• Clinical Research Grants

The COVID-19 global pandemic is presenting unprecedented challenges to global healthcare systems, care teams, and communities.  Because of this pandemic, the Intuitive Foundation has shifted our philanthropic focus to supporting providers and sourcing healthcare delivery supplies locally and globally.

For those who have the ability and interest to conduct research during this time, the Intuitive Foundation grant program is active and is accepting applications for grant funding to support Clinical Research Grants for Robotic-assisted Surgery in 2021.

Overview: The purpose of these grants is to support clinical research in the field of robotic-assisted surgery. Successful proposals will address important questions, related to surgical care and patient outcomes.  Grants will be awarded to researchers at non-profit institutions worldwide.

Awards are conferred on a competitive basis by submission of a grant application.

Available Grants:

Applicants may apply for grant funding up to $60,000 per project (US dollars, total costs).

The grant funding can be used to support salaries for statisticians, lab technicians, fellows, research coordinators and other support personnel, equipment, supplies and/or travel required to support the proposed research project for a period of up to one year. The grant funding may not be used to support physician salaries.

Research areas of interest

We have identified key research areas of interest for the 2021 clinical grant programs. Principal Investigators are encouraged, although not required to submit proposals that fall into one or more of the following areas:

Clinical Outcomes Based Research (applications from the United States)

Research related to clinical outcomes for robotic-assisted surgical procedures with a particular focus on comparative studies. Examples may include:

  • Assessment of clinical outcome differences (including variation in outcomes) comparing robotic-assisted vs. other minimally invasive and/or open surgical techniques.
    • For applications from the United States, we are most interested in clinical outcomes related to Thoracic Surgery and General Surgery.
  • Comparison of opioid use and/or pain between robotic-assisted vs. other minimally invasive and/or open surgical techniques.
  • Assessment of clinical outcome differences comparing robotic-assisted instruments to traditional hand-held instruments (e.g., stapler).
  • Evaluating the impact of ERAS or similar protocols.
  • Proposals related to public health or other of-the-moment topics.

Clinical Outcomes Based Research (applications from outside the United States)

Research related to clinical outcomes for robotic-assisted surgical procedures with a particular focus on comparative studies. Examples may include:

  • Assessment of clinical outcome differences (including variation in outcomes) comparing robotic-assisted vs. other minimally invasive and/or open surgical techniques.
    • For applications outside the United States, we are most interested in clinical outcomes related to Colorectal Surgery, General/Visceral Surgery, Thoracic Surgery, Gynecology and Urology.
  • Comparison of opioid use and/or pain between robotic-assisted vs. other minimally invasive and/or open surgical techniques.
  • Assessment of clinical outcome differences comparing robotic-assisted instruments to traditional hand-held instruments (e.g., stapler).
  • Proposals utilizing patient-reported outcomes.

Imaging, Vision or Navigational Research

Research focused on enhanced visualization during surgical procedures. Examples may include:

  • The application of preoperative imaging modalities during surgical interventions.
  • The use of intraoperative imaging modalities during surgical interventions.
  • Novel use of fluorescence imaging technology (Research that has been published or presented by other groups will not be considered).
  • The use of novel imaging modalities during interventions.
  • New techniques to discriminate between healthy and diseased tissues.

Health Economic and Outcomes Research including Cost-effectiveness and Cost-utility Studies related to Robotic-assisted Surgery

Research related to local services utilization, clinical and economic burden of the disease, cost of care, and research focused on quality of life or utilities related to surgical care. Examples may include:

  • Patient care pathway or epidemiological studies on clinical and economic burden of illness.
  • Patient/clinician-reported outcomes, quality of life, health utilities.
  • Cost-effectiveness modeling incorporated local services utilization and costs from local data sources (not from the literature).

We strongly recommend that research within this category include a health economist as a part of the research team. Please identify this individual within the capabilities section of your submission.

New Procedure Exploration and Development Research

Research focused on emerging robotic-assisted surgical procedures using existing technologies. Please note that research conducted on human subjects may require applicable authorizations or favorable opinions from any relevant authorities, such as governmental and medical institution authorities, prior to funding. Example proposals may include:

  • Robotic-assisted procedures that do not have a laparoscopic analog.
  • Procedures that benefit from parallel entry of instruments (e.g., da Vinci SP).
  • Development of replicable workflows to achieve critical surgical access in high volume procedures that do not have standardized port placement positions, such as lysis of adhesions. Such workflows should reliably apply to variations in patient body habitus and pathology.

