Man looks through microscope


If you had any trouble submitting your proposal, please contact Lisa Rabaut at

2018 Funding Opportunity

Award Amounts

  • Up to four pilot grants – up to $150,000 per award
  • Up to four stimulus grants – up to $50,000 per award

The University of Michigan academic programs and Athletics have partnered on the Exercise and Sport Science Initiative (ESSI), which integrates the resources of our elite research university and one of the nation’s top collegiate athletic programs to optimize physical performance, health and wellbeing for people of all ages and abilities. Faculty will interface, prioritize and conduct sport- and exercise-related research and innovation. In addition, ESSI will help facilitate responding to research-related questions presented to Athletics. Collaborative solutions, such as research studies, prototypes, data analytics, and performance assessments and monitoring, will be developed and communicated to campus and the general public.

Online Application

Pilot grants will be awarded in the following ESSI Grand Challenge areas:

      1. Wise wearable sensor technology: A wearable system that intelligently manages the wearer’s behavior in a personalized manner, resulting in optimal performance and/or achievement of fitness and health goals. This system can also be used by researchers to dig deeper into behaviors and activities of individuals to answer research questions around topics such as obesity and activity levels. Technologies that provide more detailed information about motion, activity, metabolics, etc., may be proposed. Research centered on human behavior in response to wearables is also appropriate for this challenge.
      2. Injury prevention, diagnosis and management: Safer equipment for injury prevention, better methods to evaluate potential for injury or to diagnose injury (e.g., concussion), and more informed approaches to optimally return the injured to activity. An example is the design and testing of sports helmets that better protect against concussion. Other examples include advances in individualized injury risk assessment and design of individualized prevention strategies through assessment(s) of biomechanics, metabolics, nutrition, hydration, rest, and/or recovery.
      3. Individualized augmented reality and virtual reality: The use of augmented and virtual reality to improve the experiences of spectators and athletes. An example is virtual reality and sensor enabled self-assessment of performance, as an athlete uses a mobile device to capture herself kicking a soccer ball and has instant access to speed, angle, height, and detailed assessments of her own biomechanics during the maneuver. An example of an augmented reality objective is enhanced fan experiences, either in the stands or at home, such as replays controlled by the fans through their individual cellphones. Fans can replay from any vantage point in the stands or on the field itself (e.g., What did the quarterback see as the play developed?). Fans would also have the ability to access up-to-the-minute data related to the game (e.g., statistics, player bios, and pitch counts). Virtual reality allows fans to be a virtual part of the action. A fan in New York could virtually watch a game at Wrigley Field with her friend in San Francisco. Virtual reality can also be used by athletes to practice and simulate game or match situations. Proposals that address advances in virtual and augmented reality technologies or use these technologies in sport and exercise related studies are sought.
      4. Sports and learning analytics: In athletics, this includes peak performance and putting wins on the scoreboard. For individuals across the lifespan, it provides a personalized strategy for achieving fitness goals, health and wellbeing. The challenge for individuals is to translate a myriad of data from multiple types of devices or sources on that person’s training, nutrition, body mechanics, and sleep and activity patterns into effective approaches to prevent injury, achieve fitness goals and reduce injury risk. For teams, an additional challenge is to analyze each individual’s actions in relation to those of everyone else on the team, and to analyze the team’s action as whole. All data are not good (or valid) data, and there is a critical need to separate correlation from causality in the design of algorithms to predict individual and team performance successes. Exercise- and sports-related investigations utilizing or improving artificial intelligence algorithms may be proposed.
      5. Improved physical activity across the lifespan from childhood to elderly: Strategies to promote, encourage, and facilitate physical activity, such as active classrooms; mobility and independence in the elderly; improvement in community design for enhanced activity through environmental improvements and public policy; community walkability; access to affordable, healthy food; optimal design and utilization of parks and playgrounds; effective communication and interactions with community groups, city planners and policymakers; and exercise and sport psychology. Research leading to an intervention and observation studies to determine relationships are strongly encouraged to address this challenge.

Program Structure

      • ESSI strongly encourages proposals be led by multiple U-M principal investigators, and ideally from multiple units ( i.e., schools, departments and colleges), bringing collaborative research teams together. Tenured/tenure-track faculty and research faculty (research scientists and research professors) at any rank, and from any of the three U-M campuses, are eligible to apply as PI. Research fellows cannot serve as Principal Investigators. Projects may involve Co-PIs or PIs and Co-Investigators, as long as the personnel and their roles are justified. PIs may submit more than one proposal. Collaborators from other universities are permitted, but as co-investigators or consultants (not PIs).
      • The proposal must clearly elaborate how the research activities support one or more of the ESSI Grand Challenge areas and how the collaborative team plans to leverage its ESSI award to pursue and secure future funding.
      • There is an expectation for the pilot grants to lead to potential extramural (i.e., federal, agency, industry or foundation/organization) continuation funding at the close of the pilot grant period. Proposers are encouraged to address this in the Project Description section of the proposal.
      • For projects with total funding up to $150,000 over two years, funding will be awarded in 3, equal, six-month installments: $50,000 at the beginning of the project period, $50,000 after 6 months, and $50,000 after one year. Progress reports will be due after six months and one year. Awardees will be required to present at two ESSI symposia. The first symposium will be after 6 months, and the second will be after 18 months. A final report must be submitted at the end of two years. Funding installments will be dispersed after successful completion of these project progress updates.
      • For projects with total funding up to $50,000 over one year, all funding will be dispersed at the beginning of the project period. Awardees must present a poster at the annual ESSI symposium, which will take place six months after the project period commences. In addition, a final report will be at the end of the one-year project period.

Human Subjects Research – Compliance

Proposal Process and Deadlines

        • December 18, 2017: Call released for pilot and stimulus grants
        • February 12, 2018 (by 5 p.m.): Deadline for submission for pilot and stimulus grants
        • Early May: Announcement of selected proposals by ESSI Scientific Advisory Committee and projects commence

If you are interested in using research data available for secondary analysis, please see the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) website. The Archive of Data on Disability to Enable Policy and Research (ADDEP) website also has data available for researchers. Please contact Alison Stroud ( for questions about any data available through ADDEP.

ESSI pilot grants spur five research projects

Five research teams are sharing $880,000 in awards from the University of Michigan’s Exercise & Sport Science Initiative.

The projects measure the effects of physical activity on brain aging, examine the influence of sleep on athletic performance, devise new techniques for integrating and analyzing exercise and physical data, and develop a model for predicting injury in runners and develop wearable, programmable, waterproof devices.

Learn more about the projects awarded during the first round of ESSI pilot grants.

ESSI Pilot Grants