Birmingham-Illinois Partnership for Discovery, Engagement and Education (BRIDGE)

In March 2014, the University of Birmingham and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign formed the BiRmingham-Illinois Partnership for Discovery, EnGagement and Education (BRIDGE) creating a framework for continued collaboration and investment to grow the strategic partnership between the two institutions.

The BRIDGE framework aims to deepen these existing collaborations and develop wider faculty networks to: build cognate research areas; expand educational exchange opportunities; and strengthen strategic aspirations for institutional engagement. Engagement currently spans over 75 established faculty-to-faculty links in key academic disciplines. Visit the joint BRIDGE website to learn more about the scope of the partnership.

BRIDGE Seed Fund

Together, the institutions have established the BRIDGE Seed Fund to which permanent full-time faculty member at each institution are encouraged to apply. The call for proposals is open and will close on March 16, 2022.


The BRIDGE Seed Fund supports collaborative engagement between UoB and our university through three different grant types, each with unique priorities.

Implementation Grants

Implementation Grants support and strengthen existing faculty-faculty relationships leading to clearly defined outputs. Priority will be given to activities that have the potential to:

  • Progress joint research priorities;
  • Connect world-leading researchers;
  • Enhance our institutional research profiles through collaborative publications;
  • Build productive, impactful relationships with leading academic, scientific, cultural and policy communities in the region;
  • Evolve into jointly submitted proposals to external funding agencies for sustained support of collaborative research activities.

Initiation Grants

Initiation Grants encourage wider faculty involvement and expand institutional engagement, such as funding applications from colleagues interested in developing new research relationships with counterparts at UoB/University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Priority will be given to:

  • Applicants who can clearly demonstrate that they have established a potential area of collaboration with UoB/University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign counterparts;
  • Activities with the potential to extend beyond individual links to wider (i.e. research group to research group) collaborations;
  • Projects with the potential for sustained and enlarged collaborative activity.

Important note: Proposals that have identified funding for sustaining the collaboration beyond BRIDGE Funding for example via the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), NSF, EPSRC or other external funding bodies are particularly encouraged. Proposals in Social Sciences and Humanities are also encouraged.

Teaching & Learning Grants

Teaching and Learning Grants encourage new educational relationships between our two institutions by developing educational relationships with counterparts at UoB/University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in order to enhance student learning. Priority will be given to:

  • Applicants who can clearly demonstrate that they have established a potential area of collaboration with UoB/University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign counterparts;
  • Projects which will provide distinctive educational opportunities for our students;
  • Projects with the potential for sustained and enlarged collaborative activity.



There are no restrictions on the forms of activity undertaken with BRIDGE funding, providing they meet the criteria outlined above.

The fund is available to support planning visits, workshops and exchanges with the partner institution for the purpose of developing the strategic partnership. The fund may also support meetings in third party locations where there is potential to develop and/or showcase collaboration.

Activities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Academic projects to extend UoB/University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign academic networks and research outputs, joint conferences, workshops, symposia, collaborative experiments and co-authored publications;
  • Curriculum innovation and development of joint teaching and learning initiatives;
  • Partnership development to provide transatlantic mobility and internship opportunities to ensure the distinctiveness of our high-quality student experience;
  • Civic and cultural relationship-building to enhance our status as ‘engaged’ universities;
  • Trilateral activities that link research projects into wider UoB/University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign strategic regions – including, for example, Brazil, China, India, and Europe.
  • Professional staff exchanges or visits that will further enhance the academic collaboration between the two institutions.

Use of Funds

Applicants are encouraged to apply for reciprocal visit funding in order to widen networks and cement engagement.

Applications that can demonstrate potential for relationships to become sustainable beyond the proposed project and initial seed funding term are strongly encouraged, whether through faculty and department commitment or the likelihood of externally-leveraged grants and awards.

BRIDGE seed funding will be allocated locally, with UoB paying the travel and accommodation costs of UoB staff traveling to our university, and the costs of projects occurring at UoB; and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign paying the travel and accommodation costs of university staff traveling to UoB, and the costs of projects occurring at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

BRIDGE seed funding will be subject to the travel reimbursement and other relevant financial policies of the institution providing the funding to its faculty or units.

BRIDGE seed funding will not normally support staffing or research equipment costs, though such requests will be considered if a compelling argument is made.

Important Note: Usually the maximum amount of funding available to support Implementation grants will be £10,000 from UoB and $10,000 from our university, and for Initiation grants £6,500 from UoB and $6500 from our university.

Application Process

Applications must be made using the BRIDGE Seed Fund Application Form and provide the following information:

1. Identified UoB and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Principal Investigators.
2. Purpose and timescale of visit/program activity.
3. Anticipated total cost and itemized budget for the proposed activities.
4. Academic rationale for support, answering such questions as: What is the strategic importance or added academic value of the collaboration for your home department and University? What are the anticipated shared outcomes and benefits for the collaboration? Anticipated means of sustaining the collaboration. What funding is available from other sources and what potential is there for future external investment?
5. Head of College approval. Email confirmation of this support will suffice and can be downloaded with form or email separately.

BRIDGE Seed Fund Activities

The BRIDGE network engages in a diverse and interdisciplinary array of research activities. The stories below highlight recent activities from BRIDGE seed fund recipients.