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Research Matters

Limited Submission: Partnerships for Innovation (PFI)

This program offers researchers from science and engineering disciplines funded by NSF 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.


The Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) Program within the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) offers researchers from all disciplines of science and engineering funded by NSF 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.

PFI has five broad goals: (1) identifying and supporting NSF-sponsored research and technologies that have the potential for accelerated commercialization; (2) supporting 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; (3) promoting 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; (4) developing multi-disciplinary innovation ecosystems which involve and are responsive to the specific needs of academia and industry; (5) providing 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 in Section 601(c)(3) of the Act (Follow-on Grants), to support prototype or proof-of-concept development work by participants, including I-Corps participants, with innovations that because of the early stage of development are not eligible to participate in a Small Business Innovation Research Program or a Small Business Technology Transfer Program. Finally, PFI seeks to implement the mandate set by Congress in Section 102(c)(a) of the Act (Broader Impacts Review Criterion Update) by enhancing partnerships between academia and industry in the United States, and expanding the participation of women and individuals from underrepresented groups in innovation, technology translation, and entrepreneurship. 

This solicitation offers two broad tracks for proposals in pursuit of the aforementioned goals:

  1. The Technology Translation (PFI-TT) track offers the opportunity to translate prior NSF-funded research results in any field of science or engineering into technological innovations with promising commercial potential and societal impact. PFI-TT supports commercial potential demonstration projects for academic research outputs in any NSF-funded science and engineering discipline. This demonstration is achieved through proof-of-concept, prototyping, technology development and/or scale-up work. Concurrently, students and postdoctoral researchers who participate in PFI-TT projects receive education and leadership training in innovation and entrepreneurship. Successful PFI-TT projects generate technology-driven commercialization outcomes that address societal needs. This track is NOT limited.
  2. The Research Partnerships (PFI-RP) track seeks to achieve the same goals as the PFI-TT track by supporting instead complex, multi-faceted technology development projects that are typically beyond the scope of a single researcher or institution and require a multi-organizational, interdisciplinary, synergistic collaboration. A PFI-RP project requires the creation of partnerships between academic researchers and third-party organizations such as industry, non-academic research organizations, federal laboratories, public or non-profit technology transfer organizations or other universities. Such partnerships are needed to conduct applied research on a stand-alone larger project toward commercialization and societal impact. In the absence of such synergistic partnership, the project’s likelihood for success would be minimal.

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

Award Amount

  • PFI-TT: Upper $250,000 for 18-24 months
    • Estimated number of awards: 40-50
  • PFI-RP: Upper $550,000 for 36 months
    • Estimated number of awards: 10-15


  • The PI must have the technical skills required to lead and execute the proposed research project.
  • In addition to the PI, PFI-TT proposals must include a Senior Personnel or co-PI who brings technology commercialization experience in the targeted fields of application or industry sector. The technology commercialization expert must have an active role in the project.
  • PFI-RP proposals must include, without exception, a co-PI who is a member or employee of the required Industrial Partner organization. PFI-RP proposals without an Industrial Partner co-PI may be returned without review.
  • The technology commercialization expert cannot use NSF-funded time and effort to perform any “Objectives Not Responsive to this Solicitation” listed in Section II.E of this solicitation. However, the expert may participate in any mandatory I-Corps training that will be provided during the term of the PFI award. Additional collaborators or organizations that bring needed multidisciplinary expertise or commercialization experience may be involved as co-PI, Senior Personnel, Other Professional, subawardee, consultant, etc.
  • NSF Lineage Requirement: All proposals submitted to the PFI program must meet a lineage requirement under one of the following two paths: (1) NSF-supported research results, or (2) NSF-supported customer discovery results through the NSF I-Corps Teams Program.
    • NSF-supported research results in all fields of science and engineering: Principal Investigator (PI) or a co-PI must have had an NSF award that ended no more than seven (7) years prior to the full proposal deadline date or be a current NSF award recipient. The proposed technology development project must be derived from the research results and/or discoveries from this underlying NSF award.
    • NSF-supported customer discovery results through the NSF I-Corps Teams Program. The Principal Investigator (PI) or a co-PI must have been a member of an award under the NSF I-Corps Teams Program ( The PI or co-PI must have fully completed the training provided under the I-Corps Team award within the past four (4) years. The customer discovery activities performed under the NSF-funded I-Corps award must be based on the technology that is proposed to be translated within the PFI proposal.
  • The following programs do not meet the NSF Lineage Requirement: the I-Corps Nodes award, training at an NSF I-Corps Site, any I-Corps-related training imparted by federal agencies or organizations other than NSF, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), Research Experiences for Teachers (RET), the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), SBIR/STTR, and any prior PFI award.
  • A PI or co-PI may submit up to two (2) proposals to each solicitation deadline. These could be two (2) proposals to PFI-TT or one (1) proposal each to PFI-TT and PFI-RP, subject to the organizational limits described above. A PI or co-PI will not receive more than one (1) award per solicitation deadline. PIs with currently active PFI awards are requested to complete their then-current project before submitting a new PFI proposal. Any duplicate, substantially similar or equivalent proposal submitted concurrently for review to the solicitation will be returned without review.
  • A PI or co-PI may resubmit a proposal that was previously declined under a previous PFI solicitation or under a previous submission deadline in this solicitation; however, the new proposal must be significantly improved and be responsive to the major comments or concerns resulting from the prior NSF review. A resubmission must include a supplemental document that includes the previous proposal number, a summary of the NSF reviewers’ comments and the PI’s response to those comments (see Section V.A.J. below). The revised proposal will be subject to a new NSF merit review.

