First, the principal investigator, who must be a faculty member active within an NSF-funded research alliance, submits a Letter of Intent (LOI) through FastLane in response to the solicitation. The LOI is due by January 12, 2015.
The LOI is not used to eliminate or deter full proposal submission. The objective of the LOI is for NSF to gauge the expected number of proposals and the areas of research.
An NSF-funded research alliance is defined as a research partnership between/amongst universities and other entities, formed for mutual benefit, and funded by the NSF. Examples of NSF research alliances include but are not limited to consortia, such as Engineering Research Centers, Industry University Cooperative Research Centers, Science and Technology Centers, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers, Centers for Chemical Innovation, Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers, Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation grantees and others.
The NSF-funded research alliance must be active (still under an active NSF award) or within 3 years of the end of an NSF research alliance grant. If the research alliance is within 3 years of NSF support, additional evidence (specified in the solicitation) must be provided to demonstrate the research alliance is still functioning as a research partnership and is in good standing.
Second, the investigator submits the full proposal through FastLane by the due date: February 18, 2015.
Proposals also must include at least one research partner and at least one third-party investor. The purpose of the research partner(s) is to add a complementary skill set to the NSF-funded research alliance so that competitive technologies, which neither party could develop as well or rapidly alone, can be accelerated to commercial realities and transferred to the marketplace. The purpose of the third-party investor(s) is to provide a means to accelerate the translation of market-valued technologies to commercial realities. Examples of a research partner include another academic institution, an industry entity, or a federal laboratory. Examples of a third-party investor include such entities as a company, a venture capital firm, one or more individual "angel" investor(s), federal (non-SBIR), state or local government, or any combination of the above.
Proposals responsive to the solicitation are evaluated competitively in an external merit review process by experts knowledgeable in the field and familiar with marketing and commercialization processes.
PFI:AIR-RA awards provide up to $800K for 36 months; however, the total proposed NSF budget cannot exceed the total committed co-funding from the third-party investor(s). The third-party investment can be cash, liquid assets, or tangible financial instruments. Up to 25% of third-party investment may be intangible assets (e.g. “in kind”).
Successful proposals will receive 70% of requested NSF funds at the start of the award. The remaining 30% will be available at the start of the third year subject to a successful mid-term review that includes the PI, the research partner, and the third-party investor, and will be held at NSF at the 18 month point.