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Partnerships for Innovation: Technology Translation (PFI-TT)

Grants to USA Nonprofits and IHEs for Innovative
Science and Engineering Developments

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National Science Foundation (NSF)

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Deadline Date:

02/01/18 5:00 PM Submitter's Local Time


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Grants to USA nonprofit organizations and IHEs to support fundamental education and research activities in all disciplines of science and engineering. This program track is intended to support individual researchers in developing new innovations based on prior basic research. The purpose of this program is to strengthen the national economy, advance basic knowledge, and benefit society at large.

NSF-funded research supports the discoveries that enable innovation. It lays the foundation of scientific and engineering knowledge from which technological innovation can grow.

To further broaden the impact of fundamental research funded by NSF, the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) supports applied research in order to systematically accelerate the translation of basic research results into innovation - thus allowing research outcomes to realize their commercial potential and societal impact. In addition to the PFI Program (this solicitation), programs within IIP and NSF that contribute to this mission include Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM), Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers (IUCRC), Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Research (SBIR/STTR), and Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI).

Program Description:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) invites requests for funding under the Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) solicitation. The goals of the PFI program are: (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.

Partnerships for Innovation - Technology Translation (PFI-TT):

This proposal track is aimed at supporting individual researchers seeking to develop new technological innovations based on prior NSF-funded basic research. PFI-TT is designed to support applied research and early prototyping activities that are aimed at solving significant technical challenges in the translation of fundamental science and engineering research results into market-valued innovations. The anticipated program outcomes from PFI-TT will be technological developments that inform a path toward commercial reality and societal impact (ideally under a SBIR/STTR-funded start- up company or under a license to an established corporation in the intended field of use); the development of collaborations between faculty, students and individuals knowledgeable about market need (e.g., potential customers, individuals with business and technology commercialization experience, potential investors, etc.); the engagement of faculty and students in technology translation and entrepreneurial/innovative thinking; and the inclusion of women and individuals from underrepresented groups in the technology development/entrepreneurial endeavor.

Technology Development:

The development of basic research into deployed technology is often depicted as a sequence of phases from basic research through proof-of-concept, prototype iteration, product development and finally commercialization, with each phase having unique and often significant challenges to be overcome. While the sequence of events may not occur in a straightforward linear fashion, the knowledge associated with each phase is necessary for the transition from basic research towards commercialization to occur. PFI-TT is aimed at advancing knowledge along this continuum for projects with technology innovation(s) coming forth from the basic research/ discovery phase. The proposed research should identify the next stage of technology/knowledge gap(s) or barrier(s) that must be overcome as part of the path from the basic research discovery to eventual successful commercialization and societal benefit. The goal of the PFI-TT program is to provide funding support to overcome such significant technological challenges that have been identified as hurdles in the technology translation process towards commercialization. The proposed project should be aimed at reaching early proof-of-concept or prototype stage or technology scale-up demonstration, based on measurable outcomes that corroborate a clearly identified and substantiated potential market need or application, and inform the subsequent path towards technology commercialization. In other words, there should be new knowledge (Intellectual Merit) at the end of the award that has been used to solve a significant technical challenge(s) to move the technology closer toward commercialization and societal benefit.

Commercialization Potential:

Another dimension of the path from basic discovery to successful commercialization involves an understanding of various business and commercial aspects of translating the innovation towards market application, such as market need, value proposition, target industry sector, potential customer segments, potential channels, and early understanding of the supply-chain, product-market fit, development of a preliminary intellectual property strategy (freedom to operate, patentability, copyright, trade secret, etc. as applicable), regulatory issues, etc. The proposal should demonstrate an initial, basic understanding of the relevant issues. The expectation is that, over the course of the project, the participant with "technology commercialization experience in the targeted field(s) of application/industry sector in the field of use of the proposed technology" will lead the effort to advance the team's understanding of the business aspects of the project alongside the team's technical progress. Together, this should inform the ensuing commercialization strategy (such as SBIR/STTR funding of a spin-out company, licensing to a more mature corporation, etc.)

It is important to note that a successful proposal must demonstrate both initial research results and an initial understanding of the target market segment. The proposal must present evidence of prior NSF-funded research results and discuss how these results lend credence to the proposed technology translation project that, in turn, will address the next significant technical hurdles. In addition, proposers whose lineage is in NSF-supported research results, and not in the National I-CorpsTM Teams customer discovery results, are strongly encouraged to have participated in some type of customer discovery program to achieve a greater understanding of the market potential of their technology. Evidence of market potential must be substantiated by at least one (but not more than three) Letter(s) of Support from a potential future commercialization partner (an entity interested in potentially partnering in the development, scale-up, manufacturing or sale of the future product or service) who is not a funded partner on the proposed project. The Letter(s) of Support must provide a specific discussion of the commercial and societal value and need for the proposed technology in a particular market and serves to provide a measure of external market validation for the proposed project. The Letter(s) of Support could also come from potential users (customers) for the proposed process, product or service.


Collaborations are encouraged and, depending on the nature of the collaboration, can help accelerate development of the proposed technology towards the anticipated market application. Collaborators may include individuals/entities internal and/or external to the proposing organizations and may be included in the budget or not. Any substantial collaboration with individuals/entities not included in the budget should be described in the Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources section of the proposal (see PAPPG). In either case, whether or not the collaborator is included in the budget, a letter of collaboration from each named participating entity must be provided at the time of submission of the proposal (see Supplementary Documents, below).

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 174404

Number of Grants:

Approximately 30-45 awards are anticipated.

Estimated Size of Grant:

PFI-TT projects will be funded for up to $200,000.

Term of Contract:

PFI-TT projects will be funded for 18 months per award.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

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 Nonprofit, Non-academic US organizations located in the US that are directly associated with technology transfer activities,
-Nonprofit 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. 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.

Pre-proposal Conference:

Webinars will be held to answer questions about the solicitation. Registration will be available on the NSF Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships website. Potential proposers and their partners are encouraged to attend.

Partnership for Innovation Program Q & A Webinar 2
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
2:00 PM | Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00) | 2 hrs

Partnership for Innovation Program Q & A Webinar 3
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
2:00 PM | Eastern Standard Time (New York, GMT-05:00) | 2 hrs

More information about webinars may be found here:

Pre-Application Information:

Full Proposals are due by 5:00 PM submitter's local time on February 1, 2018.

Full Proposals may be submitted via FastLane or

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Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Register for the January 10 webinar:

Register for the January 17 webinar:

Prakash G. Balan
(703) 292-5341

Jesus V. Soriano
(703) 292-7795

CFDA Number:

47.041 --- Engineering / 47.049 --- Mathematical and Physical Sciences / 47.050 --- Geosciences / 47.070 --- Computer and Information Science and Engineering / 47.074 --- Biological Sciences /47.075 --- Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences / 47.076 --- Education and Human Resources / 47.079 --- Office of International Science and Engineering / 47.083 --- Office of Integrative Activities (OIA)

Funding or Pin Number:

NSF 18-511

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming