Limited Submission: Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI)

The Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI) serves to increase access to shared scientific and engineering instruments for research and research training in our Nation’s institutions of higher education, not-for-profit museums, science centers and scientific/engineering research organizations. The program provides organizations with opportunities to acquire major instrumentation that supports the research and research training goals of the organization and that may be used by other researchers regionally or nationally.

Each MRI proposal may request support for the acquisition (Track 1) or development (Track 2) of a single research instrument for shared inter- and/or intra-organizational use. Development efforts that leverage the strengths of private sector partners to build instrument development capacity at MRI submission-eligible organizations are encouraged.

The MRI program assists with the acquisition or development of a shared research instrument that is, in general, too costly and/or not appropriate for support through other NSF programs. The program does not fund research projects or provide ongoing support for operating or maintaining facilities or centers.

The instrument acquired or developed is expected to be operational for regular research use by the end of the award period. For the purposes of the MRI program, a proposal must be for either acquisition (Track 1) or development (Track 2) of a single, well-integrated instrument. The MRI program does not support the acquisition or development of a suite of instruments to outfit research laboratories or facilities, or that can be used to conduct independent research activities simultaneously.

The participating NSF components are the Office of Integrative Activities (OIA); the Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO); the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE); the Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR); the Directorate for Engineering (ENG); the Directorate for Geosciences (GEO); the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS); and the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE).

Please read the full program announcement before preparing your internal application.

Award Amount

  • Upper $4,000,000 USD
  • Lower $1,000,000 USD

Anticipated type of award is Standard Grant. The estimated number of awards is 160. Anticipated Funding Amount is $75,000,000. Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation will be competing for about $75 million, pending availability of funds and quality of proposals. Up to $30 million of these funds will be available to support proposals requesting $1-$4 million from NSF, depending on overall proposal pressure and quality.

Instrument acquisition or development proposals that request funds from NSF in the range $100,000-$4 million may be accepted from any MRI-eligible organization. Proposals that request funds from NSF less than $100,000 may also be accepted from any MRI-eligible organization for the disciplines of mathematics or social, behavioral and economic sciences and from non-Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education for all NSF-supported disciplines.

Cost-sharing of precisely 30% of the total project cost is required for Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education and for non-degree-granting organizations. Non-Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education are exempt from cost-sharing and cannot include it. National Science Board policy is that voluntary committed cost sharing is prohibited.


