Funding & Service

DEAR COLLEAGUE LETTER: NSF REGIONAL INNOVATION ENGINES (RIE) PROGRAM

The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) newly established Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) has announced the NSF Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) program. This bold new initiative aims to significantly expanding our Nation’s innovation capacity by investing in key areas of national interest and economic promise, in every region of the United States. To accomplish this ambitious goal, the program will fund the development of Regional Innovation Engines that will cultivate and sustain activities in use-inspired research and development, translation of innovation to practice, entrepreneurship, partnership and stakeholder development, and workforce development to realize thriving regional innovation ecosystems. The outcomes of this program will enhance the nation’s economic and industrial competitiveness as well as national security.

The NSF Engines program provides up to ten years of funding per Engine award with a maximum budget of $160M, with up to an additional two years of funding to support development activities before creating an Engine. The program solicits proposals corresponding to three award types, as outlined below.

  • Type-1 awards are development awards that provide seed funding to enable awardees to lay the groundwork for establishing a new NSF Engine, with the goal of catalyzing a new innovation ecosystem for a specific topic area. Type-1 awards are intended to allow teams to prepare for the submission of a successful Type-2 proposal. The duration of a Type-1 award is up to 24 months, with a maximum proposed budget of $1M.
  • Type-2 awards are intended to support awardees representing a geographical region of service that are well-primed to support a regional innovation ecosystem. Type-2 awards provide funding for up to 10 years, with a total maximum budget of $160M.

Submission of a Type-1 development proposal is not required for the submission of Type-2 proposal. See the NSF Engines Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for further details on the award types and the differences between the various types.

The BAA specifies proposal deadlines for both proposal types. Prior to submission of proposals, teams are required to submit a Concept Outline, which is due June 30, 2022, for both proposal types. Approval of a Concept Outline from a cognizant NSF Program Officer is required to submit a full proposal.

For more information about the NSF Engines program including frequently asked questions and upcoming webinars, visit the NSF Engines program website. Additionally, visit the NSF Engines BAA website to view proposal deadlines and information on award types and differences.   See MCB’s Blog Post from May 10 to learn more about NSF sponsored Bioeconomy Workshops that address critical national needs relevant to Engines.

NSF/BIO AND CHE WILL FUND ACQUISITION OF HELIUM RECOVERY SYSTEMS

NSF recognizes the concerns in the research community associated with the national and global helium shortage and the impact on critical research infrastructure such as advanced nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy systems and other instruments with cooled magnets.  In response, the Directorate of Biological Sciences (BIO) and the Division of Chemistry (CHE) in the Directorate of Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) announce their willingness to support the acquisition of helium recovery systems via the NSF Options to Address Helium Supply Shortage Concerns DCL. Given the limited availability of funds, priority for the support will be given to:

  • Existing NSF/BIO or NSF/MPS/CHE investigators
  • Shared use, multi-user, or core-lab academic facilities
  • Applications from under resourced institutions

Specific submission instructions for NSF/BIO and for NSF/MPS/CHE are contained within the DCL.  For BIO proposers, proposals are accepted at any time.  For CHE proposers, proposals should be submitted during the October 1 to October 31, 2022 submission window.

Special Office Hour addressing Helium Recovery Opportunities

In response to substantial early interest, we have scheduled a Special Virtual Office Hour webinar from 4-5 PM (EDT) on Friday, June 10, to provide a quick briefing from program staff in both Divisions, followed by extensive Q&A to help community members prepare for and take advantage of this opportunity.  Anyone planning to pursue this funding opportunity is urged to participate in the webinar by registering here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. For those unable to attend, slides will be posted on our CHE Office Hour website: https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=300572&org=CHE

Attendees requiring closed captioning should contact the Chemistry division at ncarey@nsf.gov at least 48 hours in advance to ensure that this service is available.

MCB ANNOUNCES THE SECOND VERSION OF SENTINELS: DREAM SENTINELS

MCB has replaced the Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), Sentinel Cells for the Surveillance and Response to Emergent Infectious Diseases (NSF 20-105) with a new DCL:  

Sentinel Systems that Detect, Recognize, Actuate, and Mitigate Emergent Biological Threats (DREAM Sentinels).

In this new Sentinels DCL, MCB again partners with the Directorate for Engineering’s Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems to call for proposals to be submitted to core programs that address novel synthetic biology approaches to quickly sense and respond to the next emergent biological threat prior to its evolution in its host or transmission to human populations.

