Partnerships for Innovation (PFI)

The Partnerships for Innovation program (PFI) within the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) offers researchers the opportunity to transform new knowledge into societal benefits through translational research and technology development efforts that catalyze partnerships to accelerate innovations that address significant societal needs.

PFI Goals

PFI has six broad goals:

  1. Identify and support Foundation-sponsored research and technologies that have the potential for accelerated commercialization;
  2. Support 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. Promote 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. Develop multi-disciplinary innovation ecosystems which involve and are responsive to the specific needs of academia and industry;
  5. Catalyze professional development activities, mentoring, and best practices in entrepreneurship and technology translation for faculty, students and researchers; and
  6. Expand the participation of women and individuals from underrepresented groups in innovation, technology translation, and entrepreneurship.

Technology Translation (PFI-TT) and Research Partnerships (PFI-RP)

In pursuit of the above goals, PFI accepts proposals in two broad tracks:

The Technology Translation (PFI-TT) track offers an NSF-funded researcher the opportunity to advance his or her prior NSF-funded research results toward developing technological innovations with promising commercial potential and societal impact.

Projects are supported to demonstrate proof-of-concept, prototype, or technology development and scale-up while exposing faculty and students (and engaging them in) in innovation and entrepreneurially-focused activities that could possibly lead to partnership opportunities, the creation of new intellectual property and technologically-driven commercialization outcomes that address societal needs.

Potential pathways forward within the PFI-TT track could be broader collaborative activities and partnerships, technology licensing, technology spin-outs, and expanded entrepreneurial activity.

The Research Partnerships (PFI-RP) track provides an opportunity to support technology development activities through a multi-organization collaboration. NSF recognizes that interdisciplinary collaboration is often needed to achieve successful technology development.

This proposal track supports a research consortium ecosystem with a defined project. It allows for partnerships between academic researchers and a variety of third-party organizations (such as industry, non-academic research institutions, federal laboratories, public or non-profit technology transfer organizations, and/or other universities) to conduct applied research in highly collaborative, multidisciplinary teams, on problems typically beyond the reach of a single researcher.

NSF currently supports numerous research consortia (e.g., Engineering Research Centers, Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers, Science and Technology Centers, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers, Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers, Centers for Chemical Innovation, and others). Such consortia could participate in PFI-RP proposals.

The RP track aims to foster robust and synergistic partnerships and collaborations between government, academia, and other public and private entities to drive and accelerate the translation of NSF-funded fundamental research results into innovations that, through technology development and commercialization, will have a significant economic and societal impact.

Learn More about PFI

Learn more about the PFI program by reading the solicitation, watching a webinar and subscribing to NSF's newsletter.


Find out about the PFI program, contacts, eligibility, submitting a proposal and more in the solicitation:

Partnerships for Innovation Solicitation

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


Watch a PFI overview webinar led by NSF program directors in December 2017.
Learn more about what reviewers look for in PFI proposals by watching a webinar from March 2018.


Stay up to date with PFI and similar programs by joining the "Academic-Industry Partnerships at NSF" newsletter:

Subscribe to Newsletter

Past PFI Programs

NSF has three PFI-related programs that currently have grantees but are no longer accepting proposals:

  • Accelerating Innovation Research - Research Alliance (PFI:AIR-RA) helps accelerate the translation and transfer of existing research discoveries into competitive technologies and commercial realities by catalyzing academic based innovation ecosystems.
  • Accelerating Innovation Research - Technology Transfer (PFI:AIR-TT) supports research to overcome technology barriers and knowledge gaps in the translation of fundamental science and engineering discoveries toward market-valued solutions by enabling investigators 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. Applicants must have had either an NSF award that led to a research result that has commercial potential, or have been a graduate of an NSF-funded Innovation Corps program.
  • Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) supports academe-industry partnerships to carry out research to advance, adapt, and integrate technology into a specified, human-centered smart service system.