Partnerships for Innovation: Accelerating Innovation Research- Technology Transfer (PFI:AIR-TT)

This material is available primarily for archival purposes and may be out of date.

The PFI:AIR-TT program supports research to overcome technology barriers or knowledge gaps in the transformation of fundamental science and engineering discoveries into market-valued solutions.

Researchers are expected to develop a proof of concept, prototype, or scale-up of the prototype that addresses real-world constraints and provides a competitive value in a potential application space. During the course of the AIR-TT award, it is also expected that the team advances their understanding of business as it relates to their technology, and that students are engaged to learn about innovation and technology translation.

By the end of the award period, the technology will be further down the path to commercialization. AIR-TT awards provide $200k for 18 months.

To learn more and get started with a grant application, please see the latest AIR-TT solicitation. You also can learn about the program and submitting proposals by reviewing the slides and watching the video from the August 3, 2016 AIR-TT webinar.

AIR-TT Projects

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Learn what the AIR-TT program has been funding recently - use the interactive map or see a list of AIR-TT current projects and abstracts.

How the Program Works

The Letter of Intent (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.

The proposed translational research must have appropriate lineage back to an NSF award in one of two ways:

1. The Principal Investigator (PI) or a co-PI must have had an NSF award that ended no more than six years prior to the AIR-TT full proposal deadline date or be a current NSF award recipient. The proposed proof of concept or prototype/scale-up must be derived from the research results and/or discoveries from this prior NSF award.


2. The Principal Investigator (PI) or a co-PI must have graduated as part of an NSF cohort from an NSF-funded national I-CorpsTM program within the past three years. The proposed proof of concept or prototype/scale-up must be based on technology for which customer discovery activities were performed under the I-Corps™ national training. In other words, it is not sufficient to just have had I-Corps™ training; rather the customer discovery activities performed under the NSF-funded I-Corps™ grant need to be based on the technology that is proposed to be translated within the AIR-TT proposal.

In addition, there must be a member of the proposing team with explicit business experience. The expectation is that over the course of the project, the "participant with explicit business experience" will lead the effort to advance the team's understanding of the business aspects of the project alongside the team's technical advances.

The overall effort should advance the team's technical knowledge along with their understanding of commercialization issues so that the project will be ready for the next step toward successful translation at the end of the AIR-TT award.

First, the applicant submits a Letter of Intent (LOI) through FastLane in response to the solicitation.

Second, the applicant submits the full proposal through FastLane by the corresponding deadline. The proposal's project description must include the following sections in the order specified (see AIR-TT solicitation NSF 16-583 for details):

  1. Overview and motivation
  2. Market opportunity and intellectual property
  3. Technical challenges and research plan
  4. Team
  5. Strategy toward commercialization
  6. Training and involvement of students and/or post-doctoral fellows

Letter of Intent Due Dates(s) (required) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):
September 8, 2016
Full Proposal Deadlines(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time):
October 11, 2016

Note: The solicitation was recently revised so that there will be only ONE submission window for fiscal year 2017.

Proposal Review

Please read the full AIR-TT solicitation before submitting a proposal. 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.

Proposals are reviewed in accordance with NSF Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts criteria.

*Consult the solicitation for a full listing of criteria. The solicitation overrules all other policy documents, unless otherwise stated in the solicitation.

AIR-TT proposals are evaluated with the following additional criteria:

  • The strength of the discussion of the market need and how the innovation has the potential to offer a competitive solution or competitive advantage.
  • The merit of the research plan to translate the existing research discovery to proof-of-concept, prototype or scale-up.
  • The demonstrated understanding of the technology barrier(s) or knowledge gap(s) and how the proof-of-concept, prototype or scale-up has the potential to overcome that gap(s).
  • The lineage of the proposed work to the prior NSF-supported research or customer discovery results.
  • The suitability of the proposed team to successfully complete the project.
  • The quality of the preliminary patent search and accompanying discussion to support the feasibility of obtaining needed licenses and/or sufficient protection for intellectual property developed.
  • The quality of the strategy for a path toward commercialization.
  • The quality of the plan for involvement of undergraduate, graduate students and/or post-docs, incorporating an explanation of how the proposed effort will enhance their knowledge of innovation.

You may contact the AIR-TT program director via email at any time before the submission deadline with questions about the solicitation or suitability of proposal idea for the AIR-TT program.

Cooperative Research Agreements

If there is a possibility of joint development of intellectual property, it is the responsibility of the participating organizations/partners to discuss the appropriate intellectual property policies, including patent disclosures and filings. Proposal partners must agree in advance of any award as to how intellectual property and publication rights will be handled.

If applicable, an industry-university cooperative research agreement or university-university memorandum of understanding covering intellectual property rights including publication and patent rights must be submitted prior to an award.

For informational purposes only, please see a sample cooperative research agreement (.docx).

NSF is not responsible for the type of agreement reached between the grantee and any participating organizations/partners.