Science & Health

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to Fund Artificial Intelligence Research

UPDATE: The latest FAQ and notes have been posted below
The Allen Distinguished Investigator (ADI) Program seeks to fund a select group of investigators to pursue new, pioneering research in academic settings that, collectively, ‘move the needle’ towards answering broad scientific questions. The most promising proposals will incorporate novel, creative, and ambitious approaches. For this reason, the program is especially interested in proposals that are unlikely to receive funding from traditional governmental sources.
For 2014, the Foundation will make awards in two areas: Life Sciences and Artificial Intelligence (AI). (Information regarding the ADI for Life Sciences will be announced at a later date.)
We are pleased to announce the Artificial Intelligence awards will focus on three fundamental topics:
  • Machine Reading
  • Diagram Interpretation
  • Spatial and Temporal Reasoning
These topics are aligned with the vision of the recently launched Allen Institute for AI (, but the AI ADI program is a distinct program funded and administered by The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
We expect to fund between five and eight projects with total funding of $1 million to $2 million for each project, spanning a 3-year period. Funding is intended to provide a sustainable funding stream for one or more investigators allowing them sufficient time to investigate big questions in-depth using risky, novel approaches.
Scientists at any stage of their career may apply. The Foundation has a particular interest in both supporting the careers of exceptional young scientists showing particular promise as thought leaders in their fields and supporting more established researchers with ambitious, high-risk ideas that could have a revolutionary impact in the field but remain outside the scope of traditional funding sources.
The primary goal of the ADI Program is to advance the state of the art and increase human knowledge and understanding in the targeted topic areas. The Foundation encourages proposals that include novel methodological, theoretical and technological elements.  The program also seeks to have a lasting impact on the direction of research, aiming to serve as a catalyst upon which future research is founded.

The proposal submission deadline is May 30th, 2014 and awards will be made in fall 2014. 


Download the AI RFP

Download the Budget Template


Generally questions will not be answered directly. We will publish FAQs with answers on April 7, 2014 and May 3, 2014.



According to the guidelines each institution may submit up to 3 applications. If three are submitted do they have to be for the different foci?
The three permitted submissions from an institution can be focused on any of the three topics.

Could you please let me know whether I need an invitation for my proposal to be considered?
This is an open call to all eligible institutions. The institutions may submit proposals for up to three qualified applicants.

Is it allowed for one investigator to submit two separate applications?
An individual may only be the primary investigator on one submission, however they may collaborate on additional submissions in which they are not the primary investigator.

Can the principle investigator have a tenure-track/tenure position with another institution than the non-profit through which he/she applies?

Do all co-investigators on a given project proposal need to be at the same institution, or can a proposal include co-investigators from another institution?
We encourage collaborations and the co-investigators may reside as different institutions. We have no preference on how these proposals are submitted.

We have two universities each with their own PI that would like to submit a proposal together. How do we do this?  Do you allow subawards?
The Foundation will accept one application for joint projects, provided that one institution acts as the lead and receives all grant monies, if awarded. The Foundation does not place restrictions on subcontracts.

If an institution serves as a subcontractor on an application will this count as a one of the three submissions allowed?
No this will not count as the three allowed submissions for the subcontractor.

Does a foreign (charitable) institution need to be approved by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation before we can submit proposals?
No, an eligible institution does not need to first seek approval to submit. An eligible institution can submit up to three proposals accompanied by a letter of support from the institution.

How do I know if my non-US university qualifies as a charitable organization?
For the purposes of this application, foreign academic institutions conducting scientific research can assume that these activities are charitable.

I noticed that the budget template includes only 3 rows for graduate student support. Is this meant as a restriction or can we add additional graduate students to the budget (in lieu of staff or postdocs) for a proposal with two PIs?
The budget template can be modified to meet your needs.

Is each proposed project supposed to have a title?
Yes, each project should have a title.

In which document and section are the Principal Investigator and Secondary Investigator supposed to be listed?
Please include the investigator names and title at the beginning of the proposal.

Is the Foundation using science exams as a measuring guide or are you open, in the case of robotics, to robotic tasks that measure progress in spatial reasoning?
The use of science exams is encouraged but not required.

Since diagrams do not count toward the page count, should all diagrams be placed at the end of the proposal, even though they will be more difficult for readers to find there?
Diagrams may be placed throughout the proposal as long as the text adheres to the page limit.

Is there a required/preferred format for the note of support to be submitted together with our AI ADI proposal by our Office of Research?

There is no preferred format for the letter of support.

Will a confirmation be sent to the person submitting the proposal to confirm that the proposal was received?
Yes, a confirmation email will be sent upon receipt.

