Edinburgh Global

Seed funding collaborations in North America

We have been deepening and strengthening key partnerships in North America, to access funding and build links to research and industry. Combining expertise and resources through partnerships has grown the opportunity for Edinburgh to contribute to solving global challenges more effectively and impactfully.

One of the significant results of deepening our partnerships is a range of new seed funding initiatives for collaborative research projects. So far, the seed funding has successfully reached projects in all three colleges, and the partnership agreements are open to a full range of academic disciplines. Collaborations are now also tasked with, where possible, seeking continuity and legacy by identifying and securing external funding before the end of the initial funding. 

Working with partner institutions’ Research Offices has been key to shining a light on opportunities to collaborate with the University of Edinburgh within those organisations.  

Scott McQuarrie, Regional Director of North America, commented, "It is exciting to be working in a meaningful and structured way with our close partners in North America. Our joint seed funds are a great foundation for international research collaborations to discover, share and apply new ideas and knowledge together.  We hope to amplify our combined strengths and solve grand challenges, which is not always possible on our own. Ultimately, our long-term focus is to build sustainable and equitable partnerships that will benefit our students, staff, and alumni and have a far-reaching impact on society."

A spotlight on seed funding 

The recipients of full and partial seed funding have produced tangible results from co-publications to conferences, as well as working on project legacy. Here we turn the spotlight on projects at three key institutions. 

  • University of Toronto, Ontario 

  • Cornell University, New York 

  • Rice University, Texas 

University of Toronto, Ontario 

Six projects received seed funding through the University of Toronto and the University of Edinburgh. The collaborative projects received funding to help strengthen the positive impact that universities can have by working with local and global partners. 

Project case study: Reimagining Platforms 

One of the projects to receive funding was Reimagining Platforms: Technologies, Markets and Labour, led by Karen Gregory, University of Edinburgh, and Tero Karppi, University of Toronto. The project's initial stage saw Edinburgh host a one-day symposium late last year that brought together academics, community members, and local partners to discuss the future of platforms. 

Platforms refer to the interaction between technology, software, and data. These platforms include social media, apps, and businesses like food delivery services. Most of us will interact with a platform daily, whether browsing social media to see what’s happening in the world, listening to a podcast as we travel to work, or choosing to have our dinner delivered to us. 

Attracting 35 speakers from across the globe, the event aimed to develop methods and concepts to analyse the different futures of platforms and platform economies. The Reimaging Platforms symposium explored and discussed the impact that platforms can have on our lives and the impact society can have on them. 

The team’s community partner for the project is The Workers Observatory, based in Edinburgh, who collectively challenge conditions in the self-employed and gig work economy to help improve and modify working conditions. 

Other awarded projects 

  • RNA Communication: Mechanisms, Applications, and Public Engagement 

  • Trauma-informed care for children and youth: Bridging knowledge and practice between Canada and Scotland

  • Photovoltaic Imagination: Solar Strategies for Community Integrated Research-Creation and Graduate Training 

  • Youth Sport: Learning from the Pandemic 

  • Reparative Work and Care in Cultural Institutions: Bringing Cultural and Professional Action into Relation 

  • Imaging in the Book of Psalms: Past, Present, and Future 

Cornell University, New York 

Eight projects received funding through the partnership with Cornell, as part of their Global Hubs initiative, for collaborations that will strengthen the two universities’ strategic priorities and develop multidisciplinary cutting-edge research to create academic and societal impact. The grants were awarded in December 2022 and will run for a year. 

Project case study: Frontiers of Finance 

Led by Edinburgh academic Kevin Donovan (African and Development Studies) alongside Amiel Bize (Anthropology) from Cornell, this project explores the “Frontiers of finance: Debt, Insurance, and Financial Innovation" in Kenya. 

Contemporary Kenya is leading in financial innovation, with products designed to meet a range of needs and focus on “financial inclusion.” These products are targeted at groups previously marginalised by the financial industry. Yet the risks of over-indebting and further marginalising the poor are stark.  

The project analyses micro-insurance schemes and digital debt products and considers what financial expansion looks like in practice. It plans to use this research to cultivate a broader conversation about financial frontiers, both in teaching and by creating a research network that can bring together scholars working on similar questions in other regional contexts. 

Other awarded projects 

  • Does a strange subunit of nature’s primary CO2-fixing enzyme change its kinetics and promote liquid-liquid phase separation? 

  • Preparing for flight: How do malaria parasites maximise transmission 

  • Did we spot life? False biosignatures in exoplanet reflectance spectra

  • Assisting Bird Audio Identification with On-Device Machine Learning Model for Species Range Estimation 

  • Making the Thermal Future: A Cornell-Edinburgh Platform for Interdisciplinary Collaboration 

  • GEOHUB: A Trans-Atlantic Collaboration on Deep Geothermal Energy Risk Communication 

  • Advancing Cornell-Edinburgh Leadership in Sustainability Education 

Cornell's seed grants award information

Rice University, Texas 

Eight projects were fully funded via the Edinburgh-Rice Strategic Collaboration Awards, and seven more received partial funding from Rice. The successful projects span all three colleges and a range of disciplines. 

Our collaboration with Rice represents a step change in terms of how we engage with US universities. We are hugely excited about sparking ideas between our academics, delivering opportunities for our students, and developing a shared vision for a new type of partnership, that allows us, together, to make a real difference in the world.

Professor James SmithVice Principal International, The University of Edinburgh

Increasing our international research collaborations is a cornerstone in expanding our research program at Rice. The University of Edinburgh partnership plays an important role in that endeavour.

Professor Ramamoorthy RameshVice President for Research, Rice University

Key academic themes 

The Edinburgh-Rice collaborations aim to build leading global partnerships across specific academic themes:  

  • Energy 

  • Robotics 

  • Quantum computing 

  • Energy 

  • Climate and sustainability 

Awarded projects 

  • Interplay between cellular differentiation and contact-based interactions during early development

  • Intelligent Particles: Learning to Design Adaptive and Online Particle Filters 

  • Determining the Kitaev interaction in van der Waals ferromagnet CrI3 

  • Algorithmic Foundations for Variational Quantum Algorithms 

  • Fluidic Control Schemes for Next-Generation Soft and Wearable Robots

  • Towards improved assurance of carbon removal using biochar: the key to accelerated market demand and deployment

  • Proposal for an Edinburgh-Rice Climate Infrastructure Research Network

  • Futures of Engineering Life: Past Potentials and Present Prospects

Rice's seed funding information

Developing support for seed funds 

Recognising the clear institutional drive to develop seed funding opportunities, the Partnerships team at Edinburgh Global is developing a toolkit for staff, particularly those who are leading, managing, and delivering academic partnership development seed funds. The toolkit aims to build strategic and operational understanding by exploring the full lifecycle of seed funds and accessing a wide range of example documentation.   

Once in place, this will help grow collaboration across a full spectrum of academic fields and parts of the world, deepen our existing partnerships, and in turn continue to contribute to high-quality research that helps solve global challenges. 

Find out more

Read more about Partnerships

Read more about our work in North America

Visit the University of Toronto website

Visit Cornell University website

Visit Rice University website