All proposals submitted in response to this DCL should include biosensing and bioactuation elements that address a biological threat. The biosensing element should leverage the power of modern biotechnology and deliver robust and specific recognition of the biological threat. The results of bioactuation should alert the user, destroy the threat, protect the host, or initiate an immune response or other strategies that would mitigate the threat. Other possible areas of interest are included in the DCL.

Proposals submitted in response to this DCL should have a title prefaced with “DREAM Sentinels:”. Proposals should be submitted to the Systems and Synthetic Biology cluster where proposals are accepted without deadline and are reviewed as they are received.

Investigators interested in submitting a proposal are strongly encouraged to contact Anthony Garza, aggarza@nsf.gov. More information on the DCL can be found here.

It is anticipated that up to $3,000,000 will be allocated annually for DREAM Sentinels awards, subject to the availability of funds.

Upcoming Webinar: Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO)

Please join the Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO) program for a webinar on Tuesday, May 10th, 2021 from 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EDT. There will be a short presentation, followed by an open Q&A session with cognizant Program Officers.

BRC-BIO is a new NSF program intended to enhance research capacity and broaden participation among new faculty of biology at minority-serving institutions (MSIs), predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUIs), and other universities and colleges that are not among the nation’s most research-intensive and resourced institutions.

Some key information from the solicitation:

  • Principal investigators must be at the Assistant Professor rank (or tenure-track equivalent) with service for no more than 3 years at their current institution by the submission date.
  • Proposed projects should help enable the establishment of research programs that will be competitive for future research proposals to the NSF (e.g., CAREER) or other agencies. Projects should enrich undergraduate research experiences and thereby grow the STEM workforce.
  • Projects can include biology-focused research collaborations among those in academia, or partnerships with industry or other non-academic partners that advance the PI’s research program. 
  • Next submission window:  June 01 – June 30, 2022

Please register in advance for the webinar below, and share this invitation with anyone you think may be interested:

https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_XRIhEdP9S4e9nYOsc1axpg

Click here for a recap of the previous webinars for the BRC-BIO program. If you have additional questions, please reach out to the BRC-BIO working group via email (BRC-BIO@nsf.gov).

New Opportunity: Pathways to Enable Open-Source Ecosystems (POSE)

NSF has funded myriad research projects that resulted in publicly accessible, modifiable, and distributable open-source software, hardware, or data platforms. Now we are looking to support the development of these and other widely-used open-source products into open-source “ecosystems” (OSEs), each comprising a distributed community of developers and a broad base of users in academia, industry and government. Doing so will support thedevelopment of new technology solutions to problems of national, societal, and economic importance.

A new program, Pathways to Enable Open-Source Ecosystems (POSE), seeks to harness the power of open-source development to build these new technologies. The goal of the POSE program is to fund organizations to manage OSEs. OSEs based on hardware-, software- or data-based open-source products related to any NSF-supported field are encouraged.

Each OSE managing organization will be responsible for the creation and maintenance of infrastructure needed for efficient and secure operation of an OSE based around a specific open-source product or class of products. The early and intentional formation of such managing organizations is expected to ensure more secure open-source products, increased coordination of developer contributions, and a more focused route to impactful technologies.

Importantly, POSE is not intended to fund the development of open-source research products, including tools and artifacts or existing well-resourced OSEs or communities.

Program Phases
There are two phases of the POSE Program:

  • Phase I: OSE Scoping Proposals, budget to $300,000 for 1 year, 7-page max
    • Enables scoping activities to inform the development of the OSE. Should describe the long-term vision and impact of the proposed OSE, along with specific scoping activities that will lead to a well-developed and sustainable plan.
    • Proposal deadline: May 12, 2022
  • Phase II: OSE Development Grants, budget to $1,500,000 for 2 years, 15-page max
    • Supports transition of an open-source research product into a sustainable OSE. Should include a detailed project plan to support deployment of later-stage successful open-source products into operational environments; describe the current context; and articulate the long-term vision and impact of the proposed OSE.
    • Proposal deadline: October 21, 2022

For full details and submission information, please refer to the program solicitation, NSF 22-572.

Opportunities to Learn More
NSF Program Directors representing the POSE program will hold an informational webinar on March 23, 2022 from 3:30 PM ET to 4:30 PM ET.

Please register for the webinar here: https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_GDUveT2ZTBG4c-tNxaODoA.

