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NSF Crosscutting Investment Strategies
Crosscutting Research, Instrumentation, and Partnering Programs

1. Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry

The GOALI Program aims to synergize university/industry partnerships by making funds available to support these linkages. The program supports (a) faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students to conduct research and gain experience in an industrial setting; (b) industry scientists and engineers to bring industrial perspective and integrative skills to academe; and (c) interdisciplinary university/industry teams to conduct long-term projects.

The program targets high-risk and high-gain research, with focus on fundamental topics that would not otherwise have been undertaken by industry; the development of innovative, collaborative university/industry educational programs; and the direct exchange of new knowledge between academe and industry. GOALI provides (a) funding for individuals such as faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students to develop creative modes of collaborative interaction with industry through individual or small-group research projects; and (b) industry-based fellowships for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. All NSF Directorates participate in the GOALI Program at this time.

2. Partnerships for Innovation (PFI)

The PFI Program seeks to stimulate innovation by supporting partnerships among colleges and universities, State and local governments, the private sector, and other relevant organizations, thus emphasizing the productive connections between new knowledge created in the discovery process and learning and innovation.

For the purpose of this program, innovation explicitly extends to training and developing people and tools and creating organizational conditions necessary to foster the transformation of knowledge into products, processes, systems, and services that will fuel economic development, create wealth, and generate improvement in the national standard of living. Key factors in the innovation enterprise include creating and accessing new knowledge, a scientifically and technologically literate workforce, and infrastructure that will enable innovation. Concurrently, the PFI Program addresses NSF’s strategic intention to broaden participation of people and institutions in NSF activities.

The goals of the PFI Program are

  • to catalyze partnerships for innovation that will enable the transformation of knowledge created by the national research and education enterprise into innovations that create new wealth, build strong local, regional, and national economies; and 2) improve the national well-being;
  • to broaden the participation of all types of academic institutions and of citizens in NSF activities to better meet the broad workforce needs of the national innovation enterprise; and
  • to create enabling infrastructure necessary to foster and sustain innovation for the long term.

Examples of proposals that might be submitted to the PFI Program are those that include planning and/or implementation of new models for innovation; education and training activities that explicitly address the workforce needs of the innovation enterprise; and development and deployment of new tools or mechanisms that support the innovation infrastructure. They may seek to create an activity focusing on a critical level of innovation in a technological area in an industrial sector or in a geographic region. The outcomes for proposed activities should foster economic and/or societal well being that can be self-sustaining in the long term. The lead organization must be a degree-granting academic institution of higher learning. At a minimum, proposed partnerships must include private-sector organizations or State/local government entities.

3. Innovation and Organizational Change (IOC)

The IOC Program seeks to create and apply fundamental new knowledge with the aim of improving the effectiveness of the design, administration, and management of organizations, including industrial, educational, service, government, and nonprofit and voluntary organizations. The program encourages dissemination of knowledge gained from research to organizations and institutions that can design and implement improvements based on what has been learned.

The IOC Program places priority on investigator-initiated research that will advance our understanding of the fundamental processes and structures of organizations in a variety of institutional contexts. The program supports research that develops and tests theories, concepts, and methodologies related to organizational learning and redesign; strategic and cultural change; quality and process improvement; the genesis and management of innovation; new product and service development; and the organizational development and integration of new technologies. Projects that develop or build on research perspectives that cross-disciplinary lines are another priority. Perspective IOC research might draw on or include, but not be limited to, organizational behavior and theory, industrial engineering, industrial/organizational psychology, organizational sociology, public administration, and management science. Research methods span a broad variety of qualitative and quantitative methods including surveys, field studies, case studies simulation modeling, and organizational learning curves and social network analysis. Partner organizations to serve as data sources or testbeds may be drawn from all sectors including business, non-profits, governmental agencies, and educational institutions.

IOC is jointly sponsored by the following directorates: Engineering, Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, and Education and Human Resources.

