Deadline Extended: Urban Challenge Grants Proposals

September 21, 2021 by School of Cities Staff


The School of Cities’ initial focus in 2021-2022 is on climate, justice, and cities, and we seek to fund research from different disciplines that crosscut these areas. We invite proposals for grants of up to $75,000 from University of Toronto faculty and postdoctoral fellows who are interested in pursuing policy-relevant research and working with SofC staff to maximize their policy impact. Proposals are due November 7, 2021, with decisions to be made by December 10, 2021.

The School of Cities has established this grant program to support timely data analysis and dissemination to address emerging and/or policy-relevant research questions, as well as to provide seed funding for pilot studies that will likely lead to high-impact research. Participating researchers will meet regularly with the School of Cities research community, engage with external stakeholders, and work closely with School of Cities staff on research dissemination.


About the School of Cities

The School of Cities is a solutions incubator for urban-focused researchers, educators, students, practitioners and the general public to explore and address the complex global challenges facing urban centres. A living laboratory, the School leverages urban data and lived experience to improve policy and decision-making, and collaborates with city leaders around the world to make local decisions that make cities and urban regions more sustainable, prosperous, inclusive and just.

2021-22 Focal Theme: Climate, Justice, and Cities

Climate change is the defining challenge of our time, simultaneously requiring the transformation of infrastructure, the reconfiguration of financial systems, the mobilization of the electorate, and more. Cities—in their role as incubators of innovation, drivers of the economy, magnets for talent, and birthplace of social movements—are poised to lead the way in both devising and implementing solutions. Yet, the various forms of climate action also have the potential to unleash injustice, i.e., to create disproportionate harm for vulnerable populations. With its remarkable and diverse faculty expertise across its divisions and campuses, the University of Toronto and its School of Cities are poised to lead the national and international conversation about how best to adapt to climate change while promoting inclusion and justice.

Climate, justice, and cities is a theme that spurs research across many different disciplines, including the natural sciences, engineering and technology, urban policy and planning, business, public health, the arts, and the social sciences. Climate scientists are currently researching a wide array of topics related to cities and justice, such as uneven vulnerability to wildfire hazards, the relationship between heatwaves and mortality, the role of urban parks in carbon sequestration, and how climate change disrupts food security. Economists, geographers, and business faculty are exploring issues related to climate justice such as the impacts of temperature fluctuations on labour productivity, the social cost of carbon, a just transition to the green economy, restructuring financial and insurance systems in light of climate risk, and the economics of climate adaptation in the developing world. Faculty in public health, sociology, environmental psychology, and the arts are delving into how place attachment affects the adaptive capacity of communities in the face of climate change, the equity implications of climate mobilities, and the issue of Western culpability. Philosophers, anthropologists, legal and feminist scholars, among others, are examining questions of intergenerational, multispecies, and restorative justice in the context of climate change. Faculty in political science, public policy, planning and other fields study the vulnerability and resilience of communities and their infrastructure. The corpus of research is expanding fast, but barely meeting the needs of a world that must act now.

This call for proposals seeks to fund two types of faculty research initiatives that examine issues of climate, justice, and cities: preliminary work or pilot studies with high-impact potential, or applied research with immediate policy relevance for external stakeholders. Grants will range in size from $10,000 to $75,000. The program will fund a diverse array of research projects across disciplines, and we prioritize proposals with an interdisciplinary focus involving multiple PIs from different disciplines. We are eager to fund work with immediate impact in the Greater Toronto Area, but also encourage proposals that focus on other urban regions across the nation and around the world. We are particularly interested in funding early-career researchers and/or proposals that involve collaborating with and/or mentoring Ph.D. students, as well as projects in disciplines currently underrepresented at the School of Cities. Should funds permit, we will also consider supporting researchers in need of “top up” resources to finish current projects.

Once funded, we expect researchers to engage actively in activities at the School of Cities. Researchers will participate in a biweekly seminar series to discuss each other’s research and hear from guest experts on climate, justice, and cities from around the world. The School of Cities will ask each grantee to attend 1-2 roundtables with external stakeholders working in related areas from the public and nonprofit sectors. We will also offer regular events for grad students and postdoctoral researchers associated with researcher projects. When research interests overlap, we will involve grantees in our other programs at the School, such as our Multidisciplinary Urban Capstone Projects, Graduate Student Fellows Program, or Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.

The grant period is expected to extend from January 2022 – April 2023, for a total of 16 months. At the conclusion of the grant cycle, the School expects grantees to participate in an international symposium that will showcase the work. We will also work closely with participants to produce policy briefs (750 to 2,000 words) or research briefs (2,000-6,000 words) and in some cases, short videos, for publication on our website. Grantees are expected to share any other publications that result from this grant funding for posting on our website.

