(CLOSED) - NSF 18-511 - Partnerships for Innovation (PFI)

Sponsor Name: 
Description of the Award: 

The NSF Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) Program within the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) offers researchers the opportunity to transform new knowledge into societal benefits through translational research and technology development efforts which catalyze partnerships to accelerate innovations that address significant societal needs.

PFI has six broad goals: (1) identifying and supporting Foundation-sponsored research and technologies that have the potential for accelerated commercialization; (2) supporting prior or current Foundation-sponsored researchers, institutions of higher education, and non-profit organizations that partner with an institution of higher education to undertake proof-of-concept work, including the development of technology prototypes that are derived from NSF-funded research and have potential market value; (3) promoting sustainable partnerships between Foundation-funded institutions, industry, and other organizations within academia and the private sector with the purpose of accelerating the transfer of technology; (4) developing multi-disciplinary innovation ecosystems which involve and are responsive to the specific needs of academia and industry; (5) catalyzing professional development activities, mentoring, and best practices in entrepreneurship and technology translation for faculty, students and researchers; and (6) expanding the participation of women and individuals from underrepresented groups in innovation, technology translation, and entrepreneurship.

This solicitation offers two broad tracks for proposals in pursuit of the six aforementioned goals.

The Technology Translation (PFI-TT) track offers an NSF-funded researcher the opportunity to advance his or her prior NSF-funded research results towards developing technological innovations with promising commercial potential and societal impact. Projects are supported to demonstrate proof-of-concept, prototype, or technology development and scale-up while exposing faculty and students (and engaging them in) in innovation and entrepreneurially-focused activities that could possibly lead to partnership opportunities, the creation of new intellectual property and technologically-driven commercialization outcomes that address societal needs. Potential pathways forward within the PFI-TT track could be broader collaborative activities and partnerships, technology licensing, technology spin-outs, and expanded entrepreneurial activity.

The Research Partnerships (PFI-RP) track provides an opportunity to support technology development activities through a multi-organization collaboration. NSF recognizes that interdisciplinary collaboration is often needed to achieve successful technology development. This proposal track supports a research consortium ecosystem focused on a clear project thrust. It allows for partnerships between academic researchers and a variety of third-party organizations (such as industry, non-academic research organizations, federal laboratories, public or non-profit technology transfer organizations, and/or other universities) to conduct applied research in highly collaborative, multidisciplinary teams, on problems typically beyond the reach of a single researcher. NSF currently supports numerous research consortia (e.g., Engineering Research Centers, Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers, Science and Technology Centers, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers, Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers, Centers for Chemical Innovation, and others). Such consortia could participate in PFI-RP proposals. The goal of the RP track is to catalyze robust and synergistic partnerships and collaborations between government, academia, and other public and private entities to drive and accelerate the translation of federally-funded fundamental research results into innovations that, through technology development and commercialization, will have a significant economic and societal impact.

WEBINARS: Webinars will be held to answer questions about the solicitation. Registration will be available on the NSF Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships website (https://www.nsf.gov/div/index.jsp?div=IIP). Potential proposers and their partners are encouraged to attend.

Award Information:

Anticipated Type of Award: Standard Grant or Continuing Grant

Estimated Number of Awards: 45 to 55

PFI-TT projects will be funded for up to $200,000 for 18 months per award; approximately 30-45 awards are anticipated. PFI-RP projects will be funded for up to $750,000 for 36 months. Approximately 10-15 awards are anticipated.

Anticipated Funding Amount: $16,750,000

Anticipated Funding Amount is subject to the availability of funds and the quality of proposals received.

Eligibility Information:

Who May Submit Proposals:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Academic / Research US institutions; includes universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members,
  • Public or Non-profit, Non-academic US organizations located in the US that are directly associated with technology transfer activities,
  • Non-profit US organizations located in the US that partner with an institution of higher education, or
  • A US consortium of 2 or more of the organizations described above.

Who May Serve as PI:

The PI must have the technical skills required to execute the proposed research project.

