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Limited Submission Internal Deadline: NSF Partnerships for Innovation (PFI)

April 5 @ 5:00 pm

Limited Submissions: Internal Call for Proposals

National Science Foundation 

Partnerships for Innovation (PFI)
UNC Internal Deadline: 11:59PM, Monday, April 5, 2021

*Please distribute to relevant faculty*


Key Dates


UNC Internal Deadline: 11:59PM, Monday, April 5, 2021

NSF Full Proposal Deadline: July 14, 2021

Important Information

  • An organization may not submit more than one (1) new or resubmitted PFI-RP proposal to a deadline of this solicitation.
  • Resubmission of significantly improved revisions of a previously declined PFI proposal is strongly encouraged.
  • The PFI program has an NSF Lineage Requirement under one of the following two paths: (1) NSF-supported research results or (2) NSF-supported customer discovery results through the NSF Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) Teams program. The NSF lineage requirement applies now to both proposal tracks PFI-TT and PFI-RP. The only allowed exception is for resubmission of PFI-RP proposals previously declined under solicitation NSF 18-511. An I-Corps Node award, training at an NSF I-Corps Site, or any I-Corps-related training imparted by federal agencies and organizations other than NSF do not meet the NSF Lineage Requirement.

To Apply

Submit the following (in ONE .pdf) to by 11:59PM, Monday, April 5, 2021.

  1. Cover Page: Name, Department, Contact Information, Track, and Project Title
  2. Project Description (4-page maximum)
  3. PI/co-PI team member’s NSF-formatted Biosketch (2 maximum)
  4. List of potential collaborators (internal and external to UNC)
  5. Names (along with title, department, and email) of three internal (to UNC) experts who could speak knowledgeably about the candidate’s research and who could potentially serve on an internal review panel.
    • Please do not include the names of faculty named on the project, chairs, deans, directors, direct reports, or others who have a conflict of interest. 
    • Please notify all potential internal reviewers before submitting the pre-proposal packet to ORD. 

Award Information

PFI-TT projects will be funded for up to $250,000 for 18-24 months per award; approximately 40-50 awards are anticipated. PFI-RP projects will be funded for up to $550,000 for 36 months. Approximately 10-15 awards are anticipated.

Program Overview

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, as set forth by the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017 (“the Act”, S.3084 — 114th CongressSec. 602. Translational Research Grants):

  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.

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

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.

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.

The intended outcomes of both PFI-TT and PFI-RP tracks 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.

WEBINARS: Webinars will be held to answer questions about the solicitation. Registration will be available on the NSF Partnerships for Innovation website ( Potential proposers and their partners are encouraged to attend.


Review Elements

All PFI proposals must address the following five elements. Please view the NSF solicitation for additional details.

  1. Technology Development 
  2. Demonstration of Commercialization Potential 
  3. Partnerships 
  4. Education and Leadership Development in Innovation and Entrepreneurship 
  5. Broadening Participation 

Additional Information

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.

  1. 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.


  1. NSF-supported customer discovery results through the NSF I-Corps TeamsProgram. 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.


NSF Solicitation:  


WEBINARS: Webinars will be held to answer questions about the solicitation. Registration will be available on the NSF Partnerships for Innovation website ( Potential proposers and their partners are encouraged to attend.



For additional information, please contact the Limited Submissions Team with questions at


Limited Submissions Team

Office of Research Development

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

308 Bynum Hall

Chapel Hill, NC 27599

(919) 962-7503


April 5
5:00 pm