans for commencement in late 2020 or early 2021 will need to be demonstrated.

Projects must be feasible within current and reasonably anticipated constraints relating to the local and broader COVID-19 context. Guidance on managing research activity during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.

Cross-faculty representation from a minimum of two faculties is required. Projects developed in partnership with local stakeholders, with strong translation elements embedded therein, will be viewed favourably, as will those that incorporate explicit early career research and engagement opportunities within project activities.

This seed funding round involves a two stage process. First, an EOI (500 words) is to be submitted by COB on Wednesday 22 July 2020. Shortlisted applicants will then be provided with further details, and asked to submit a full application by COB on Monday 17 August 2020.


Themes and Framings: Project proposals are required to address one or more of MSSI’s central research themes of climate change (SDG 13), water (SDG 6/15*) and future cities (SDG 11), with projects at the nexus of two or more of these themes welcomed. Other sustainability-focused research proposals such as sustainable food, circular economies and biodiversity are also within scope.

We are keen to receive proposals that extend beyond conventional, incremental research project paradigms and have a strong focus on socio-environmental transformation, reflective of the ambitious targets set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For example, a targeted intervention that demonstrates strong and inclusive engagement with local stakeholders and is focused on positive outcomes for individuals, populations and/or society more broadly would be viewed favourably. Intervention design should be informed by the application of research knowledge and theory, and reflect considered partnership building and mutual exchange of knowledge with partner communities in the development of new solutions.

Interventions are encouraged to be co-designed with end users, service providers, partner organisations and existing collaborators. Piloting may be undertaken in a range of relevant ways, depending on the stage of intervention development and the purpose of testing; it may include small-scale proof-of-concept experiments as well as broader piloting with end-users.

Budget and Timeframe: Three grants of up to $20,000 each will be available for projects that have a firm commencement plan by early February 2021 at latest. Funding will be disbursed in 2020, with the requirement for all funds to be spent by the end of 2021. However, we understand there is uncertainty around how projects will be undertaken in the current conditions and are open to negotiation on timelines impacted by COVID-19. A budget guideline in the EoI will suffice, with a more detailed budget to be provided at the full proposal stage.

Impact: We are seeking projects that have a strong focus on engagement and impact, including clear rationales for engagement of strategic audiences (e.g. end-users, participants, policy, media, and decision makers). Research impact will be considered at the EOI stage but need only be set out in detail at the full proposal stage. Strong translation outputs will be anticipated from successful projects, with articles in The Conversation and similar fora encouraged, alongside tailored translation pieces relevant to the partner communities, organisations or sector and in line with the project’s impact strategy. Funds should be apportioned in the budget for these engagement and translation activities. Proposals must constitute research projects; stand-alone events such as conferences or symposia will not be funded.

Interdisciplinary collaboration: Projects that bring together different disciplinary lenses to address MSSI’s key themes and research problems will be viewed favourably, both within and beyond the multi-Faculty CI requirements set out above. Proposals are encouraged to leverage other funds where possible (for example, Faculty or project-based resources), with the aim of developing foundations for larger research opportunities. Where this is not possible please identify potential funders that could be approached in the future.

Further background on MSSI Clusters that convene and collaborate around the themes of Climate Transformations, Future Cities, and Water Futures can be found via links on MSSI’s research webpage. Whilst connecting your proposal with MSSI research themes remains open to your interpretation, examples of successful previously funded seed projects can be accessed via the links below. Please note that this current seed funding call differs from previous rounds (successful projects from previous rounds can be found here and here) through its emphasis on transformative projects and in light of current COVID-19-related constraints on planning.


Proposals must be submitted by a nominated project lead that holds a minimum 0.4FTE position at the university for the life cycle of the project.

This call is restricted to internal University of Melbourne staff, and requires a short (<500 words) EOI to be submitted by Wednesday 15 July 2020 including a response to each of the dot points listed below. Shortlisted EOIs will be asked to provide a more detailed proposal by Monday 17 August 2020 (template to be provided on notification), with final awards to be determined in September/October 2020. Please do not fill out the detailed proposal until you have been advised whether your EOI was successful.

Format for EOI 

EOIs should be limited to 500 words in total and outline the following information:

  • Project title;
  • Project team, if known. Note that teams can be developed between the EOI and full application stages;
  • Project partners, if known. Note more specific details can be provided in the full application.
  • Brief description of the problem to be addressed;
  • Brief outline of the proposed project activities;
  • Short statement on how COVID-19 may impact your project and how you plan to negotiate this;
  • List of faculties (or other description of interdisciplinary focus); and
  • Funding amount requested.

For EoI submissions and queries up to Thursday 16th July please email MSSI Executive Janine Campbell at For EoI submissions and queries from Friday 17th July to Wednesday 22nd July please email MSSI Deputy Director Sangeetha Chandrashekeran at

*Focus on water and sanitation and non-oceanic aspects of the water cycle, noting related aspects of SDG15 such as riverine biodiversity may also be incorporated

More Information

Janine Campbell