NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program

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

RIO solicits campus input for research equipment or instrumentation needs currently not being met.

If you are applying as a subaward, you must contact ltdsubs@colorado.edu, per NSF subaward guidelines. Note the cost-share requirements detailed in the Award Information section below.

Program Summary 

The Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program serves to increase access to multi-user scientific and engineering instrumentation for research and research training in our Nation's institutions of higher education and not-for-profit scientific/engineering research organizations. An MRI award supports the acquisition or development of a multi-user research instrument that is, in general, too costly and/or not appropriate for support through other NSF programs.

MRI provides support to acquire critical research instrumentation without which advances in fundamental science and engineering research may not otherwise occur. MRI also provides support to develop next-generation research instruments that open new opportunities to advance the frontiers in science and engineering research. Additionally, an MRI award is expected to enhance research training of students who will become the next generation of instrument users, designers and builders.

The MRI Program especially seeks broad representation of PIs in its award portfolio, including women, underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities. Since demographic diversity may be greater among early-career researchers the MRI program also encourages proposals with early-career PIs and proposals that benefit early-career researchers.

Statements have been added to emphasize that an MRI research instrument need not be physically located in a conventional laboratory setting, nor does an instrument need to be physical at all. MRI continues to support distributed/networked instruments and cyberinstrumentation that is not appropriate for support through other NSF programs.

Deadlines

CU Internal Application Deadline: 11:59pm MST October 31, 2022

Sponsor Application Deadline: January 19, 2023

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format)

  • Type of Proposal: Track 1 or Track 2
  • Project Description (3 pages maximum): Please provide a project summary (instrument type and location, research activities to be enabled, research equipment/instrument and needs description, instrument management information, etc.), making sure to address the intellectual merits and broader impacts of the proposed effort.
  • Data Management Plan (1 page maximum): Please detail how much data will be created by the instrument and what plans exist on sharing, storing and analyzing the data.
  • PI Biosketch / CV
  • Budget Overview (1 page maximum): A basic budget outlining project costs is sufficient; detailed OCG budgets are not required. Applicants must include the source of cost-share/matching funds in this budget overview and provide the name(s) from whom they have received commitments of matching support. Quotes for equipment and instrumentation should be added as supplements (not counting towards the 1 page requirement) and will help with cost-share/matching estimates.
  • Cost-Share Certification: Applicants must certify that they have confirmed cost-share commitments as part of the internal process and provide the name(s) of those who have committed in the budget overview. See RIO guidance for additional details.

To access the online application, visit: https://cuboulderovcr.secure-platform.com/a/solicitations/6775/home

Eligibility

There are no special eligibility requirements.

Limited Submission Guidelines

The number of MRI proposal submissions allowed per institution continues to be a maximum of three, but is now based on the dollar value of the amount requested from NSF; no more than two submissions are permitted in a newly-defined Track 1 (Track 1 proposals are those requesting from NSF $100,000[1] to less than $1 million) and no more than one submission is permitted in a newly defined Track 2 (Track 2 proposals are those requesting from NSF $1 million up to and including $4 million).

Award Information and Duration

An MRI proposal may request up to $4 million for either acquisition or development of a research instrument. Each performing organization is now limited to a maximum of three proposals in “Tracks” as defined below, with no more than two submissions in Track 1 and no more than one submission in Track 2.

  • Track 1: Track 1 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $100,000 and less than $1,000,000.
  • Track 2: Track 2 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $1,000,000 up to and including $4,000,000.

Award Duration:

  • Acquisition Proposals: Up to 3 years
  • Development Proposals: Up to 5 years

Number of Awards: Up to 150 (1/3 of awards are expected to support Track 2 awards)

Please note that cost sharing of precisely 30% of the total project cost is required for PhD-granting institutions of higher education and for non-degree granting organizations. Applicants must certify that they have confirmed cost-share commitments as part of the internal process and provide the name(s) of those who have committed. See RIO guidance for additional details.

Review Criteria

In addition to NSF’s standard evaluation intellectual merit and broader impacts criteria, reviewers will assess the following:

All Proposals:

  • The extent to which the proposed project will make a substantial improvement in the organization's capabilities to conduct leading-edge research, to provide research experiences for undergraduate students using leading-edge capabilities, and to broaden the participation in science and engineering research (especially as lead PIs) by women, underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities and/or early-career investigators.

Instrument Acquisition Proposals:

  • The extent to which the instrument is used for multi-user, shared-use research and/or research training.
  • Whether the management plan demonstrates sufficient commitment and technical expertise for effective scheduling and usage of the instrument.
  • The organization's commitment to ensuring successful operations and maintenance over the expected lifetime of the instrument.
  • Whether the research to be enabled is compelling and justifies the instrument request.
  • Whether the budget request is appropriate and well justified.
  • if student involvement is in the form of direct support for operations and maintenance of the instrument, reviewers will be asked to evaluate the involvement in terms of both instrument needs and the training of the next generation of instrumentalists.
  • For instrument acquisition proposals of $1 million or above, the potential impact of the instrument on the research community of interest at the regional or national level, if appropriate.

Instrument Development Proposals:

  • The appropriateness of submission as a development proposal.
  • The need for development of a new instrument. Will the proposed instrument enable enhanced performance over existing instruments, or new types of measurement or information gathering? Is there a strong need for the new instrument in the larger user community to advance new frontiers of research?
  • The adequacy of the project’s management plan. Does the plan have a realistic schedule that is described in sufficient detail to be assessed? Are mechanisms described to mitigate and deal with potential risks?
  • The availability of appropriate technical expertise to design and construct the instrument. If direct support for student involvement in development efforts is requested, reviewers will be asked to evaluate the involvement in terms of both project needs and training the next generation of instrumentalists.
  • The appropriateness of the cost of the new technology.