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CCI Call for Research Proposals: Securing Interactions between Humans and Machines

Due September 30, 2022, 5 p.m. ET


The Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) is establishing Virginia as a global center of excellence at the intersection of security, autonomous systems, and intelligence. With a mission of research, innovation, and workforce development, CCI serves as a catalyst for the commonwealth's economic development and long-term leadership in this sector.

One of the research themes selected by CCI is securing the interactions between humans and machines. It is the focus of this call for proposals.

Recent evolution in artificial intelligence, cyber physical systems, and communications are leading to a world in which humans and autonomous machines increasingly interact. In CCI, we view cybersecurity as intrinsically cross-disciplinary and devise solutions that lead to secure, resilient, and harmonious interactions between people and robots, drones, autonomous vehicles, and other cyber physical systems. 

Our research focuses on the technological challenges in securing this enhanced digital world experience, in close collaboration with experts from the social sciences, life sciences, health sciences, public policy, law and humanities. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to: artificial intelligence assurance; securing the metaverse; security and privacy for embedded and/or wearable devices; the role of human behavior in securing the digital world; and ethical cybersecurity.

Objectives of this call include:

  • To produce seminal contributions to securing the interactions between humans and machines, targeting the expansion of this research through competitive grants from the federal government, private sector, philanthropic foundations, and other sources.
  • To contribute to workforce development in cybersecurity with cross-disciplinary domain knowledge.
  • To explore opportunities for innovation (commercialization, entrepreneurship, etc.) in security and privacy for the interaction between humans and machines.


Who May Serve as PI: Researchers and faculty members at public institutions in CCI who are deemed eligible by their home institution to serve as a Principal Investigator (PI) on an external grant are eligible to apply.

Applications from under-represented groups are particularly welcome, as are applications from researchers who have not previously engaged with CCI.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Institution: There are no restrictions or limits.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI:  An eligible researcher may participate on at most two proposals in this call, and may submit at most one proposal as the Principal Investigator. 

Other Requirements

Proposals must include a multi-disciplinary team, with at least one PI (or co-PI) from the humanities, social sciences, or law, and at least one PI (or co-PI) from STEM disciplines.

One researcher must be named as the PI; the grant will be made to the PI’s institution. The PI is responsible for the financial management of the grant and for the reporting requirements to CCI.

Multi-institution teams are encouraged but not required.

At least one representative from each team funded under this call for proposals will be required to participate in an initial exploratory meeting with a mentor from the Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) or a similar unit within the PI’s institution within the first quarter of project performance. The goal of this initial meeting is to assess viability and/or interest in the potential commercialization of research deliverables. 


Total Amount of Funding for this Program: Approximately $800,000. 

Funding for this program is made available by the CCI Hub and the CCI Northern Virginia and Southwest Virginia Nodes, in collaboration with Virginia Tech’s Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment (ISCE) and the Tech4Humanity initiative at Virginia Tech. 

Maximum Award Amount: $60,000 per proposal

Award Conditions

The successful applicant is expected to participate fully in the activities of CCI, including providing materials needed for reports, participation in CCI meetings, and responding to data collection requests by CCI. All publications and presentations resulting from the grant should acknowledge support from Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI).

The PI is responsible for submitting periodic reports (every 6 months, and a final report) to CCI. Guidelines for format and content for periodic reports will be provided.


Request for Proposals Released August 29, 2022
Last Day for Q&A September 12, 2022
Proposals Due September 30, 2022, 5 p.m. ET
Award Notification November 30, 2022
Project Dates December 1, 2022, to December 31, 2023

Proposal Format

Title page (one page)

Title of the proposed project, name, affiliation, and contact information for the Principal Investigator (PI) and co-Principal Investigators (co-PIs).

Proposed Research (up to four pages)

  • Rationale: Discussion of the technical background and engineering/scientific justification. This should include project objectives and intellectual merit of the proposed work.
  • Relevance to CCI and to this call: A brief paragraph describing how the project will advance the state of the art in cybersecurity, in particular in securing interactions between humans and machines.
  • Discussion of cross-disciplinary aspects of the study: How is the expertise from the different disciplines represented by the PIs needed to advance the state of the art on this topic?
  • Research Plan: What exactly will be done? How will the objectives be met? What are the motivations, methods, likely outcomes, milestones, and future directions? If existing CCI assets and equipment will be leveraged to support the research, please describe the equipment/assets and how they will be used.
  • Deliverables: Describe the expected deliverables for the project (publications, demonstrations, intellectual property, etc.).

Plan for Additional Funding and Impact on the commonwealth (up to one page)

  • Identify one or more specific opportunities for additional funding to expand the research proposed here and outline a plan for pursuing this funding.
  • Address potential for commercialization and economic development/impact from this work.
  • Letters of collaboration from industrial partners, if relevant, can be attached as an appendix (not included in the page count).

References (not included in the page count)


  • A detailed budget and one-page justification must be included. Please confirm the ability to utilize all potentially awarded funds by December 31, 2023.
  • Travel should be included to support PI’s and team members’ attendance at the annual CCI Symposium and other CCI events. The next Symposium will take place in April 2023, in Richmond, Va.
  • Indirect costs are not allowed.

Bio sketch (up to three pages for each investigator, using NSF format)

Current and pending support for each investigator

  • Title of the project, status (current, pending, submission planned, etc.), source of the support, period of performance, total award amount, portion of the award that is attributed to the investigator.
  • Investigators can use a current NSF Current & Pending Support document that contains this information, or can follow a format of their choice.

Proposal Submission

The proposal must be submitted to no later than the close of business day (5 p.m. ET) on September 30, 2022. All proposals must be submitted as a single PDF document with subject “CCI Fall 2022 Research Call”.

Proposals and budgets should go through the appropriate approval process at the PI’s institution. For instance, many universities require researchers to include a proposal and budget which have been approved in the standard Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) pre-award procedure. Please consult the PI’s node director to confirm the process. 

Contact information of CCI node directors:

Evaluation Criteria

A committee will review the proposals and make funding recommendations. Evaluation criteria include:

  •  Strong intellectual merit related to cybersecurity.
  •  Relevance to the focus of the call (securing the interactions between humans and machines) and strong rationale for a cross-disciplinary approach.
  •  Clear plan for obtaining additional funding from government, private sector, philanthropy, etc., and likelihood of being competitive for the programs identified by the PI.
  •  Strong broader impacts related to CCI’s mission lines of innovation and workforce development.

Specific questions concerning this RFP and the requirements set forth herein should be directed in writing to