NSF 101: Funding opportunities for minority-serving institutions (MSIs)

The NSF blog, Science Matters, recently posted about tips on how to find and apply for funding opportunities for minority serving institutions (MSIs). NSF has many programs designed to support researchers at MSIs and broaden participation of outstanding researchers from across a diverse group of regions, institutions and demographic groups.

The tips include:

  • how to find funding opportunities that specifically target faculty members, researchers and educators at MSIs using the NSF’s Funding Search tool;
  • how to double-check program eligibility;
  • and what to include in a “one-pager” when contacting a program officer in advance of proposal submission.

Read more on the Science Matters blog here.

FY 2022 Convergence Accelerator: Track I and J

NSF has announced the topics for this year’s Convergence Accelerator program, with the goal of accelerating use-inspired, multidisciplinary research into long-lasting, sustainable solutions for societal challenges and scientific areas of national importance. Two of the topics selected for the 2022 solicitation, expected to be published in the coming months, relate to topics of two recent NSF/UIDP Workshops on World without Waste: A Circular Bioeconomy and Feeding the Planet Sustainably, and may be of interest to the MCB community.

The Accelerator comprises three phases: topic ideation, followed by convergence-research phases 1 and 2. Once a solicitation is released and awards are made, funded teams within a given track make up a cohort. All teams within a cohort begin in Convergence Research phase 1. At the end of phase 1, the teams participate in a formal NSF pitch and proposal process, which is used in selecting teams for phase 2.

Track I: Sustainable Materials for Global Challenges

The goal of this track is to converge advances in fundamental materials science with materials design and manufacturing methods in an effort to couple the end-use and full life-cycle considerations of environmentally and economically sustainable materials and products that address global challenges. Examples of broad topics within this track may include – but are not limited to – the following:

  • Materials research data-sharing principles and infrastructure (Materials Informatics)
  • Critical materials and manufacturing processes, such as microelectronics and their components; solutions for sustainable polymers in areas of high unmet need such as healthcare and packaging; and commercially-viable materials for sustainable clean energy (e.g., batteries, photovoltaics, wind turbines, hydrogen) and transport.
  • Full life cycle and sustainability “Systems Thinking”; Education (for and as) infrastructure, including scaling of innovative curricula and training for inclusive sustainable infrastructure design and job creation.

This convergent research track topic was based on the results of NSF-funded community workshops, such as Accelerating Translational Materials R&D for Global Challenges and Socioresilient Infrastructure: Precision Materials, Assemblages, and Systems.

Track J: Food & Nutrition Security

A goal of this track is to accelerate convergence that includes the food and nutrition sectors to address intertwined challenges of population health, climate change, and the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable among us by empowering youth, women, and disadvantaged communities. Examples of broad topics within this track include, but are not limited to:

  • Assessing, modeling, and forecasting “food deserts” (geographic areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food; analyzing food deserts to devise sustainable and socially, politically, economically, and culturally acceptable solutions.
  • Planning, prototyping or modeling to optimize food quality and availability while minimizing waste, including the utilization of sensors, data, and networks while also addressing policy, food labels and discard behavior.
  • Combining concepts and approaches from biology, social sciences, chemistry, and engineering to develop plans and methods to promote sustainable systems and enable food security and food literacy

The convergent research track topic was chosen based on the results of NSF-funded community workshops, such as Digital and Precision Agriculture and Sustainable Systems Enabling Food Security in Extreme Environments and Food Deserts Employing a Convergence of Food, Energy, Water and Systems for Societal Impact.

More information on the DCL can be found here. Once the solicitation is published the NSF Convergence Accelerator plans to hold informational webinars.   

FY2022 Future Manufacturing (FM) Solicitation Released

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences announces the release of a new solicitation for Future Manufacturing (NSF 22-568), the cross-directorate program supported by NSF’s Directorates for Engineering (ENG), Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS), Biological Sciences (BIO), Education and Human Resources (EHR), Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE), and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), as well as the Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) and the Office of Integrative Activities (OIA).

Future Manufacturing promotes new manufacturing that will address urgent social challenges arising from climate change, global pandemics and health disparities, social and economic divides, infrastructure deficits of marginalized populations and communities, and environmental sustainability. Future Manufacturing complements existing efforts, supported by NSF and other federal agencies, in advanced manufacturing, but the focus of this program is to enable new, potentially transformative, manufacturing capabilities rather than incremental improvements over current manufacturing.

