Broadband Innovation Grant Opportunity

The Division of Information Technology (DoIT) is making funds available to support the development of technology applications that benefit community anchor institutions (CAI's) over connected high speed broadband.
See Broadband Innovation Grant Opportunity (docx) for full details.

Program Purpose

More than 500 schools, libraries, health care providers, public safety entities, institutions of higher education, and community service organizations on NIU-built broadband networks are looking for help with applications that address the needs of vulnerable populations, including low-income, the unemployed, and the aged.

Through its Broadband Innovation Fund, DoIT is providing up to a total of $30,000 a year for up to three years to support innovative research and product development that fosters technology, engineering, education, economic development, healthcare, or human service uses over high speed broadband connectivity.

This grant opportunity aims to accelerate the pace of innovation at NIU by placing technology in the hands of entrepreneurial individuals and supporting them in discovering the best uses for it. Very fast networks may lead to unanticipated discoveries that change how people connect, work, learn, play and contribute online. The NIUNet Broadband Development Team has created an environment that gives NIU a cutting edge platform to develop broadband applications. 

Types of Awards

Two types of awards are eligible for funding under the Broadband Innovation Grant Program: “Planning/Early Stage” and “Implementation/Proof of Concept” awards. Applicants must state in their narrative the type of award for which they are applying.

  • Planning/Early Stage awards are designed to fund brainstorming sessions, early alpha-level prototypes, and initial planning. Proposals for this award should identify a problem or research question, explore a research agenda, or discover appropriate methodologies or technologies. Outcomes for this type of project could include reports, position papers, and plans for subsequent steps and future research or development.
  • Implementation/Proof of Concept awards can be used for more fully-formed projects that are ready to begin implementation or demonstrate proof of concept. As such, proposals should include a plan of work leading to concrete and tangible outcomes, such as working prototypes, test beds, or demonstration projects.

Award Terms

  1. Unless otherwise specified, all grants have one-year terms. Applicants may apply to renew their funding each year.
  2. Receipt of a Broadband Innovation Grant does not imply continued support beyond the completion of the grant.
  3. All grantees are expected to communicate the results of their work to appropriate scholarly and public audiences.
  4. DoIT expects grantees to provide broad access to all grant products, insofar as the conditions of the materials and intellectual property rights allow. For the Broadband Innovation Grants program such products may include software code, algorithms, digital tools, reports, articles, applications, websites, mobile applications, games, and virtual environments.
  5. A schedule of report due dates will be included with the award documents. Reports must be submitted electronically via email, in .pdf format, by each due date.
  6. A final performance report will describe key accomplishments and lessons learned. Final performance reports will be posted on the DoIT website.
  7. A final financial report will detail all expenses and disbursements of funds. Both final performance and financial reports will be due within 90 days of the closing of the grant period.

Eligible Applicants

NIU eligibility encompasses:

  • Current NIU undergraduate students partnered with an NIU faculty member
  • Current NIU graduate students
  • NIU faculty
  • NIU staff

Degree candidates may not be project directors. Project directors may submit only one application to this program at a time, although they may participate in more than one Broadband Innovation Grant project.

When two or more individuals or organizations collaborate on a project, the lead applicant must be associated with NIU.

Late, incomplete, or ineligible applications will not be reviewed.

Eligible activities

Support is available for research, consulting, project-related travel, and technical support and services. Up to 40% of the total grant may be used for the acquisition of computing hardware and software.

Activities NOT eligible for funding through this program include:

  • Projects that mainly involve digitization, (or the conversion of analog content to electronic formats) unless the applicant is proposing an innovative method for digitization.
  • Sponsoring or Attending conferences or professional meetings
  • Purchase of computer equipment or software in excess of 40% of the grant total
  • Work undertaken in the pursuit of an academic degree
  • The preparation or publication of textbooks

Successful proposals will demonstrate innovation in approach and results. An innovative project creates something new or offers a new approach to tackling a problem. Innovation can take many forms. It may be technical, as in the creation of a new software program or application; it can make use of an existing technology in a new way; or the collaborative process itself may be innovative.

Funding through the DoIT Innovation Grant is limited to a total disbursement of $30,000 per year. The review panel may select up to three applications for awards, with the total disbursement amongst these awards equaling no more than $30,000. Eligible applicants may apply to renew their funding each year.

Application Timeline

  1. Grant applications will be accepted by DoIT from February 16, 2015 to 5:00 p.m. on May 15, 2015.
  2. Internal peer review will end June 30, 2015 and successful solicitations will be forwarded for external peer review. Applicants will be notified of status at this time.
  3. External peer review will conclude August 31, 2015.
  4. Applicants will be notified by email by September 8, 2015. Applicants can get the evaluations of their applications by sending an email to

Application Requirements

All proposals must conform to the following format:

  • Margins should be 1 inch
  • Spacing should be double spaced
  • Typeface should be 12 point Ariel
  • All submission materials must be in PDF format
  • Submissions should be emailed to with the subject line: Broadband Grant Submission – Name of Grant
  • DoIT will send a confirmation of receipt to the contact person identified in the proposal
  • Late applications will not be reviewed

Questions on submissions are accepted only by email and must have the following information in the subject line of the message: Broadband Innovation Grant Question and be emailed to

Questions submitted by applicants will be posted on the grant website (will be provided) for all applicants to review.

In the event an applicant wishes to know the CAI’s affiliated with NIU’s connected broadband networks, email and DoIT will work with the Project Director to provide appropriate information.

To be considered for funding an application must include the following items in the order indicated and within the length restrictions noted:

  1. Table of Contents (1 page)
  2. Cover Sheet (1 page)
  3. List of Participants (1 page)

Identify all project participants and collaborators and their institutional affiliations, if any. The names on this list should match the names mentioned in the personnel of the project’s narrative description. This list should also include any advisory board members and the names and institutional affiliations of any experts who have provided letters of support.

  1. Abstract (2 pages)

Applicants should provide a clear and concise explanation of the proposed activities and project results, noting their value to CAIs, researchers, and the public. Include the following:

    • Project goals and objectives
    • The significance of the proposed project in assisting and benefiting the high speed connectivity to CAIs throughout Northern Illinois
    • The unique features and innovation of the project
    • The method/activities that would result if the proposal were funded
    • Expected results
  1. Statement of Need (up to 3 pages)

Describe the problem, need, or opportunity relative to CAIs in northern Illinois that the project will address using high speed broadband technology. Cite relevant research and/or provide data that substantiates the need.

  1. Goals and Objectives (up to 3 pages)

State the desired goals and objectives to address the need/problem stated above. Identify metrics to be used in measuring progress and outcomes.

  1. Methods/Scope of Work(up to 5 pages)

Describe what activities will be undertaken to meet the project goals and objectives. Highlight innovative ways in which the project will meet its objectives.

  1. Timeline and Milestones (up to 2 pages)

Provide detailed information on the expected timetable for the project. Specify beginning and end dates and milestones associated with each major activity. Break the timeline into phases if appropriate.

  1. Budget (3 pages)

Using the budget template provided, provide estimated project revenues and expenses. Identify who will provide financial management of the project and their qualifications. Describe any equipment and/or technology needs that will be addressed with project funds.

NIU’s Grants Fiscal Administration office will oversee the projects financials and will provide grant recipients with the necessary requirements for monthly reporting.

  1. Key Personnel (3 pages)

List all personnel who will have substantive responsibilities for implementing and managing the project, including graduate, undergraduate, and post doctorate students. Designate personnel who have not yet been hired as “TBA” (To Be Appointed).

For every individual listed, provide:

    • Title (relative to the project)
    • Anticipated effort (percentage of time to be spent on the project)
    • Major project-related responsibilities
    • A one-paragraph biographical sketch

For the principal investigator or project leads, provide a complete curriculum vitae.

      1. Sustainability (1 page)

Describe how the project will be sustained for at least three years after the grant period ends, including funding sources and amounts, responsible parties, and what type of institutional support will be needed.

      1. Letters of Commitment/Support (5 pages)

Include letters of commitment from key partners and cooperating institutions and/or from experts in the project’s subject area, the proposed methodology, or the technical plan. Letters should be sent to the project director and submitted with the application.