Application Guidelines

Selection Process: Applicants must first submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) to Propose as detailed below. Grant LOIs will be reviewed and ranked by an internal selection committee. LOIs reaching a predetermined scoring threshold will be invited to submit a full grant. All Letters of Intent as well as invited full grant applications will be reviewed and scored on the following criteria:

  • Clarity of research goals and objectives
  • Novelty (building on existing literature)
  • Clinical relevance and value
  • Evidence of feasibility
  • Strength of evaluation methods and measures including statistical power analysis as appropriate
  • Availability of required resources
  • Appropriately defined research scope, timeline and budget

LOIs and full grant proposals will be handled in a confidential manner and will not be distributed beyond the grant selection committee at the foundation. Due to the expected volume of proposals, we regret that the committee will not be able to provide detailed individualized feedback for unsuccessful proposals.

LOI Guidelines: A letter of intent to propose should be submitted by all grant applicants. Submissions should consist of 5 parts:

  • Summary: one or two sentence proposal overview.
  • Description of Problem/Background
  • Purpose, Hypothesis and Methods of Research
  • Capabilities: Indicate the identities, capabilities and credentials of investigators as well as any participating institution. Include contact information for principal investigator.
  • Budget: Include a specific request for funds that includes permanent hard equipment, statistical analyses, consumable equipment, salaries to staff and other direct expenses. No more than 20% of the total budget can be allocated for indirect costs.
    • Hard equipment purchases should not exceed $5,000.
    • The budget should not include salaries for physicians, although salaries for statisticians, lab technicians, fellows and other support personnel may be included.

Deadlines for All Clinical Research Grants:

Grant Cycle for Funding in January 2021:

  • Interested applicants should submit a Letter of Intent by June 12, 2020. Invitations to submit full grant applications will be sent by July 27, 2020 (this invitation will include grant application guidelines and forms).
  • The deadline for submitting a full, invited grant application is September 18, 2020. Only complete application packets will be considered. Awardees will be notified by November 16, 2020. Grant monies must be used to support research expenses during the 2021 calendar year.

Grant Cycle for Funding in July 2021 – June 2022:

  • Interested applicants should submit a Letter of Intent by January 8, 2021. Invitations to submit full grant applications will be sent by the week of  February 15, 2021 (this invitation will include grant application guidelines and forms).
  • The deadline for submitting a full, invited grant application is April 2, 2021. Only complete application packets will be considered. Awardees will be notified by the week of June 7, 2021. Grant monies must be used to support research expenses during the 2020 -2021 calendar year.
  • Multiple grants will not be funded simultaneously to any principal investigator.
  • Multiple grants to the same institution for different principal investigators will be considered.
  • Awards must be used to fund research at not-for-profit institutions. Grants are not to be used to fund for-profit activities.
  • Grants are awarded to principal investigators at their institution. If there are any changes in the principal investigator or group’s ability to conduct the proposed research, the Foundation reserves the right to reconsider the award.
  • Grant funding must be used to support research expenses and activities, which occur from January 1, 2021 through December 31, 2022 only.
  • Awardee institution must allow Intuitive Surgical reasonable access for servicing any Intuitive Surgical loaned equipment, including network connectivity for remote support.
  • Total costs may include no more than 20% indirect costs and the total budget, including both direct costs, indirect costs and any applicable taxes, should not exceed $60,000 USD.
  • Grantees will be invited to present their work at our headquarters in Sunnyvale, CA (travel costs covered by Intuitive Foundation).
  • All applicants selected to receive a grant are required to submit a mid-year progress report, as well as a final status report that details study results and conclusions.
  • If the funded project does not take place, all monies awarded will be refunded to Intuitive Foundation, and any loaned equipment will be promptly returned to the lender of the equipment. If the project is terminated early, then a partial refund, with an accounting of the funds expended up to the termination date, will be provided by the Principal Investigator. Any unused funds as of December 31, 2022 will be refunded to Intuitive Foundation.

Please email grants@intuitive-foundation.org with questions regarding the grant process.