  • Proposals may only be submitted by organizations located in the United States, its territories or possessions, as follows:
    • Institutions of higher education (Ph.D.-granting and non-Ph.D.-granting), acting on behalf of their faculty members, that are accredited in and have a campus in the United States, its territories or possessions. Distinct academic campuses (e.g., that award their own degrees, have independent administrative structures, admissions policies, alumni associations, etc.) within multi-campus systems qualify as separate submission-eligible institutions.
    • Not-for-profit, non-degree-granting domestic U.S. organizations, acting on behalf of their employees, that include (but are not limited to) independent museums and science centers, observatories, research laboratories, professional societies, and similar organizations that are directly associated with the Nation’s research or educational activities. These organizations must have an independent, permanent administrative organization (e.g., an office of sponsored research) located in the United States, its territories or possessions, and have 501(c)(3) tax status.
    • To facilitate access to unique instrumentation for a broad user base of U.S. scientists and engineers, and to encourage collaboration and sharing of state-of-the-art instrumentation, the MRI program accepts proposals from consortia of organizations. Consortium proposals may be submitted as follows:
      • Legally incorporated, not-for-profit consortia including two or more submission-eligible organizations as described in items (1) and (2) above may submit proposals on behalf of the consortium. The cover sheet must clearly indicate the consortium nature of the proposal in the title. Such a consortium is one with an independent administrative structure (e.g., an office of sponsored research) located in the United States, its territories or possessions and 501(c)(3) status.
      • Submission-eligible organizations as described in items (1) and (2) above may submit proposals on behalf of other consortia. The cover sheet must clearly indicate the consortium nature of the proposal in the title, and it must identify a PI and co-PI(s) from at least two MRI submission-eligible organizations participating in the consortium. These consortium proposals may also include as partners U.S. organizations that are not eligible to submit MRI proposals.
    • Commercial U.S. organizations, especially small businesses with strong capabilities in scientific or engineering research or education, are eligible for instrument development support only through subawards as private sector partners with submitting organizations; they may not submit proposals. Such partnerships must be substantive and meaningful, and build capacity for instrument development within MRI submission-eligible organization(s). Title to the resulting instrument should be retained by the submitting organization(s). Commercial organizations must be based in the United States, its territories or possessions.
  • Prospective PIs may contact the cognizant MRI program officers regarding organizational eligibility, and for information on other NSF funding opportunities for instrumentation; see also Section IX for a list of related NSF programs for research instrumentation.
  • Additionally:
    • MREFC-related Proposals: The MRI program will not accept proposals for an instrument that augments an NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) project if that project is not receiving operations funding outside of the MREFC account.
    • FFRDC-related Proposals: Proposals for the acquisition or development of an instrument to be located at a facility of another Federal agency or one of their Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) must be submitted as a consortium proposal by an MRI submission-eligible organization as described in item 3(b) above. The proposal must include the facility/FFRDC (or its managing organization) as a partner in the consortium, even if the role of the FFRDC in the project is solely to house the instrument. The instruments must make unique contributions to the needs of researchers elsewhere or establish access to new multi-user facilities. The current list of FFRDCs can be found at: Preliminary inquiry to the cognizant MRI point of contact should be made before preparing a proposal for submission.
  • All MRI eligible organizations belong to one of the following three categories:
    • Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education are accredited colleges and universities that have awarded more than 20 Ph.D.s or D.Sci.s in all NSF-supported fields during the combined previous two academic years. Additionally, any organization that awards Ph.D. or D.Sci. in NSF-supported fields is considered to be a Ph.D.-granting institution if the only degrees it awards in NSF-supported fields are post-Bachelor’s degrees.
    • Non-Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education are accredited colleges and universities (including two-year community colleges) that award Associate’s degrees, Bachelor’s degrees, and/or Master’s degrees in NSF-supported fields, but have awarded 20 or fewer Ph.D./D.Sci. degrees in all NSF-supported fields during the combined previous two academic years.
    • Non-degree-granting organizations are those that do not award Associate’s degrees, Bachelor’s degrees, Master’s degrees, and/or Ph.D.s or D.Sci.s. Non-degree-granting organizations also include institutions of higher education that award all of their degrees outside of NSF-supported fields.

Limitation Details

The limit on number of proposals per organization is three as described below. If three proposals are submitted, at least one of the proposals must be for (Track 2) instrument development (i.e., no more than two proposals may be for [Track 1] instrument acquisition).

If you are interested in submitting for this program, you must first submit an internal application to according to the required instructions below.

Internal Applications must include the following:

  • A cover page listing
    • The name of this funding opportunity and title of your proposal
    • The proposal’s Track (Track 1: Instrument Acquisition or Track 2: Instrument Development)
    • Principal Investigator name, UGA position, and UGA office contact information
    • Collaborator names, positions, and institutions
  • A maximum three-page description of need and rationale for the instrument to be developed or acquired, including estimated total cost.
  • One paragraph describing why this proposal should be one of UGA’s submissions (i.e., why it will be the most competitive for this program)

Internal Submission Instructions

The above internal application materials should be submitted via email as a single .PDF file to by the internal deadline listed above.


Please submit questions regarding the internal competition to Lauren Sisko at

For questions directly related to this program, please contact the following program officers:

Office of Integrative Activities
Major Research Instrumentation Program
National Science Foundation, Room 935
4201 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22230
(703) 292-8040



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