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Industrial Innovation and Partnerships

Sara B. Nerlove
snerlove@nsf.gov, (703) 292-7077

Alexandra Medina-Borja
amedinab@nsf.gov, (703) 292-7557

Chris Paredis
cparedis@nsf.gov, (703) 292-2241

Leon Esterowitz
lesterow@nsf.gov, (703) 292-7942

Gurdip Singh
gsingh@nsf.gov, (703) 292-8950

Alexander Leonessa
aleoness@nsf.gov, (703) 292-2678

Solicitation 14-610

Important Information for Proposers

A revised version of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 15-1), is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after December 26, 2014. The PAPPG is consistent with, and, implements the new Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards (Uniform Guidance) (2 CFR 200). Please be advised that the guidelines contained in NSF 15-1 apply to proposals submitted in response to this funding opportunity.

The Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) program supports academe-industry partnerships, which are led by an interdisciplinary academic research team with a least one industry partner to build technological, human, and service system innovation capacity. These partnerships focus on the integration of technologies into a specified human-centered smart service system with the potential to achieve transformational change in an existing service system or to spur an entirely new service system. These technologies have been inspired by existing breakthrough discoveries.

Service systems are socio-technical configurations of people, technologies, organizations, and information designed to deliver services that create and deliver value [1]. A "smart" service system is a system capable of learning, dynamic adaptation, and decision making based upon data received, transmitted, and/or processed to improve its response to a future situation. The system does so through self-detection, self-diagnosing, self-correcting, self-monitoring, self-organizing, self-replicating, or self-controlled functions. These capabilities are the result of the incorporation of technologies for sensing, actuation, coordination, communication, control, etc. The system may exhibit a sequence of features such as detection, classification, and localization that lead to an outcome occurring within a reasonable time.

PFI:BIC funds research partnerships working on projects that operate in the post-fundamental discovery space but precede being on a clear path to commercialization. These projects require additional effort to integrate the technology into a real service system with human factors considerations, which in turn might spawn additional discoveries inspired by this interaction of humans with the technology.  

Partnership activities that drive sustained innovation include the targeted allocation of resources such as capital, time, and facilities; and sharing of knowledge in a cross-organizational and interdisciplinary context. The project must involve research tasks that demonstrate a highly collaborative research plan with participation of the primary industrial partner with the academic researcher during the life of the award.

Cultivating smart service systems requires not only the participation of the scientific discipline or disciplines related to the technology, but also of a range of other disciplines needed to achieve successful integration into a smart service system. The resulting system requires an understanding of human interaction with technology and a human-centered design to assure the desirability and the effectiveness of the proposed service system. Thus, in addition to the discipline related to the technology, the disciplines to be included in this project are 1) systems engineering or engineering design, 2) computer science/information technology, and 3) human factors/behavioral science/cognitive engineering. Some teams not experienced with service engineering might benefit from consulting with an individual with expertise in service operations or service systems. NSF recognizes that the labels for the aforementioned disciplines may vary in different institutions and organizations, so what is important here is to demonstrate the equivalence of the representation of these disciplines. The proposer will be asked to show how the disciplines will be integrated in the context of the project as part of the research plan in the Project Description.

Examples [2] of technology applied to service systems include smart healthcare, smart cities, on-demand transportation, precision agriculture, smart infrastructure, and other technologies enabling self-service and customized service solutions.

WEBINARS: Webinars will be held to answer questions about the solicitation. Register on the PFI:BIC website where details will be posted (http://www.nsf.gov/eng/iip/pfi/bic.jsp). Potential proposers and their partners are encouraged to attend. Also, Vice Presidents for Research and academic personnel concerned with the review of their respective institution’s selection of candidates for submission, individuals from Sponsored Research Offices, and those focused on the identification and understanding of limited application submissions are encouraged to attend.


[1] Spohrer J., Maglio P. P., Bailey J., Gruhl D. (2007). Steps towards a science of service systems. Computer 40(1):71-77. doi:10.1109/MC.2007.33.

[2] Note that examples have been provided in this solicitation to offer a sense of the variety of possibilities across types of service systems and the forefront technologies that would allow them to achieve their apex of effectiveness and efficiency, but by no means are they intended to represent program emphases or priorities.

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