Partnerships for Innovation


The Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) Program within the Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) offers researchers from all NSF-funded disciplines of science and engineering the opportunity to perform translational research and technology development, catalyze partnerships and accelerate the transition of discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace for societal benefit.

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PFI has five broad goals, as set forth by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017 (AICA):

  • Identify and support NSF-sponsored research and technologies that have the potential for accelerated commercialization;
  • Support prior or current NSF-sponsored investigators, institutions of higher education, and non-profit organizations that partner with an institution of higher education in undertaking proof-of concept work, including the development of technology prototypes that are derived from NSF-sponsored research and have potential market value;
  • Promote sustainable partnerships between NSF-funded institutions, industry, and other organizations within academia and the private sector with the purpose of accelerating the transfer of technology;
  • Develop multi-disciplinary innovation ecosystems which involve and are responsive to the specific needs of academia and industry; and
  • Provide professional development, mentoring, and advice in entrepreneurship, project management, and technology and business development to innovators.

In addition, PFI responds to the mandate set by Congress through AICA to support prototype or proof-of-concept development work by participants, including I-Corps™ participants. Because of the early stage of development, PFI participants are not yet ready to form a company to apply for the Small Business Innovation Research Program or a Small Business Technology Transfer program.

Finally, PFI seeks to implement the mandate set by Congress through AICA by enhancing partnerships between academia and industry in the United States and expanding the participation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in innovation, technology translation, and entrepreneurship.

Intended outcomes

The intended outcomes of PFI are:

  • the commercialization of new intellectual property derived from NSF-funded research outputs;
  • the creation of new or broader collaborations with industry (including increased corporate sponsored research);
  • the licensing of NSF-funded research outputs to third party corporations or to start-up companies funded by a PFI team; and
  • the training of future innovation and entrepreneurship leaders.

Past programs

NSF has three PFI-related programs that currently have grantees but are no longer accepting proposals. These programs have been subsumed into the current PFI program.

  • Accelerating Innovation Research - Research Alliance (PFI:AIR-RA) helped 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) supported 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.
  • Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) supported academe-industry partnerships to carry out research to advance, adapt, and integrate technology into a specified, human-centered smart service system.