Lineage Requirement: The PFI-TT proposal track has a lineage requirement under one or two of the following paths: (1) through NSF-supported research results, or (2) NSF-supported (National I-CorpsTM Teams) customer discovery results.

1. NSF-supported research results: Principal Investigator (PI) or a co-PI must have had an NSF award that ended no more than six (6) years prior to the full proposal deadline date or be a current NSF award recipient. The proposed technology development project must be derived from the research results and/or discoveries from this underlying NSF award.


2. National I-CorpsTM Teams customer discovery results The Principal Investigator (PI) or a co-PI must have been a member of an I-CorpsTM, Team Grant from NSF under the I-CorpsTM Teams Program (https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/i-corps/teams.jsp). The PI or co-PI must have fully completed the I-CorpsTM training provided as part of the I-CorpsTM Team grant within the past three (3) years. The customer discovery activities performed under the NSF-funded I-CorpsTM award must be based on the technology that is proposed to be translated within the PFI-TT proposal.

Note: a proposal describing sole lineage to any of the following programs is not allowed and may be returned without review: Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), Research Experiences for Teachers (RET), the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), any prior award through the PFI Program, Regional I-CorpsTM, and SBIR/STTR.

The PFI-Research Partnerships (PFI-RP) proposal track does NOT have a lineage requirement.

For a PFI-RP proposal, in addition to the PI, there must be at least (but not limited to) one other participant on the project serving as a co-PI, who brings technology commercialization experience in the targeted fields of application (or industry sector) of the proposed technology to be developed. This co-PI must have an active role that is explicitly described along with the specification of a time commitment on the project. Additional collaborators or organizations who bring needed multidisciplinary expertise, knowledge and commercialization experience may be involved as co-PI, Senior Personnel, Other Professional, subawardee, consultant, collaborator, etc., on the proposed project.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: 2

An organization may submit no more than two (2) proposals to this solicitation. This eligibility constraint will be strictly enforced. In the event that an organization exceeds this limit, the first two proposals received will be accepted, and the remainder will be returned without review. An organization will not receive more than one (1) award from this solicitation.

Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI:2

A PI or co-PI may submit up to two proposals to the solicitation. These could be two proposals to PFI-TT, one proposal each to PFI-TT and PFI-RP or two proposals to PFI-RP. A PI or co-PI will not receive more than one award from this solicitation. The submission of duplicate or substantially similar or equivalent proposals concurrently for review to the solicitation will result in the return of the redundant proposals.

A PI or co-PI may resubmit a previously declined proposal; however, the proposal must be revised and have taken into account the major comments or concerns resulting from the prior NSF review. A resubmission of a previously declined proposal must include a summary of the previous NSF reviewer comments and the PI's response must be included in the supplemental documents (see Supplementary Documents, below). The revised proposal will be subject to NSF's merit review process.

Limit (Number of applicants permitted per institution): 
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Feb 01, 2018
OVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Internal Nomination Process:

Interested applicants should send the following documents in sequence in one PDF no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

  • Principal Investigator’s (PI's) names and departmental affiliation
  • Co-PI's names and departmental affiliation(s)
  • A list of participating organizations:

    • Primary industrial partner(s) (required)
    • Primary research partner(s), if applicable
    • Third-party investor
  • Proposal Title
  • Project Description (no more than two pages) and identify the project scope that addresses the key aspects and elements outlined in the NSF solicitation, principal investigators, collaborators, and partner organizations.
  • 2-page current NSF Bio-sketch for all PIs and Co-PIs.

Formatting Guidelines and Page Limit:

  • Font/size: Times New Roman (12 pt.)
  • Document margins: 1.0” (top, bottom, left and right)
  • Standard paper size (8 ½” x 11)

Questions concerning the limited submissions process may be submitted to limitedsubs@psu.edu.

To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
This limited submission is in downselect: 
Penn State may only submit a specific number of proposals to this funding opportunity. The number of NOIs received require that an internal competition take place, thus, a downselect process has commenced. No Penn State researchers may apply to this opportunity outside of this downselect process. To apply for this limited submission, please use this link:
OVPR Downselect Deadline: 
Monday, December 4, 2017 - 4:00pm