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Software and Services (SS)

Proposal Due Date: December 4, 2008

Please direct inquiries for all Software and Services topic to the cognizant Program Manager: Errol Arkilic (earkilic@nsf.gov).

Historically, advances in software have provided new capabilities that enhance the quality of commerce, industrial processes, education, work life and personal endeavors. In the future, enhanced computational capability accessed from the network or Internet-based, residing in the "cloud," will lead to novel services that will significantly impact these and other arenas. The NSF SBIR Software and Services topic solicits proposals to develop innovative products and services necessary to transform markets and enhance the Nation's economic position in the first decades of the 21st century.

The 200-word project summary discussing the intellectual merit and broader impact must specifically answer the following questions: What is the problem to be solved? How will the problem be solved and what is the innovation in the proposed approach? Why is your solution better than the competitive technologies? Who is going to buy your solution? Who are the other key players? If these answers are not addressed, the proposal may be returned without review. Proposals must address the potential for commercialization of the innovation and how it would lead ultimately to revenue generation. It is important that the proposed technology increase the competitive capability of industry, is responsive to societal needs, and is sensitive to solving "real" problems driven by critical market requirements.

Mandatory Requirement: Letters of Support for the Technology

Inclusion of letters of support for the technology within the proposal is mandatory for proposals being submitted to this solicitation. Letters of support act as an indication of market validation for the proposed innovation and add significant credibility to the proposed effort. Letters of support should demonstrate that the company has initiated dialog with relevant stakeholders (potential customers, strategic partners or investors) for the proposed innovation and that a real business opportunity may exist should the technology prove feasible. The letter(s) must contain affiliation and contact information for the signatory stakeholder.

Note: If appropriate letters of support are not contained within the proposal, the proposal will be considered non-responsive and may be returned without review for failing to fall within the scope of the solicitation.

Importance of Communication with Program Officer

A company planning to submit a proposal to one of this solicitation's subtopics is strongly encouraged to describe the innovation and business opportunity to the cognizant program officer and receive feedback prior to proposal submission (see above for contact information). You may contact the program officer at any time before the submission deadline. Note, however, that communication with the program officer will become increasingly difficult as the deadline nears.

Proposals must address one of the subtopics that are outlined below. Proposals that are not responsive to the subtopics outlined below will be returned without review. When submitting a proposal to the SS Topic, code the proposal to the corresponding subtopic under which you are submitting the proposal, e.g., B.3.d, for proposals in the area of "Real- or non- real time machine learning and/or statistical-based algorithms." In addition, use the code as the first item in the key words/phrases portion of the Project Summary of your proposal.

In the current solicitation, proposals in the following subtopics will be accepted.

A. Organizations and Processes
B. Human Computer Interaction
C. Applications
D. Platforms
E. Education Applications


The pace of modern business activity has increased considerably as a result of intense competitive pressure and globalization. Enterprises large and small, for-profit and non-profit must respond to customer needs, manage internal activities, and adapt to competitive market pressures much more rapidly than at any other period in history. Enterprises that effectively and efficiently combine computing, communication, and business process advances become leaders in their respective markets. These developments have created significant commercial opportunities for software or services that support the following areas:

A.1 Security and privacy

A.2 Knowledge discovery, search, data mining, data management and/or visualization

A.3 Digital arts

A.4 Financial services


A challenge in HCI is to make people more productive by augmenting their capabilities through information devices and through human-machine interfaces, which provide the mediation environment for these gains. Human-computer interaction covers the design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use, specifically interaction among one or more humans and one or more computational machines. It also deals with the joint performance of tasks by humans and machines, and innovative HCI techniques that directly relate to HCI performance metrics. This subtopic includes the development of innovative software or services that enable significant business opportunities in the following areas:

B.1 Virtual/Mixed reality environments

B.2 Desktop information and attention management tools

B.3 Human language and communication

  1. Applications employing speech, touch, vision or biometric technologies

  2. Natural Language Processing (NLP) including language translation or

  3. multi-language interfaces

  4. Spoken language systems – conversational dialog management, semantic language analysis or interpretation

  5. Real- or non-real time machine learning and/or statistical-based algorithms


Software and services (both consumer and enterprise) that enable significant business opportunities in the following will be supported under this solicitation:

C.1 Mobile applications

C.2 Peer-To-Peer applications

C.3 Broadband-enabled applications

C.4 Personalized user services

C.5 Collaboration-enabled applications

C.6 Adaptive manufacturing

  1. Data mining for manufacturing system analysis

  2. Tools for real-time self-correcting manufacturing

  3. Intelligent control of manufacturing processes

  4. Intelligent process modeling and/or machine diagnostics

C.7 Simulation for manufacturing

  1. Leveraging multi-processor/multi-core environments

  2. Predictive modeling (material characteristics, material response, work-piece quality characteristics, tooling or machine tool performance, mass and heat transfer, and processengineering)

  3. Virtual reality-based simulation environment (the development of innovative virtual-reality based immersive simulation technologies that will improve manufacturing processes; e.g. simulation environments with human- and hardware-in-the-loop capabilities)

  4. Discrete event simulation of manufacturing systems


Innovative projects are sought that either improve existing systems or develop new systems and architectures that would be of wide interest across many market segments. The goal is to significantly improve the capability of devices to perform their intended tasks or to enable entirely new classes of functionality or services. The subtopics that will be supported under this solicitation are as follows:

D.1 Virtualization

D.2 Real-Time operating systems

D.3 Advanced signal processing algorithms for new computational approaches

D.4 Quantum computing


Emerging technologies should play an important role in enhancing student learning, increasing problem-solving capability, stimulating innovative thinking, and participation of individuals across all population segments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Software and Services can contribute to every educational level, from pre-kindergarten through higher and continuing education. Emphasis is on the development of innovative technologies that: (1) improve the understanding and learning of scientific and technical principles as well as increase problem-solving capability; (2) facilitate interactive and collaborative learning; (3) broaden access to high-quality science and technology education; and (4) promote equal access for those with disabilities.

By being aware of the commercialization history of education-based projects, it is important to be explicit about how designated staff and/or consultants will determine or monitor in an ongoing way whether a project's goals are being met and whether the proposed technology is likely to achieve market acceptance by the education community. It is also important to address issues such as portability, scalability, compliance with existing and consistent standards for K-12, pedagogical techniques, developmentally-appropriate content and instructional strategies, educational equity, metrics for success, and involvement of stakeholders in the educational community.

Responses to this subtopic, should address factors that are unique to the education market and should include brief reference to case histories of other similar education ventures. In addition to demonstrating knowledge of content, applicable pedagogical principles, and the proposed technology, the proposal should discuss business issues that are unique to the education market, viz., issues such as strategic marketing, finance, distribution channels, IP, and acceptance of the proposed technology.

E.1 Applications in support of teaching and/or learning

E.2 Broadband-enabled applications for the education market

E.3 Assessment technology

E.4 Applications to support the educational needs of individuals with disabilities: vision- and hearing-impaired, cognitive- and motor-related.


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