4. Global Change Research Programs (GCRPs)

NSF GCRPs support research and related activities that advance fundamental understanding of dynamic physical, biological, and socioeconomic systems as well as interactions among those systems. In addition to research on Earth system processes and the consequences of changes in those systems, NSF programs facilitate data acquisition and data management activities necessary for basic research on global change, promote the enhancement of modeling designed to improve representation of Earth system interactions, and develop advanced analytic methods to facilitate fundamental research. NSF also supports fundamental research on processes to identify and evaluate responses to changing global environmental conditions.

5. International Science and Engineering

Support of international activities is an integral part of NSF’s mission to promote the progress of U.S. science and engineering. In particular, NSF recognizes the importance of (1) enabling U.S. researchers and educators to advance their work through international collaboration and (2) helping ensure that future generations of U.S. scientists and engineers gain professional experience overseas early in their careers. Consistent with the international character of science and engineering, disciplinary programs throughout NSF offer support to U.S. scientists and engineers for the international aspects of their research when those aspects are judged to be important to the specific objectives of those activities.

The Office of International Science and Engineering (INT), administratively located in the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate, expands and facilitates the international dimensions of NSF's mission by promoting new partnerships between U.S. scientists and engineers and their foreign colleagues, and new cooperative projects between established collaborators. Most programs are organized on a regional or country basis.

6. Small Business Innovation Research Program and Small Business Technology Transfer Program

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program

NSF encourages small businesses to submit high-quality proposals that focus on important science, engineering, and science/engineering education problems and opportunities and that will lead to significant commercial and public benefit. The SBIR Program is a government-wide program intended to stimulate technological innovation, use small-business concerns to meet federal research and development (R&D) needs, foster and encourage the participation of minority and disadvantaged persons in technological innovation, and increase the commercialization by the private sector of innovations resulting from Federal R&D.

SBIR uses a uniform three-phase process. Phase I is a 6-month effort designed to evaluate the feasibility of an idea based on its scientific and technical merit. Phase II builds on the feasibility study and leads to the development of a model or prototype. Phase III is the commercialization phase. Development of a partnership with another funding source is strongly encouraged and is one of the measures used in the evaluation of Phase II proposals. SBIR funds are not used for Phase III efforts.

SBIR is highly competitive and supports the Nation's small high-tech businesses, universities, and research institutions that are able to convert basic ideas and research into commercial products that will enhance the Nation's productivity and help maintain its competitive leadership in the global market.

The small business can partner with other businesses or nonprofit institutions such as academic or non-government laboratories. In Phase I, the partner's participation can be 33.3 percent; and in Phase II, up to 50 percent. Members of academic institutions can participate either through a subcontract to the small business or as consultants.

Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program

Also a government-wide program, STTR differs from SBIR in that it requires the small business to engage in cooperative research with nonprofit research institutions. STTR is also a three-phase process. Phase I is a 12-month effort that determines scientific, technical, and commercial merit and establishes concept feasibility and eligibility for Phase II. Phase II further develops the proposed idea while taking into consideration scientific, technical, and commercial merit; Phase I results; and other relevant information. Phase III involves the commercial application of the research funded in Phases I and II. STTR funds are not used for Phase III efforts.

STTR is highly competitive and supports the Nation's small high-tech businesses, universities, and research institutions that are able to convert basic ideas and research into commercial products that will enhance the Nation's productivity and help maintain its competitive leadership in the international marketplace.

The small business must partner with an academic institution or a federally funded research and development center, or other nonprofit institutions. In both Phase I and Phase II, the participation must amount to a minimum of 40 percent of the effort for the small-business concern and 30 percent of the effort for the nonprofit research institution. Members of the academic or research institution participate through a subcontract to the small business. Before starting Phase I, the partners need to enter into an agreement that covers rights to the technology involved in the proposal.

