(CLOSED) NSF 18-513 - Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI) 2020/21

Sponsor Name: 
Description of the Award: 

The Office of the Senior Vice President for Research held an informational webinar for interested applicants on Tuesday, July 7. Contact limitedsubs@psu.edu to request a link to the recording. 

The Penn State Limited Submission Program manages the response to research funding opportunities for which a limited number of submissions are permitted from Penn State. For the NSF-Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program (NSF 18-513), each Penn State campus may submit up to three proposals, with up to two in Track 1 (Track 1 proposals are those requesting from NSF $100,000 to less than $1 million) and one in Track 2 (Track 2 proposals are those requesting from NSF $1 million up to and including $4 million).

Please note that major deadlines are occurring over the summer. If you are aware of any PIs who may be interested in the downselect, please inform them now so they can plan accordingly. Although each campus is considered an independent institution for the NSF-MRI, all applications must be submitted through the Limited Submissions site at University Park.

NSF-MRI Downselect 2019/2020 Timeline

  • July 21: Internal Notice of Intent (NOI) Due (REQUIRED)
  • August 17: Internal Downselect Application Due
  • August 17-September 7: Internal Downselect Review
  • Week of September 14: Applicant Response to Review Feedback
  • Late September: Inform the applicants of selection
  • January 8, 2021: Final Proposal due to SIRO
  • January 1 - 19, 2021: NSF Proposal Window

Synopsis of Program:

The Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program serves to increase access to multi-user scientific and engineering instrumentation for research and research training in our Nation's institutions of higher education and not-for-profit scientific/engineering research organizations. An MRI award supports the acquisition or development of a multi-user research instrument that is, in general, too costly and/or not appropriate for support through other NSF programs.

MRI provides support to acquire critical research instrumentation without which advances in fundamental science and engineering research may not otherwise occur. MRI also provides support to develop next-generation research instruments that open new opportunities to advance the frontiers in science and engineering research. Additionally, an MRI award is expected to enhance research training of students who will become the next generation of instrument users, designers and builders.

An MRI proposal may request up to $4 million for either acquisition or development of a research instrument. Beginning with the FY 2018 competition, each performing organization may submit in revised “Tracks” as defined below, with no more than two submissions in Track 1 and no more than one submission in Track 2.

  • Track 1: Track 1 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $100,0001 and less than $1,000,000.
  • Track 2: Track 2 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $1,000,000 up to and including $4,000,000.

Consistent with the America COMPETES Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-69), cost sharing of precisely 30% of the total project cost is required for Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education and for non-degree-granting organizations. Non-Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education are exempt from the cost-sharing requirement and cannot include it. National Science Board policy prohibits voluntary committed cost sharing.

Penn State will cover centrally the required 30% match for those proposals with instruments that are clearly shared across a broad community across Penn State.

Please see the solicitation text for organizational definitions used by the MRI program.

The MRI Program especially seeks broad representation of PIs in its award portfolio, including women, underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities. Since demographic diversity may be greater among early-career researchers the MRI program also encourages proposals with early-career PIs and proposals that benefit early-career researchers

Limit (Number of applicants permitted per institution): 
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
Jan 19, 2021
OSVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Successful internal applications will need to demonstrate notable prior NSF funding of the PI and team, relevance of the instrument to a broad cluster of NSF funded faculty and a sustainable management plan.

Please note, the Strategic Interdisciplinary Research Office (SIRO) will be the submitting unit for at least 3 of the selected proposals. SIRO offers a full range of proposal development services including proposal development coordination, budget development, match coordination, document editing, graphics support, and Red Team review.

The internal downselect process involves three steps:

STEP ONE: NSF MRI Workshop – July 7, 2:30PM Register Here

  • Any faculty member or team planning to submit an NOI is advised to attend this workshop.

STEP TWO: Notice of Intent (NOI) Due July 21 (4 PM) REQUIRED

If a faculty team in your college/unit plans to participate in the internal downselect, the Principal Investigator will need to submit their Notice-of-Intent (NOI) at this InfoReady competition page:

Applicants should upload the following documents in sequence

  • Information Page to include:

    • Project Title
    • Track 1 or Track 2
    • Acquisition or Development
    • Which NSF Big Ideas does your project relate
    • Full Contact information for PI & Co-PIs
    • A brief description of the instrumentation and general plans for shared use (< 500 words)
    • The anticipated location of the instrument (campus, building, and room)
    • Estimated budget

STEP THREE: Following the NOI deadline applicants from ALL campuses will receive information on where to submit Internal Downselect Applications by August 17 (4 PM)

In addition to submitting the NOI, the PI will need to complete the internal downselect application, which will expand on the above criteria and other issues specific to the solicitation and the instrument proposed. The downselect application will be available on this site until August 17, 2019 at 4 PM.

The Downselect Application will include:

  • Cover Page

    • Proposal Title;
    • Contact information of the PI and coPIs;
    • Indication whether your proposal is for Track 1 or Track 2;
    • Indication whether your proposal is for Acquisition or Development;
    • Which NSF Big Ideas does your project relate
  • Project Description (< 8 pages) that addresses:

    • The instrumentation required and why it should be viewed as a priority for Penn State (~2 pages) (Include a description of shared-use within and across Penn State, including other campuses and institutions; diversity of team and users; research training and educational uses; broader impact; and potential Industry/iCorps/IUCRCs connections);
    • How your proposal meets the NSF-MRI program goals; (~2 pages) (e.g. How would the instrumentation enable academic departments, disciplinary & cross-disciplinary units, and multi-organization collaborations to integrate research with research training?)
    • Management plan for on-going support and maintenance of the instrument (~ 1 page) (e.g., staffing, maintenance contracts, etc.)
    • The outcomes you anticipate if your proposal is successful;
    • Where do you anticipate the instrumentation will be located;
    • The estimated total cost of the project;
    • Provide the estimated cost of additional expenses not covered through the grant (for example, renovations related to installation, staffing, maintenance)
  • Peer Review Comments Received from prior NSF MRI submission of this project
  • Current and Pending report

    • Attach a Current and Pending Report in Compressed Format that can download from the myresearch.psu.edu portal or a completed Current & Pending Support Document (template attached to this competition)
  • 2-page current NSF Bio-sketch for all PIs and Co-PIs

Format Guidelines

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

Review and Notification:

A representative committee of research deans, unit directors and their delegates, and members of standing reviewer pool of the Office of Limited Submissions will review all applications. The PI (or a team designee) of top-ranked proposals need to be available for a zoom-based interactive session to directly respond to reviewer clarifications in mid-September, after which the committee will recommend to The Office Vice President for Research the strongest proposals for development.

The finalists for this competition will be notified of their selection by the end of September 2020.

To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
Penn State OSVPR NOI Deadline: 
Tuesday, July 21, 2020 - 4:00pm
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:
Track I: Jun Zhu (ECoS), JP Allain (CoE); Fariborz Tavangarian (PS Harrisburg), Alicyn Rhoades (PS Erie), Samy Madbouly (PS Erie); Track II: Robert Rioux (CoE), Gregory Dillon (PS Erie)