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Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Grant Program

The Office of Higher Education administers the Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Research Grant Program which provides funding for research into new and innovative treatments and rehabilitative efforts for the functional improvement of people with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries. Research topics may include, but are not limited to, pharmaceutical, medical device, brain stimulus, and rehabilitative approaches and techniques.

Funding Sources

The State of Minnesota established the Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Grant Program effective July 1, 2015 with a $500,000 per year appropriation. Research funding is split 50/50 between spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries. In 2017, the legislature added an additional $5 million for the biennium to support spinal cord and traumatic brain injury research, for a total of $6,000,000 for the biennium split between the two research areas. These grant awards were also supplemented by a $15,000 program donation from the Get Up to Cure Paralysis Foundation.

Fiscal Year 2023 Request for Proposals

In consultation with the Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education is currently accepting proposals for the Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Annual Research Grant. The overall objective of this program is to foster and encourage innovative research for treatment and rehabilitative techniques for spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.

Three funding options are available:

Tier 1: Pilot Project Grant

  • Max Request: $125,000.
  • Project Time: 2 years + 1 year no-cost extension.
  • Project Details: Reflects early investment as the researcher prepares to seek a larger grant award from a federal program or nonprofit organization. Preliminary data is not required but encouraged.

Tier 2: Standard Research Grant

  • Max Request: $250,000.
  • Project Time: 2 years + 1 year no-cost extension.
  • Project Details: Primarily for research with strong supporting/preliminary data. If the budget is justifiable, the Standard Research Grant may also fund pilot projects. Applicants are encouraged to attach papers; in-press, pre-published drafts, and accepted papers may be cited or submitted separately as an appendix.

Tier 3: Clinical/Translational Research Grant

  • Max request: $500,000.
  • Project Time: 3 years + 2 year no–cost extension.
  • Project Details:Projects must have concurrent application for, or funding from federal or industry sources. Preliminary data must be published or in press in a scientific journal and cited or submitted separately as an appendix.

Please note: preference will go to projects that have received IDE approval prior to the time of proposal submission.

Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury research proposals will be funded up to the maximum request per funding tier for the Fiscal Year 2023 grant period, which includes indirect costs set at 8% of total direct costs.

All applicants must be available on the day of the virtual proposal review (MAY 23, 2023) to give a five-minute presentation on their proposed project and respond to reviewers' questions. A list of time slots will be sent to the applicants at least two weeks in advance.

Intent to Submit forms are due on March 10, 2023. Proposals are due by 4:30pm on April 14, 2023. Live presentations will be held May 23, 2023.

For more information, see the RFP in our Grants Portal. You must create a username and password in order to view available grant opportunities.

Frequently Asked Questions:

A: Yes, you may apply for parts of your project that were cut in prior years due to a lack of funding. In your proposal, please explain how this aspect of your project connects with its larger aims/goals, and how it improves the overall quality of the project. Also keep in mind any feedback that you may have received on this portion of your project during the initial review.

A: The Letter of Intent is not required for submitting a proposal. If you missed the deadline, you may still submit a proposal. However, we ask that you notify the program manager at some point prior to proposal submission so we know what to expect.

A: No, once the RFP is released, we cannot give feedback on project ideas. However, we can help you determine if you project is eligible for funding based on the guiding statute language.

A: Yes, we encourage collaboration between institutions both inside and outside the state of Minnesota. We strongly suggest that applicants establish formal partnerships in advance of proposal submission.

A: Yes, subcontracts are permitted. You may include subcontracts in the “Consultant Cost” line. Please include the name of the institution that you are subcontracting with on that line as well.

A: The total allowable indirect cost is 8% of the total request, including indirect costs for consultants/subcontracts.

A: You are only required to submit documents on behalf of the primary institution, or the institution that is acting as the fiscal agent for the project.

If you would like a copy of the RFP in an alternative format, contact and specify the format needed.

Researchers are permitted to apply even if they are not considered faculty, residents, or post-docs. This is has been consistent throughout the grant program’s brief history. While not required, it may strengthen a proposal if they were to submit as a co-PI with faculty oversight.

There is no proposal scoring criteria that corresponds to needing/requesting a contract extension for current projects. The reviewers evaluate proposals based on the actual proposed project submitted with the background/context provided in the by the applicant.

Grant Recipients - Fiscal Year 2022

In May 2022, the Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council convened to review proposals for fiscal year 2022. As a result, the following projects were funded. The 2022 Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury grantees are:

Spinal Cord Injury Research

  • University of Minnesota: CE-STAND: Cervical Epidural Stimulation after Neurologic Damage
  • Mayo Clinic: Using focused ultrasound to enhance the delivery of intravenous umbilical cord derived MSCs in chronic spinal cord injured rats
  • Mayo Clinic:Evaluating performance of an individualized computational model for real-time visualization of spinal stimulation electrical fields and downstream functional output
  • University of Minnesota: Regulatory Pathway to Approve Spinal Cord Injury Stimulation for Chronic Spinal Cord Injury
  • University of Minnesota: Remotely delivered Cognitive Multisensory Rehabilitation for Sensory and Motor Recovery after Spinal Cord Injury
  • University of Minnesota: Gene Therapy for Treating Acute Spinal Cord Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury Research

  • University of Minnesota: Therapeutic effects of non-hematopoietic umbilical cord blood stem cells in the treatment of traumatic brain injury in mice
  • Allina Health: Feasibility of a purpose in life renewal intervention for adults with mild traumatic brain injury
  • University of Minnesota: Maladaptive avoidance and associated circuitry disruption following repetitive mild TBI
  • University of Minnesota: Circuit-based neuromodulation to improve mental fatigue after traumatic brain injury
  • University of Minnesota: Impact of Traumatic Brain Injury on Addiction
  • University of Minnesota: Chronic neuroinflammation associated with repetitive TBI in a rodent model
  • University of Minnesota: Towards Personalized and Cognitive Rehabilitation: Validating a Brief Clinical Assessment of Multiple Memory Systems
  • Courage Kenny Research Center - Allina Health: Supplemental Request: Clinical Implementation of wearable sensors to measure dual-risk motor function in individuals with traumatic brain injury
  • University of Minnesota: Targeting Trem2 on monocytes to regulate inflammation following traumatic brain injury
  • University of Minnesota: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Accelerated Theta Burst Stimulation for Headaches after Traumatic Brain Injury
  • University of Minnesota: Combined Effects of TBI and COVID-19 on Developing Alzheimer's Disease
  • Minneapolis VA Healthcare System/UMN: Is cerebrospinal fluid diversion underutilized after traumatic brain injury?


Download reports to the Minnesota Legislature on the institutions receiving grants and their purpose.