Selection Criteria

  • NSF Lineage Requirement: The merits of the prior research and/or customer discovery results. To what extent do they support the assertion that the technology is ready to move beyond the basic research phase, and that the translational research proposed has the potential to be successful?
  • The strength of the discussion of the market/societal need and how the innovation has the potential to offer a competitive solution or competitive advantage. (Note: strong Letter(s) of Support can help substantiate this). The quality of the discussion about the Intellectual Property landscape.
  • The demonstrated understanding of the technology barriers or knowledge gaps.
  • The merits of the proposed translational research to overcome the identified technological hurdles and knowledge gaps.
  • The quality of the strategy for a path toward commercialization.
  • The team’s capabilities to successfully complete the project, including the qualifications of the students/postdoctoral researchers and the technology commercialization expert.
  • The intellectual merit and broader impacts of the education and leadership development plan for graduate students and/or postdoctoral researchers (evaluate the merits of the stated learning objectives and outcomes).
  • The effectiveness of the assessment plan and the relevance of the proposer’s metrics to the anticipated results.
  • The reasonableness of the budget and budget justification that indicate how and where the requested funds will be spent. Note, if there is an insignificant research component (i.e., most of the work is to generate a business plan or to understand market need), the proposal may be returned without review.
  • The merits of the broadening participation plan to foster the inclusion of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in the proposed technology translation and in future commercialization endeavors.
  • The merits and appropriateness of the proposed partnership, and its role in catalyzing the technical, commercialization and educational objectives of the project.
  • The commitment of the proposed partners in reaching the stated goals of the proposal.
  • The commitment of the Industrial Partner to the commercialization of the technology beyond the term of the PFI award.

Limitation Details

An Institution may submit one PFI-RP proposals. There is no limit on the number of PFI-TT proposals an organization may submit, therefore, an internal application is not required for PFI-TT proposals.

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, track for which you are submitting (Technology Research Partnerships (PFI-RP) track), and title of your proposal
    • Your name, UGA position, home department, email, and UGA contact information
    • Collaborator names, positions, and institutions (if any)
    • Indicate whether or not you have submitted to this program in the past. If so, please provide a copy of the review at the end of the internal application.
  • A (maximum two-page) proposal summary that addresses the specific review criteria listed above.
  • One paragraph describing why this proposal should be UGA’s submission (i.e., why it will be the most competitive for this program)
  • Curriculum vitae

Internal Selection

Limited Submission announcements often generate multiple competing proposals.  UGA reviewers judge proposals as they would in any peer review process, so PIs are urged to put their best foot forward.  Along with typical criteria, reviewers will evaluate internal proposals based on their fit with the sponsor’s articulated goals and criteria.

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

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

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