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University of Wisconsin–Madison

NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program 2024

To:Chairs and Administrators, Departments in the Biological, Physical, & Social Sciences; Associate Deans for Research; College/School Research Administrators
From:Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Graduate Education
Date:July 10, 2023
Subject:NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program: NSF 23-519


Deadline for Internal Review:August 14, 2023

Project Description

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 of a multi-user research instrument that is commercially available through direct purchase from a vendor, or for the personnel costs and equipment that are required for the development of an instrument with new capabilities, thereby advancing instrumentation capabilities and enhancing expertise for instrument design and fabrication at academic institutions. MRI instruments are, 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.

An MRI proposal may request from NSF up to $4 million for either acquisition or development of a research instrument. Each performing organization must submit in revised “Tracks” as defined below, with no more than two submissions in Track 1 and no more than one submission in Track 2. For the newly defined Track 3, no more than one submission per competition is permitted. As a result, it is now possible for an institution to submit up to four MRI proposals within the Track limits as described above.

  • Track 1 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $100,0001 and less than $1,400,000.
  • Track 2: Track 2 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $1,400,000 up to and including $4,000,000.
  • Track 3 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $100,000 and less than or equal to $4,000,000 for requests that include the purchase, installation, operation, and maintenance of equipment and instrumentation to reduce consumption of helium.


Amount per Award: $100,000 – $4 million
Duration of Award: 1 Year
Estimated Number of Awards: 100

It is anticipated that approximately $75 million will be available for new awards, pending availability of funds and numbers/quality of proposals, with approximately 1/4 of the available MRI funding expected to support Track 2 awards. NSF strongly encourages MRI proposals that seek to develop next-generation research instruments that open new frontiers of research; therefore up to 1/3 of the MRI awards are expected to support instrument development in either track; within their submission limit, organizations are encouraged to submit proposals for innovative development projects.

Cost sharing requirements for new awards in the MRI Program are waived for a period of 5 years beginning with the FY 2023 MRI competition. Institutional submission limits for Track 1, Track 2 and Track 3 proposals remain.


The number of MRI proposal submissions allowed per institution is a maximum of four. No more than two submissions are permitted in Track 1, no more than one submission is permitted in Track 2, and no more than one application is permitted in Track 3. Proposal submissions within the three tracks may be either for acquisition or development of a research instrument. The MRI Program especially seeks broad representation of groups, institutions, and geographic regions that are underrepresented in STEM disciplines. Proposals from women, underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities and early-career PIs are encouraged, as are proposals that benefit early-career researchers and proposals with PIs from geographically under-served regions, including EPSCoR jurisdictions.


Internal Competition Application Instructions

Applications for Internal Review

To submit your application, attach a single PDF to an email to:

Please include the following information:

  • Full Contact information for PI & Co-PIs
  • Indicate which Track you are applying to and whether your project is Acquisition or Development
  • 2-3 page description of the proposed instrumentation, the need for the instrumentation, and the faculty/staff programs impacted

Sponsor Deadlines

Applications are due to NSF by November 15, 2023.