University of Chicago Big Ideas Generator


Support for new, bold, ambitious ideas

Our goal is to provide support to allow your idea to grow into a substantial research program. With the aid of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, BIG provides two different levels of funding:

  • Seed grants for up to $30,000 
  • Vision grants for up to $100,000 

Funding decisions will be made by the Faculty Advisory Board. The BIG team provides awardees with strategic support to develop a research plan and pursue external funding from federal agencies and other funders.

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Guiding Big Questions

With support from a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, a set of guiding Big Questions in Information, Complexity, and Cognition was developed with University of Chicago Faculty.  Proposed projects must align with at least one of these questions.


  • How should information be defined, and what is its fundamental nature?
  • How does the nature of information define or constrain its storage, transmission, and processing?
  • How can information make people smarter, wiser, and more creative?
  • How can we enhance our ability to identify what is most meaningful (as well as what is missing) among vast quantities of information?

Complexity and Emergence

How can new scientific tools and approaches be used to understand complex structures derived from data?
How do complex systems (biological, social, physical) evolve?
How can we understand properties shared across complex systems, and how might this enable progress, scientific and otherwise?
How can complex social systems and networks be designed and optimized to enhance human wellbeing?


Intellect, Cognition and Consciousness

  • In what ways do self-control and other cognitive routines heighten performance and enable the achievement of goals?
  • How can the human capacity for discovery, creativity, and consciousness be increased? 
  • How do new understandings of biology, including the brain, open up possibilities for personal and societal progress?
  • How do intellect, cognition, and consciousness promote the resilience and social connectedness that undergird human well-being at the individual and group levels?



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