NSF BioFoundries to Enable Access to Infrastructure and Resources for Advancing Modern Biology and Biotechnology (BioFoundries)

Below is a summary assembled by the Research & Innovation Office (RIO). Please see the full solicitation for complete information about the funding opportunity.

Program Summary 

Grand challenge questions requiring a deeper understanding of biological systems and technologies are as diverse as life itself. Understanding the complexity of living systems and their interactions with human-derived products and processes, ensuring the safe, ethical and equitable access to and co-generation of knowledge and products, requires the sustained development of technologies, sophisticated instrumentation, workflow pipelines and their automation, and advanced computing that are beyond the capabilities found in the laboratories of individual investigators. Broad access to these tools, workflows, processes, and knowledge bases in a facility that is capable of bespoke design and process scale-up, in response to user needs, is essential for addressing grand challenges and translating the knowledge created into applications for the bioeconomy, to meet societal and national needs.

BioFoundries is an infrastructure program from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that is designed to accelerate advances in the biological sciences, chemical biology, biotechnology, and bioengineering via access to modern infrastructure, technology, and capacity. BioFoundries will provide the intellectual, technical, digital, and physical frameworks needed for tight integration of technology innovations and applications with foundational interdisciplinary research and training, by:

  1. serving as access points for new biological technologies, workflows, processes, automations, and knowledge-bases to enable transformative discoveries;
  2. catalyzing new innovations and transformative discoveries by supporting in-house and external user-initiated research programs that take full advantage of technological and methodological advances;
  3. continuing to develop novel technologies, workflows, processes, automations, and knowledge-bases that are both forward-looking and user-responsive;
  4. increasing the reproducibility of life science discoveries and data and knowledge sharing capabilities;
  5. training the next generation of the scientific workforce; and
  6. facilitating pathways to translation.

Leveraging lessons learned from existing national and international biofoundries, NSF encourages researchers to consider a diversity of models (centralized, distributed, consortium) in the design and implementation of BioFoundries. Each BioFoundry should enclose a scientific ecosystem, that includes in-house research scientists across all relevant disciplines supported by NSF, technical staff including cyberinfrastructure experts, external users, and other contributors who, collectively, form a community of practitioners and share tools, reagents, workflows, software, samples, and data. Knowledge sharing should be a central tenet, designed to strengthen collaborations among researchers and enable them to work in new ways and to foster new modalities of research and education/training, for the purpose of accelerating discovery and advancing development. BioFoundries should promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in their in-house programs and external user programs. BioFoundries should also promote new avenues for translating such knowledge and technology broadly in ways that benefit society.


CU Internal Deadline: 11:59pm MST June 26, 2023

Sponsor Letter of Intent Deadline: 5:00pm MST August 1, 2023

Sponsor Proposal Deadline: 5:00pm MST October 2, 2023

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format)

  • Project Description (3 pages maximum): Please reference the solicitation for full details and include the following components: 1) Senior Participant List; 2) Results from Prior NSF Support; 3)  Vision, Goals, and Rationale; 4) Research Program; 5) User Facility Operation Plans; 6) Technology Development; 7) Platform/Knowledge Sharing; 8) Education/Training; 9) Diversity Strategic Plan; 10) Partnerships and Translation; and 11) Management Plan
  • PI Curriculum Vitae
  • Budget Overview (1 page maximum): A basic budget outlining project costs is sufficient; detailed OCG budgets are not required.

To access the online application, visit: https://cuboulderovcr.secure-platform.com/a/solicitations/6879/home


Individuals may appear as Senior Personnel (Principal Investigator/Project Director, co-PI, and other faculty or equivalent with biographical sketches included in the proposal even though their names may not be listed on the proposal Cover Sheet) on only one proposal.

Limited Submission Guidelines

One (1) per organization as lead institution.

Award Information

Number of Awards: 2 - 4

Anticipated Amount: $15M - $24M

Project Period: 6 years

Review Criteria

In addition to the standard intellectual merit and broader impacts NSF review criteria, please note the solicitation-specific criteria below.

  • Vision, Goals, and Rationale: Does the science focus of the proposed BioFoundry address one or more grand challenge questions in biology, biotechnology, bioengineering or related field? To what extent will the vision for the BioFoundry, if realized, have a transformative impact upon the biosciences, biotechnology, and bioengineering and society as a whole? To what extent will the knowledge sharing, enabling activities, and education and training empower the community to make progress towards addressing the grand challenge and advancing NSF or national priorities?
  • Research: How well is the proposed in-house research focused and targeted to addressing a critical scientific challenge? How well are the research activities integrated with the technology development activities of the BioFoundry?
  • User Facility Operation: How well-conceived are the plans for the user facility operation (e.g., access modes, user proposal review and selection process, staffing, instrument time/resource allocation, user training, and safety, etc.)? How effective are the plans to enable access and the research and technology needs for a broad external user base?
  • Technology Development activities: To what extent do the proposed technology development activities have the potential to yield catalytic and transformative impact on the relevant disciplines? To what extent are the anticipated range of uses for the proposed technologies appropriate in scope and likely to be responsive to community needs? How appropriate are the plans for instrumentation acquisition and use? How well does the timetable for implementation account for possible technical bottlenecks? How comprehensive is the analysis of the risk and potential goals/aims associated with the technological development?
  • Platform/Knowledge Sharing: How substantially will the proposed BioFoundry contribute beyond current capabilities towards accelerating discovery and development, through development of new platforms and sharing of knowledge (tools, codes, samples, data, and know-how)? How effective will the knowledge sharing mechanisms likely be? Is there a reasonable plan for development of appropriate standards? How sound are the plans for the BioFoundry to take advantage of opportunities provided by the emerging data science?
  • Education/Training: o what extent will the Biofoundry serve as an educational focal point for training the next generation of researchers, technology developers, and users?
  • Diversity Plan: To what extent is the plan strategic and likely to meet the stated goals for participation by a diverse group of users (including those from groups that are underrepresented in STEM, and from a broad range of academic institutions in the United States, such as R1, non-R1, predominantly undergraduate, minority-serving, or EPSCoR institutions)?
  • Partnerships and Translation: How well will the proposed strategies for fostering translation and innovation meet the stated goals for users and key non-academic stakeholders, particularly in the context of intellectual property protection, licensing, entrepreneurship, partnerships, development and distribution of open-source tools, or other knowledge transfer paths?
  • Management plan: To what extent will the facility's Management Plan foster sound decisions in balancing the proposed research and technology development tools with the needs of the user community? What role will internal leadership and any external advisory groups play in the decision-making processes? How will decisions be made with regards to fostering and encouraging facility use by the external user community? How will decisions be made on the direction of the in-house research and technology development program with respect to allocation of resources, ability to initiate new lines of research and terminate support for lower priority efforts? What process will be employed for developing and implementing the strategic plan, including facility-wide data management and diversity plans? How well are funds distributed across the proposed activities of the BioFoundry?