Grant applications are due by November 7, 2021, with funding decisions by December 10, 2021. After the deadline, the School of Cities will consider proposals on a rolling basis pending fund availability. We expect to give out up to $500,000 in grants this cycle, with 8-10 small grants ($10,000-$25,000) and 2-3 medium grants ($25,000-$50,000), and 1-2 large grants ($50,000-75,000).



The Principal Investigator must be a faculty member at the University of Toronto (tenure or teaching stream); we will also consider applications from postdoctoral scholars with a letter of support from a faculty member. Applicants must be in residence at the University of Toronto and not on leave during the grant period. We will give strong preference to multidisciplinary teams, and will also prioritize junior faculty members and faculty from disciplines previously under-represented at the School of Cities.

Application Format

To apply, complete the application package below to submit it to

1. Cover letter that includes:

  • your interest and experience related to the School of Cities’ mission;
  • a statement on how you embed equity, diversity, and inclusion in your research practice;
  • a short abstract (500 words) of the research project.

2. Short, itemized budget with budget justification, including other sources of funding

3. Description of the proposed research, not to exceed five double-spaced pages in 12-point type with one-inch margins all around, exclusive of references or appendices. The proposal should carefully describe the issue(s) to be examined, hypotheses to be evaluated, methodology proposed, data sources to be used (including whether the data sources are already available to the PIs and how and in what timeframe those data sources will be acquired if not already available), potential stakeholders to engage, and anticipated results of the research, including their potential implications for public policy.

4. Curriculum vitae (no more than 3 pages) for all investigators.

5. For postdoctoral scholars only, letter of support from University of Toronto faculty member.


Budget and Eligible Expenses 

  • Salary for postdoctoral scholars or graduate student researchers.
  • Hourly wages for undergraduate project student assistant(s)
  • Reimbursement for purchasing of data, software, travel related to the execution of this research, or other research expenses explained clearly in the application*
  • Light refreshments for meetings, speaker honoraria, etc. for working groups or research convenings
  • Funds must be spent by April 30th, 2023.

*limitations and guidelines on reimbursable expenses are described in the University of Toronto Guide to Financial Management


Selection Criteria

The Selection Committee for this call will consist of a three-member subcommittee of the School of Cities Faculty Advisory Council, an external stakeholder, and the Director of the School of Cities.

Proposals will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  1. The relevance of the topic to the School of Cities’ focal theme of climate, justice, and cities (as discussed above);
  2. The multidisciplinarity of the team and/or approach;
  3. The potential usefulness of the proposed research for the advancement of scientific knowledge and the development and implementation of public policy;
  4. The appropriateness and soundness of the research design, including choice of data and methods of analysis;
  5. Demonstrated ability of research to be conducted in the timeframe established in this grant (e.g., availability of personnel and/or data);
  6. The reasonableness of estimated costs;
  7. The qualifications and experience of personnel.


Project Timeline and Commitments

  • January 1, 2022 – Project start
  • February 2022 – December 2022 – Participation in biweekly seminar series
  • September 2022-January, 2023 – Participation in 1-2 stakeholder roundtables
  • January-April, 2023 – Preparation of policy briefs working with School of Cities staff
  • March 31, 2023 – Grant period ends
  • April 2023 – Symposium presentation and participation



All inquiries, including questions on the application process, budget, and research issues, should be directed to


Frequently Asked Questions

  • May I submit multiple proposals?
    There is no limit on applications; you may submit multiple proposals either as sole P.I. or part of the team. Please note however that we are trying to select a diverse group of participants in order to include as many researchers and disciplines as possible. So be strategic!
  • May I submit a proposal as an outside (non-U of T) researcher, so long as a U of T faculty member is the P.I.?
    We welcome partnerships with outside institutions. However, we are not able to provide any funds to the outside partner.
  • Will it be more competitive to submit one research initiative with multiple projects, or just one project?
    You should write the proposal that best meets the selection criteria for the grant program and also is the most rigorous research design.
  • I am research faculty with full SGS status. Will my application be considered?
    Yes, we will consider applications from research professors.
  • For the budget, if we ask for money on the larger end does that disqualify us from being funded as a smaller project? And vice versa. If we ask small does it prevent us from being considered for larger funding?
    We encourage you to structure your budget for the best possible funding scenario. The review committee may reduce the amount awarded to successful projects based on overall demand for funding, but the committee is unlikely to suggest offering more funding than you have proposed in your application.