7. Small Grants for Exploratory Research (SGER)

Proposals for small-scale, exploratory, high-risk research in the fields of science, engineering, and education normally supported by NSF may be submitted to individual programs. Such research is characterized as:

  • preliminary work on untested and novel ideas;
  • ventures into emerging research ideas;
  • application of new knowledge or new approaches to “established” research topics;
  • having a severe urgency with regard to the availability of or access to, data, facilities, or specialized equipment, including quick-response research on natural disasters and similar unanticipated events; or
  • likely to catalyze rapid and innovative advances.

Investigators are strongly encouraged to contact the NSF program(s) most germane to the proposal topic before submitting an SGER proposal. This will facilitate determining whether the proposed work meets the guidelines described above; the availability of funds; and the appropriateness for SGER funding. The project description must be brief (two to five pages) and include clear statements as to why the proposed research meets the above criteria; the nature and significance of its potential impact on the field; and why an SGER grant would be a suitable means of supporting the work.

Biographical information is required for the PI and co-PI(s) only and should be provided in the standard NSF format. The box for “Small Grant for Exploratory Research” must be checked on the proposal Cover Sheet.

These proposals will be subject to internal NSF merit review only. SGERs are not renewable and continued funding may be requested only through the submission of a non-SGER proposal, subject to the full merit review. The maximum SGER award amount will not exceed $200,000. The duration of an SGER project must not exceed two years.

At the discretion of the program officer, and with the concurrence of the division director, a small fraction of especially promising SGER awards may be extended for a period of six additional months and supplemented with up to $50,000 in additional funding. Requests for extensions must be submitted at least 45 days prior to the expiration date of the initial award. A project report and outline of proposed research--not to exceed five pages--must be included.

8. Science and Technology Centers: Integrative Partnerships (STC)

The STC Program was established in 1987 to fund important basic research and education activities and to encourage technology transfer and innovative approaches to interdisciplinary activities. Since its inception, thirty-six comprehensive STCs have been established.

The STCs explore new areas and build bridges among disciplines, institutions, and other sectors. They offer the research community an effective mechanism to embark upon long-term scientific and technological research activities, explore better and more effective ways to educate students, and develop mechanisms to ensure the timely transition of research and education advances made into service in society.

9. Major Research Instrumentation (MRI)

The MRI Program is designed to improve the condition of scientific and engineering (S&E) equipment used for research and research training in our Nation's academic institutions. The program works to improve the quality and expand the scope of research and research training in S&E and foster the integration of research and education by providing instrumentation for research-intensive learning environments.

The MRI Program assists in the acquisition or development by U.S. institutions of major research instrumentation that is generally too costly to support through other NSF programs. Maintenance and technical support associated with these instruments is also supported. Proposals may be for a single instrument, a large system of instruments, or multiple instruments that share a common research focus. Computer systems, clusters of advanced workstations, networks, and other information infrastructure components necessary for research are supported.

10. Collaboratives to Integrate Research and Education (CIRE)

The CIRE activity was created to establish long-term research and education relationships between minority-serving institutions and NSF-supported facilities and centers. CIRE’s long-term goal is to formally establish these developing relationships by negotiating formal institution-to-institution agreements for their continuation and support. Examples of the types of activities supported by CIRE are (1) the development of collaborative and mutually beneficial research and education projects that may include infrastructure enhancement at the minority-serving institution, if needed, to support the proposed collaborative activity; and (2) exchanges of faculty and students. It should be noted however, that CIRE is not a general infrastructure program for minority-serving institutions. Funds to support CIRE-like activities come from the cognizant research directorate. Therefore, communication should be made with the Office of the Assistant Director of the cognizant directorate.

11. Science of Learning Centers

The Science of Learning Centers Program aims to understand what learning is and how it is affected at all levels, ranging from the digital to the societal. The science of learning emerges from the intersections of diverse disciplines across the biological, cognitive, computational, mathematical, physical, and social sciences, engineering, and education. Areas include psychological, social, and pedagogical aspects of learning; the biological basis of learning; machine learning; learning technologies; and mathematical analyses and modeling of all of these. This growing body of knowledge is extending our understanding of learning and connecting learning research to the scientific, technological, educational, and workforce challenges of our time.

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