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University of Wisconsin–Madison

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

To:Chairs and Administrators, Departments in the Biological and Physical Sciences; Associate Deans for Research; College/School Research Administrators
From:Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research
Date:February 06, 2024
Subject:NSF Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) 23-538


Deadline for Internal Review:March 05, 2024

Project Description

You will only need to submit your project for internal review if you are pursuing the Research Partnerships (PFI-RP) track

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, Technology Translation (PFI-TT) and Research Partnerships (PFI-RP), for proposals in pursuit of the aforementioned goals.

The Research Partnerships (PFI-RP) track supports 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 development and 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 founded by a PFI team; and d) the training of future leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship.

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

Comparative Requirements of PFI-TT and PFI-RP Proposals

Proposal Item



Funding: Up to $550,000 per award Up to $1,000,000 per award
Award term 18-24 months 36 months
Who May Submit Proposals All eligible organizations All eligible organizations
Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization None One proposal per submission deadline
Limit on Number of Proposals per PI or Co-PI 2 PFI-TT, or 1 PFI-TT and 1 PFI-RP 1 PFI-RP, or 1 PFI-TT and 1 PFI-RP
NSF Lineage Requirement Yes Yes
Industrial Partner Encouraged but not required Required
Research Partner Encouraged but not required Strongly encouraged
Collaborative Research Agreement (CRA) Submitting organization’s AOR must determine whether a CRA is needed. Required for Industrial Partner and Research Partners

PFI-RP projects:

Amount per Award: Up to $1,000,000
Duration of Award: 3 Years
Number of Awards: 10-20 Awards


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.

An organization may not submit more than one (1) new or resubmitted PFI-RP proposal to a deadline of this solicitation

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

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.

The following programs do not meet the NSF Lineage Requirement: I-Corps Team award, I-Corps Nodes award, training at an NSF I-Corps Site, any I-Corps-related training imparted by federal agencies or organizations other than NSF, Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), Research Experiences for Teachers (RET), the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP), SBIR/STTR, and any prior PFI award.

The PFI program strongly encourages projects with NSF Lineage aligned with one or more of the 10 NSF Big Ideas.

The PFI solicitation now has three deadlines each year:

  • May 7, 2024
    First Tuesday in May, Annually Thereafter
  • September 3, 2024
    First Tuesday in January, Annually Thereafter
  • January 7, 2025
    First Tuesday in January, Annually Thereafter


Internal competitions for the September and January deadlines will be announced at a later date.


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:

  • Cover Sheet including PI name, contact information, and title of the project as well as names of any additional team members and industry partner
  • CV
  • 3 page description of how your program meets the goals of the solicitation.

Sponsor Deadlines

Applications are due to National Science Foundation by May 07, 2024.