This funding opportunity supports fundamental research and education for a future workforce to overcome scientific, technological, educational, economic, and social barriers in order to catalyze new manufacturing capabilities that do not exist today, enhancing the U.S. leadership in manufacturing.

Submission and Review Information

Proposals must address one or more of the thrust areas, which for the FY 2022 solicitation are:

(1) Future Cyber Manufacturing Research

(2) Future Eco Manufacturing Research

(3) Future Biomanufacturing Research

This solicitation will support the following two award tracks:

Future Manufacturing Research Grants (FMRG) for up to four years; and

Future Manufacturing Seed Grants (FMSG) for up to two years.

The deadline for proposal submission is March 10, 2022. 

Proposals must be submitted through Research.gov or Grants.gov;

FastLane submissions will not be allowed.

NSF will review proposals according to the standard merit review criteria along with specific criteria that are detailed in the solicitation.  For full details on submission instructions, solicitation requirements, and contact information, see NSF ­­­22-568.

Opportunities to Learn More
An informational webinar will be held on February 25, 2022, from 1:00-2:00 PM EST to discuss the Future Manufacturing program and answer questions about this solicitation. Details on joining the webinar will be posted here.

Semiconductor Synthetic Biology Circuits and Communications for Information Storage (SemiSynBio-III)

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) along with the Divisions of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS), Computing and Communication Foundations (CCF), and Materials Research (DMR) have announced the release of the FY 2022 Semiconductor Synthetic Biology Circuits and Communications for Information Storage (SemiSynBio-III) solicitation (NSF 22-557).

SemiSynBio-III will explore and exploit synergies between synthetic biology and semiconductor technology. The integration of these fields has the potential to lead to a new technological boom for information processing and storage as well as improve the design and fabrication of hybrid biomaterial systems for applications in biological communications, information processing technologies, sensing and personalized medicine.

SemiSynBio-III promotes interdisciplinary research at the interface of biology, physics, chemistry, material science, computer science, and engineering to develop new cross-disciplinary projects and curricula that will model and integrate concepts, tools, and methodology. The goal of this program is to stimulate non-traditional thinking and potentially high-risk, high reward solutions to the issues facing the semiconductor industry in the following Research Themes:

  • Research Theme 1: Developing computational and experimental models of bio-molecular and cellular-based systems.
  • Research Theme 2: Addressing fundamental research questions at the interface of biology and semiconductors.
  • Research Theme 3: Designing sustainable bio-materials for novel bio-nano hybrid architectures and circuits that test the limits in transient electronics.
  • Research Theme 4: Fabricating hybrid biological-semiconductor electronic systems with storage functionalities.
  • Research Theme 5: Scaling-up and characterization of integrated hybrid synthetic bio-electronic storage systems.

Projects must address at least three of the Research Themes; each proposal must select Theme 3 and at least one from Themes 1 and 2, and at least one from Themes 4 and 5. Teams must be interdisciplinary. Proposals are due on April 25, 2022.

An informational webinar about the SemiSynBio-III solicitation is scheduled for Thursday, March 17, 2022, from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM Eastern time. Register here for the SemiSynBio-III webinar.

If you would like further information about this solicitation, please visit NSF 22-557.

Recap of Building Research Capacity of New Faculty in Biology (BRC-BIO) Webinars

Repost from the Division of of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) DBInfo blog.

In the early winter of 2021 and 2022, the BRC-BIO program participated in several webinars, including the IOS Virtual Office Hours in November, a BRC-BIO specific webinar on December 15, and during the MCB Virtual Office Hours in early January. Below are some of the questions asked during these engagements with high-level responses.

While the January submission window ended on January 31, the next submission window is June 1-30, 2022. If you are interested in the BRC-BIO program, we encourage you to read the full solicitation (22-500) and reach out to the BRC-BIO working group via email (BRC-BIO@nsf.gov) with any additional questions.


ELIGIBILITY

Q: Does this activity support medical research?

A: Research that falls within the purview of one or more of the following divisions is appropriate: Division of Biological Infrastructure, Division of Environmental Biology, Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, and Division of Integrative Organismal Systems. As indicated in the PAPPG, biological research on mechanisms of disease in humans, including on the etiology, diagnosis, or treatment of disease or disorder, is normally not supported. Biological research to develop animal models of such conditions, or the development or testing of procedures for their treatment, also are not normally eligible for support. Contact BRC-BIO@nsf.gov if you have questions about a specific research idea.

