Global Access

by Peter Niels Dunn

MISTI Seed Grants Give Faculty International Range   

MISTI's mission of making international connections includes providing several hundred thousand dollars annually in seed fund grants for faculty, supporting collaborations abroad.This fall, the program will broaden in size and scope, with funding from the MIT Provost's Office complementing other sources and helping launch the MISTI Global Seed Fund, so that for the first time, grantees can travel to non-MISTI countries.

The program started in France with funds from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and broadened to Italy and Spain with support from the Fondazione Fratelli Rocca and the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce. Concurrent with initiation of the Global Seed Fund, MISTI is launching an India Fund in collaboration with the Institute for Financial Management and Research in India, and the Chikara Hayashi Fund for environmentally sustainable work in Japan, the US, and Asia.

Despite the relatively modest grant amounts, some 10 percent of MIT faculty members apply annually.

The grants typically finance international travel for a few team members. "They can make a huge difference," says April Julich Perez, MISTI's Assistant Director. "Grantees tell me that even substantial research grants often don't fund travel."

Funded projects cover everything from Economics Department research into French labor markets to work by Roman Stocker, whose Civil and Environmental Engineering team is developing microfluidic technology for marine microbial biology. Stocker's group received $40,000 to meet with Japanese and Australian colleagues and add IT capabilities. "It's the difference between collaborating and not collaborating," he says. "A perfect way to establish a connection.

Soundings, Fall 2008