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NSF 10-044

Dear Colleague Letter: Supplemental Opportunity for Translational Research in the Academic Community (TRAC)

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Date: March 10, 2010
To: NSF Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) GRANTEES
From: Dr. Steven McKnight, Division Director
Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (ENG/CMMI)
  Dr. John McGrath, Division Director
Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (ENG/CBET)
  Dr. Robert Trew, Division Director
Division of Electrical, Communications & Cyber Systems (ENG/EECS)
  Dr. Kesh Narayanan, Division Director
Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (ENG/IIP)
  Dr. Tom Peterson, Assistant Director
Directorate for Engineering (ENG)
Re: Supplemental Opportunity for TRAC

Dear Colleagues:

We invite supplemental requests from PIs with current NSF Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) awards to compete for Translational Research in the Academic Community (TRAC) to strengthen innovation resulting from NSF-funded research.  For the purpose of this Dear Colleague Letter, innovation is defined as the implementation of technology resulting from research as new products, processes, etc., in the marketplace or to benefit society more generally. This opportunity is aimed at enabling researchers in the academic community to begin the translation of their fundamental, leading-edge research to the next phase via additional funding of translational research opportunities that launch their ideas towards proof-of-concept. TRAC is intended as an extension of NSF’s fundamental research programs.  Successful use of this funding might lead to eventual licensing, competition for SBIR/STTR funding and/or venture capital or strategic partner funding. 


The goal of fundamental research in science and engineering is the discovery of new knowledge.  At the same time, there is an expectation that some of these discoveries will lay the foundation for new innovations that may eventually be used to develop new products and processes.  However, for a discovery to be successfully translated into a new product or process and attract the sponsorship of or additional support from the commercial/government practitioner communities, the champions of the technology must be able to identify and communicate a development plan linking the concepts at the fundamental level with feasible application scenarios.  Often this means additional research in the form of prototyping, proof of concept tests and/or scale-up or implementation.   To facilitate this objective, the TRAC program provides targeted resources to researchers aimed at translating fundamental research into commercial applications.  Existing NSF GOALI grantees whose research results have commercial potential can compete for support to help position their technology for translation. Funds will be provided for product or process definition, design, and testing. 

Intent to Submit a Supplement Request Deadline: A letter of intent (LOI) to submit a supplement request is requested by April 30, 2010. The LOI must include the original award ID, and must be emailed to the specific NSF program officer who handles the GOALI award in the Engineering Directorate. In addition, the LOI must be emailed to the program directors listed under “Additional Information” below.

Supplement Deadline: Supplement requests must be submitted via FastLane on or before June 1, 2010 by 5:00 PM, submitter’s local time.

PI Eligibility: All active NSF GOALI grantees in the Engineering Directorate.

Anticipated Type of Award: Supplement to an existing GOALI award from the Engineering Directorate.

Estimated Number of Awards: Approximately 12 supplement awards will be made.

Anticipated Funding Amount: Supplement awards may be made for up to 24 months and up to $200,000 each pending the availability of funds.

Limit on the number of supplements: One per eligible grantee.

Supplement Preparation and Submission Instructions: Supplemental funding requests must be submitted via the NSF FastLane system.

Before submitting a TRAC supplemental request, each eligible grantee must identify and contact the specific NSF program officer in the Engineering Directorate who handles the existing GOALI award. Each grantee should discuss his/her supplement with the program officer to find out if the proposed project is within the scope of the program.

The first line for the supplement description must include the words “TRAC” followed by the title of your project.  Proposals for supplemental funding must be submitted through FastLane as a supplement.  Call the FastLane Help Desk at 1-800-673-6188 or e-mail for user support. The FastLane Help Desk answers general technical questions related to the use of the FastLane system. When contacting FastLane, inform the technician that you are required to apply for this opportunity as a supplement.

The supplemental proposal must be limited to fifteen pages.  The supplement must follow the guidelines outlined below.

All six categories (in BOLD) must be covered in the proposal; however, it is not necessary that each and every question under each of the first five categories be answered. Proposals not following these instructions will be returned without review.

  1. Project Summary (one page limit)

  2. Description of the Innovation

    • Technical Concept
      • What is the proposed innovation?  What problem is being solved by the innovation? How does it relate to the fundamental science already being developed with the existing award? Will there be a cost benefit, a performance benefit, or both for the proposed product/process?
    • Current Status
      • In what stage is the development: proof-of-principle, proof-of-concept, prototype (alpha, beta), etc.?  
    • IP Status
      • What is the status of current IP: know-how gained, trade secret developed, invention disclosure submitted, patent application filed, & license agreement executed?
    • Competitive Technologies
      • What are the existing competitive technologies? How do they compare to or threaten the proposed technology? 
  1. Plan
    • Technical
      • How will the funds be used to reduce technical risk? What materials will be used? What process? What experiments/simulations will be done? What are the technical challenges? What is the planned status of the innovation at completion (proof-of-concept, prototype, etc.)? What are the project timeline and deliverables?
    • Marketing
      • What is the preliminary assessment of the market? How big is the market? Who will use the product/process? Why does the customer need this product/process?
    • Financial
      • What is the preliminary financial plan? Will there be further R&D costs? What is the estimated cost or cost reduction for the product/process over the established one?
    • Manufacturing
      • What is the preliminary manufacturing plan? Will new equipment need to be developed? Are the raw materials available?
  1. Other Considerations (not required but include if they have been or will be addressed)
    • Strategic Partner(s)
      • What is their role? How will they contribute? How will they benefit?
    • Value Chain
      • How will customers be accessed?
    • Channels of Distribution
      • Will the product be distributed through direct sales, distributors, etc.?
    • Marketing
      • What is the plan for market-entry? How will the proposed product/process be advertised? What is the plan to grow the market share?
  1. Education Impact
    • What are the detailed plans for involvement of undergraduate, graduate students and post-docs? How will they enhance their knowledge of innovation?
  1.  Budget (three-page limit)
    • Include budget and budget justification
      • How and where will the requested money be spent (product definition, design, testing, etc.)? How many researchers will be supported? Will there be any travel?

Review: All supplements submitted in response to this Dear Colleague Letter will be subjected to ad-hoc and/or panel review.

TRAC REVIEW Criteria: The Review Criteria include Intellectual Merit (IM) and Broader Impacts (BI), where it is understood that the innovation impact of a successful translation of technology to commercial enterprise is its benefit to the overall health of the economy.  Beyond the IM and BI, the following additional criteria will be used in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the TRAC supplemental request.

  • Industry support letter
  • Reviewers will be asked to evaluate the measurable industry collaboration (degree and extent to which industry appears to be involved with the proposed research)
  • Structured communication between the industry and academic partners
  • Quality of collaborative interaction (historical and planned)
  • Frequency of future interactions between the industry and academic partners
  • Planned technical performance goals associated with milestones, objectives and timelines
  • Team qualifications and experience


Plans for post-award monitoring and assessment may include such elements as:

  • Semi-annual reports from PIs with awards from this DCL
  • Site visits, external evaluation and/or teleconference

Additional Information:  Please contact one of the following program officials if you have questions about the TRAC Dear Colleague Letter.

Rathindra DasGupta
Cheryl Albus
Rose Wesson
George Antos
Mary Toney
Bruce Kramer
Barb Kenny
Deborah Jackson
Paul Werbos
George Maracas

IUCRC Program Director
SBIR Program Director
CBET Program Director
CBET Program Director
CMMI Program Director
CMMI Senior Advisor
EEC Program Director
EEC Program Director
ECCS Program Director
ECCS Program Director

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