Bridge to Independence Award Program

Simons Foundation

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Grant amount: US $495,000

Anticipated deadline: Mar 2, 2021 2:00pm PST (Letter of inquiry)

Applicant type: Research Scientist Postdoctoral Researcher

Funding uses: Research

Location of project: Anywhere in the world

Location of residency: Canada, United States

Degree requirements: Applicants must be within 6 years of receiving their PhD

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About this funder:



SFARI mission

The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) seeks to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by funding innovative research of the highest quality and relevance.


The autism research community has expanded substantially in recent years and SFARI has contributed to this change by attracting outstanding established scientists to the field of autism. In order to sustain this level of scientific excellence in future years, SFARI is extending our support to promising early-career investigators. One of the most salient milestones in a scientific career is the transition from formal mentorship to an independent position. Unfortunately, making this transition has become increasingly difficult in recent years, in part because of the decreasing number of tenure-track faculty positions, compounded by the increasing number of Ph.D. graduates and postgraduate traineeships1. SFARI created the Bridge to Independence (BTI) Award program in 2015 to address this issue and to encourage continued excellence in the autism research field.

Program Overview

The BTI Award program promotes talented early-career scientists by facilitating their transition to research independence and providing grant funding at the start of their professorships. Annual Request for applications (RFA) open each spring and are aimed at senior postdoctoral fellows who intend to seek tenure-track faculty positions during the upcoming academic year. Awardees will receive a commitment of $495,000 over three years, activated upon assumption of a tenure-track professorship at a U.S. or Canadian research institution.

Importantly, although eligible applicants must be currently in a postdoctoral training position, the BTI Award itself is not a training fellowship but a research grant to newly appointed faculty. The program’s selection process is uniquely designed to enhance the BTI awardees’ job prospects by providing a letter that specifies SFARI financial commitment to the research project once the BTI awardee has secured a suitable faculty position. For more information on eligibility requirements and the funding process, see the RFA section.

The BTI Award program welcomes applications that span the breadth of science that SFARI normally supports, including genetics, molecular mechanisms, circuits and systems, and clinical science. For reference, please see past BTI awardees and a list of all SFARI Investigators, as well our postings on SFARI scientific priorities.

While we encourage applications from postdoctoral fellows who are working on autism-related projects, we would like to stress that this award is also open to researchers who are not currently working on autism but who are interested in starting research projects in this area and who have expertise that could be brought to bear on this complex disorder.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Applicants must hold a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree
  • Applicants must have fewer than six (6) years of postdoctoral or otherwise mentored training.
  • Applicants must be currently in non-independent, mentored, training positions, as recognized by their institution. The following guidelines should be used to distinguish independent from non-independent positions (modified from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) K99/R00 program announcement eligibility section):
    • Evidence for non-independence may include:
      • The applicant’s research is entirely funded by another investigator’s grants.
      • The applicant’s research is conducted entirely in another investigator’s assigned space.
      • According to institutional policy, the applicant is not allowed to submit an application for an NIH research grant (e.g., R01) or SFARI grant (e.g, Pilot, Research, and Targeted awards) as the principal investigator.
  • Applicants must be actively seeking a tenure-track position at a U.S. or Canadian institution of higher education during the 2019-2020 academic year.
  • Applicants must not have accepted a formal offer for a tenure-track faculty position.
  • There are no citizenship requirements.


  • Evidence for independence, and therefore lack of eligibility, includes:
    • The applicant has a full-time faculty position.
      • Exception: A clinician who holds a faculty member position in order to fulfill their clinical responsibilities but who does not hold an independent research faculty position may still be eligible. Such individuals should contact the foundation to confirm their eligibility prior to submitting their applications.
    • The applicant received a start-up package for support of his/her independent research.
    • The applicant has research space dedicated to his/her own research.
    • The applicant is eligible to apply for independent research funding as the PI of an NIH research grant (e.g., R01) or SFARI grant (Pilot, Research, and Targeted awards).
  • Applicants are not eligible if they are recipients of other career development awards with similar budgetary scopes as the SFARI Bridge to Independence Award. These include, but are not limited to:
    • These include, but are not limited to:
      • NIH K99/R00 (please note that other K awardees may be eligible, e.g., recipients of K01 and K08)
      • Burroughs-Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists
      • American Academy of Neurology Career Development Award
      • Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna H. Gray fellowship
    • You are strongly encouraged to contact SFARI prior to grant submission if you believe your career development award is comparable to the BTI award but is not listed above.