The Explorer Challenge FAQs

Below is a list of common questions about The Explorer Challenge, formerly the Strategic Innovation Fund. If you can't find your question listed below, please email us at


What types of projects are eligible for The Explorer Challenge?

The Explorer Challenge funds may be used for a wide variety of projects including: developing new interdisciplinary research clusters, building community and industry partnerships, funding ideas that will help the university operate more effectively or efficiently, or other potentially high impact ideas that require seed funds to test concept or build momentum. Projects are expected to advance one or more of the goals of Marquette’s strategic plan, Beyond Boundaries. Innovation can include adaptation of existing strategies to support Marquette in new ways as well as development of brand new ideas. Projects that are interdisciplinary and which have the potential for community partnership or impact are encouraged. All members of the university community (students, faculty and staff) are eligible to apply.

Faculty research ideas that could normally be supported by other mechanisms, such as the Summer Faculty Fellowship, Regular Research Grants, or the Way Klingler Research Awards, will typically not be competitive for funding through the Explorer Challenge. Academic program development may be eligible, but the Provost’s Program Incubator may be a more appropriate source for some of these ideas. Students looking to launch entrepreneurial ventures should also explore the resources of the 707 Hub for other funding and support opportunities.

How do I fulfull this year's Explorer Challenge Theme? 

This year, the Innovation Council is requesting that Explorer Challenge applications demonstrate how their project will integrate inclusive practices. Please find some selected resources below which may help you think about how to include elements of diversity and inclusion in your project. 

Selected Resources:


How does funding work for a student team?

All explorer challenge projects will receive a university account. We cannot cut a check to individual students. Instead, student teams will receive access to funds through a department on campus with signing authority given to an employee in that department. For interdisciplinary projects that department can be the Office of Research and Innovation. This is to ensure that all spending follows university policies and procedures. Student organizations may use their faculty or staff advisor as the authorized spender on the account. Student researchers may enlist their faculty advisors to join their team. Student teams can reach out to Mark Simonson in the Office of Research and Innovation at any time during the application and award process to discuss how access to the funds will work.

I submitted last year but my proposal was not funded. Should I submit again?

There were many excellent proposals submitted that could not be funded. Please consider submitting again.

What were key elements of a successful proposal?

Many of the successful proposals were interdisciplinary, with participation from multiple areas of the university or with community partners. Successful proposals had clear articulation of the innovation that would come about from the project. Since proposals are read by many people with different backgrounds (Innovation Council and the University Leadership Council), writing for a general audience interested in understanding the impact of your project, rather than all of the technical details, is critical.

Will all funded projects be expected to generate new revenue for the university?

We anticipate that some projects may result in new revenue streams or savings for the university, providing a means of funding for future projects, but this is not a requirement for every project.

What are the criteria for funding?

Proposals will be evaluated based on the potential impact on achieving the goals of the strategic plan and support of university mission, level of innovation, and potential for success. Impact on Marquette, as well as the broader community, will also be considered. Interdisciplinary projects and proposals that develop community partnerships are encouraged but other ideas are also welcome.

Is there an advantage for projects that support multiple themes of the strategic plan?

While we expect that some projects may cut across multiple themes in the strategic plan, there will be no specific advantage for doing so – the quality of how a project impacts moving the plan forward is more important than the number of themes it may touch.


How much money can we ask for?

Project budgets should be based on the needs of the project. Projects may request up to $25,000. Final budget allocations will be determined based on the quality of the final proposals and availability of funds.

How can alumni or community members get involved?

Projects require a current Marquette student, faculty or staff member as the lead but partnerships are encouraged. Student-led projects require a faculty or staff co-sponsor.


I will not be at Marquette next semester – how can I participate?

We are encouraging students who are graduating or others who anticipate not being at Marquette next fall to join or create teams that have someone who is going to still be at Marquette. Alumni and other community partners are able to participate in projects but there needs to be a Marquette person taking the lead role.

Can students or faculty from other universities be on a team?

Yes, but there needs to be a Marquette person taking the lead role in submitting the pre-proposal and final proposal.

When will funds actually be available?

We are planning on funds being available at the start of the new fiscal year, July 1.

How much commitment is required for an initiative?

That depends on the scope of the project. What do you need to do to get your new idea launched?

We have a company or are looking to start one – should we apply for The Explorer Challenge?

You may submit a proposal for The Explorer Challenge, but you should also consider other opportunities, such as The Dorm Fund which supports undergraduate-led businesses.

Other questions?


We are here to help answer any remaining question you may have about The Explorer Challenge. You can send us an email at