What institutions are eligible to submit a proposal? 
The Foundation makes grants to nonprofits with current 501(c)(3) Public Charity status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), government entities, IRS-recognized tribes, and other organizations that conduct charitable activities. Applicants may not be private foundations as defined in Section 509(a) of the Internal Revenue Code.

When is a proposal accepted from an institution that is not an eligible institution? 
Foreign institutions that conduct charitable activities are eligible to apply.
Is the opportunity open to international researchers?
International researchers may apply through institutions that conduct charitable activities.
Is the opportunity open to US researchers based internationally?
US researchers based internationally are eligible to apply through nonprofits with current 501(c)(3) Public Charity status from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), government entities, IRS-recognized tribes, and other organizations that conduct charitable activities.
Are there any limitations to your guideline that “scientists at any stage of their career” may apply?
There is no preference given to the career stage of the investigator. 
Under “Eligibility Requirements” you only mention scientists may apply. Please elaborate on education requirements.
The lead investigator(s) must have tenured or tenure-track faculty positions, however other members of the team do not need to have this qualification.
Would you consider proposals from researchers whose faculty appointment starts in Fall 2014?
The lead investigator must have a faculty appointment at the time of proposal submission. 
Is collaboration required or may a single researcher apply? 
Individual researchers or collaborations may apply from an eligible institution.
Is there a recommended number of researchers on projects?
No, although collaborations are allowed there is no preference to the number of researchers on a project.
Can you confirm that multiple investigators are allowed on one proposal and whether there must be one PI and the other are co-Is or can all investigators have equal status?
Multiple investigators are allowed on one project and if they all contribute equally they will have equal status and all be named Allen Distinguished Investigators. 
The website mentions Life Sciences and Artificial Intelligence.  My research is in the intersection of these two fields. Could you please clarify whether a researcher like me could apply for this opportunity?
We will consider any approach that addresses the questions posed in the RFP.
Are proposals which address more than one of the three topic areas “in scope”?
Yes, proposals may address more than one of the three topic areas and they will be subject to the same review process.
What if you need less than $1M? 
The budget should reflect the needs of the project up to $1M for a single investigator or up to $2M for a team of investigators. There is no preference given to the requested budget amount.
Is there a guideline for citation style?
There are no guidelines or preferences for citation style.
Is the reference list supposed to be included in the page count? If so, then should references be minimized so as to allow more space for basic explanation?
The reference list will not count towards page count.
How do you include your qualifications?
Qualifications are not required in this proposal. 
How much prior research on a particular area is allowed, or is preferred? 
There is no preference given to the stage of the research project. Proposals will be evaluated on the merit of the ideas presented. 
Does the Foundation have any preference for the programming languages?
No, the Foundation does not have any preference in regards to programming languages.
What is a desirable tradeoff of illustrations versus text in the proposal? 
Illustrations will not count towards page count.
Are the results of the research available to the public, and if so, when? 
The Foundation believes post-award engagement is important. Recipients are required to participate in an annual symposium of the Allen Distinguished Investigators in Seattle where they will present on the progress of the project. Any materials related to the project will not be made public without consent from the awardees. (See Post-award Activities)
How are intellectual property or patent issues handled? 
The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has no claim or stake in the intellectual property of grantees.
Will any submitted proposals be publicly available? 
The submitted proposals will not be made public, but will be circulated confidentially to reviewers in the field. For successful applicants, the Foundation will announce awards and release biographies of investigators along with summary descriptions of their projects to the press and on the Foundation website and other communication channels.
The RFP says “institutions may submit…” – does this mean that the investigator should not email the proposal directly themselves but have their research office submit the proposal on their behalf?
Investigators selected by their university may submit the application directly, however the application should then include a letter of support from their institution.  The Office of Research can also submit the application on behalf of the investigator with a note of support.
Are each of the four "proposal sections" (a, b, c, d) supposed to be in a separate file, or can they all be placed in the same document? 
Please combine the separate sections of the proposal into a single Word or PDF document.
How do I submit my proposal?
Submissions are electronic and should be addressed to; subject line: Proposals


  • We do not review or comment on ideas or drafts in advance of the submission deadline.
  • Please include documentation that supports your project and follow the stated Proposal Format.
  • Proposals are only considered for the topics stated. However, the approach you take need not be traditional. We encourage creative and ambitious approaches.
  • There is no cost to submit a proposal.
  • If you have a question regarding budget items, please refer to the downloadable budget template.
  • All personnel should be affiliated with an eligible institution.
  • Preferences are not given based on any scenario. Awards will be made to the proposals that best fit our stated Purpose.
  • If you emailed a question and it was not addressed, you will likely find the information within the RFP.


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