NSF Partnerships for Innovation – Research Partnerships (PFI-RP)

Please see the full solicitation for complete information about the funding opportunity. Below is a summary assembled by the Research & Innovation Office (RIO). This limited competition is for the PFI-Research Partnerships (PFI-RP) track. There is no limit on the number of proposals to be submitted for the PFI-Technology Translation track. 

Program Summary 

The Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) Program 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.

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 use-inspired 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.

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

Evidence of market potential must be substantiated by at least one, but not more than three, Letter(s) of Support from a potential commercialization partner (an entity interested in potentially partnering in the development, scale-up, manufacturing or sale of the future product or service) who is not a funded partner on the proposed project. The Letter(s) of Support must provide a specific discussion of the commercial potential and societal value of the proposed technology in a particular market segment and serves to provide a measure of external market validation of the proposed project. The Letter(s) of Support could also come from potential users (customers) of the proposed process, product or service.


CU Internal Deadline: 11:59pm MST August 2, 2023

Sponsor Application Deadline: 5:00pm MST September 5, 2023

Internal Application Requirements (all in PDF format)

  • Project Summary (3 pages maximum): Please address the following: societal need and the customer, value proposition, innovation description, partnerships, training and leadership development in innovation and entrepreneurship, NSF lineage (provide NSF award number and project title). Make sure to include a description of the required industrial partner. (See the NSF solicitation for a full description of these components).
  • Project Team (2 pages maximum): Describe: 1) all (internal and external) team members and the qualifications they bring to the project; and 2) the co-PI, who is a member or employee of the Industrial Partner and how they will help achieve goals.
  • 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/6892/home


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.

NSF Lineage Requirement: All proposals submitted to the PFI program must meet a lineage requirement by having NSF-supported research results. 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.

Limited Submission Guidelines

An organization may submit no more than one (1) proposal to the PFI-RP track per submission deadline.

Award Information

Award Amount: Up to $1M per award

Award Duration: 36 months

Anticipated Number of Awards: 10-20

Review Criteria

In making the final award decisions, NSF also may consider the following:

  • Geographic distribution and diversity of academic institutions.
  • Distribution of technology or industry sectors served.

Additional Review Criteria:

  • NSF Lineage Requirement: The merits of the prior research. 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.

Additional Review Criteria for Evaluating Partnerships:

  • 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.