Q: What if I’ve moved institutions but just started in my current position as Assistant Professor at a PUI? Do I need to count my prior experience in determining eligibility?

A: No, if you are at the Assistant Professor rank (or equivalent) at your current institution (but see eligibility for institution types) with service at that rank for no more than 3 years by the proposal submission date then you are eligible.

Q: If the PI was recruited before the COVID-19 pandemic, would the two-years interrupted by COVID (2019 and 2020) be excluded from the ‘no more than 3-year assistant professor’ rule?

A: This solicitation was written with the COVID context in mind. Hence, no further accommodations will be made on this basis.

Q: My institution is an MSI but is also classified as R1 in the Carnegie scale, am I eligible?

A: No, this opportunity is focused on building research capacity at Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs), Minority-serving Institutions (MSIs) that are not among the nation’s most research-intensive institutions, and other institutions that are classified as R2, D/PU, or M1-3 (see Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education http://carnegieclassifications.iu.edu/)

Q:  How are leaves of absence counted when figuring out whether a PI is eligible?

A:  Official leaves of absence (for illness, family, etc.) should be subtracted from the total time in the position, as certified by the PI’s department chair/head as part of the institutional letter.

Q: I have served as a Co-PI on a funded NSF grant. Am I still eligible?

A: Yes. There are no restrictions related to prior federal funding.

Q: Can I reapply to BRC-BIO if I’m not successful the first time?

A: Yes, as long as you continue to meet the eligibility requirements.

Q:  Do faculty have to be in a BIOLOGY Department to apply? 

A: No, but the project must be focused on research questions appropriate for review in one or more divisions in the Directorate for Biological Sciences.

PROPOSAL REVIEW

Q: What is the review process for the BRC-BIO proposals?

A: They will be reviewed in interdisciplinary panels specific to the BRC-BIO program.

Q: How important is it to be specific about how this research will lead to a sustainable research program?

A: The goal of this program is to tap the wealth of expertise and opportunities at PUIs and MSIs by supporting new faculty through enhancing their research capacity and building independent research programs. Proposals should articulate research plans that will enable the PI to build and maintain an active research program, and the Impact Statement should detail how the plan will positively impact the PI’s research capacity, career, and influence on undergraduate research experiences.

Q: Can you clarify how the ‘broader impacts’ and the ‘impact statement’ should differ? Both should address how the project will increase participation of under-represented groups?

A: The Broader Impacts section of any NSF proposal should articulate the broader impacts of the project, including societal impacts of the proposed research and any broader impact activities proposed, including their justification. The BRC-BIO Impact Statement should articulate the impact of the proposed project on the PI’s career development and research capacity, as well as the institutional impact on undergraduate research experiences, such as expectations for retention and diversification of STEM majors, and/or preparation of students for advanced degree programs.

Q: Can the awards support science education research like evidence-based teaching like CURE labs?

A: The Intellectual Merit section should include a research plan that focuses on topics relevant to one or more of the divisions in the Directorate for Biological Sciences. However, the Broader Impacts could include other related activities like science education research or CUREs.

COLLABORATIONS

Q: Must collaborators and Co-PIs be at the Assistant Professor level for less than 3 years?

A: No, collaborators can be at any faculty rank and at other institutions, regardless of Carnegie Classification, including international collaborations. However, as described in the PAPPG chapter I, IE6 (PAPPG 22-1), funding is rarely provided for a foreign individual or organization’s involvement.

BUDGET

Q: Can I budget for student support? Including as an REU student?

A: Yes, you can support students at any level.  Anything you would normally budget in an NSF BIO Core Program submission can be budgeted in a BRC-BIO project.

Q: My institution has limited institutional staff to support grant administration. Can the BRC-BIO provide support for my institution’s SRO?

A: Yes, BRC-BIO can support some time for your institution’s SRO.  Or if you need to hire a consultant or a part time employee in that capacity to help administer the project that can also be budgeted. 

Q: Does the total budget limit of $450K + $50K for equipment include the indirect costs?

A: Yes.

Q: Can postdocs hired under this initiative teach classes at the institution as well as support the research?

A. The responsibilities of the postdoc(s) will depend on what is allowable at your institution and justified in the proposal. If a postdoc is requested, a Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan is also required and should be uploaded as a Supplemental Document.