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Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC)

Status: Archived

Archived funding opportunity

This document has been archived. See NSF 23-538 for the latest version.

Important information for proposers

All proposals must be submitted in accordance with the requirements specified in this funding opportunity and in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) that is in effect for the relevant due date to which the proposal is being submitted. It is the responsibility of the proposer to ensure that the proposal meets these requirements. Submitting a proposal prior to a specified deadline does not negate this requirement.


The Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) program supports academe-industry partnerships which are led by an interdisciplinary academic research team collaborating with a least one industry partner. In this program, there is a heavy emphasis on the quality, composition, and participation of the partners, including their appropriate contributions. These partnerships focus on the integration of technologies into a specified human-centered service system with the potential to achieve transformational benefits, satisfying a real need by making an existing service system smart(er) or by spurring the creation of an entirely new smart service system. The selected service system should function as a test bed.

Service systems are socio-technical configurations of people, technologies, organizations, and information [1] designed to create value by fulfilling the needs of those participating in the system. A "smart" service system is a system that amplifies or augments human capabilities [2] to identify, learn, adapt, monitor and make decisions. The system utilizes data received, transmitted, or processed in a timely manner, thus improving its response to future situations. These capabilities are the result of the incorporation of technologies for sensing, actuation, coordination, communication, control, etc. 

PFI:BIC funds research partnerships working on projects that operate in the post-fundamental/translational space; the proposers must be mindful of the state of the art and the competitive landscape. However, a clear path to commercialization does not need to be a central part of this proposal. These projects require additional effort to integrate the technology into a real service system, incorporating human factors considerations to assure the system’s efficacy. The research tasks in turn might spawn additional discoveries inspired by this interaction of humans with the technology.

Examples of partnership activities that drive sustained innovation include the targeted allocation of resources such as capital, time, and facilities; and sharing of knowledge in a cross-organizational and interdisciplinary context. The research tasks of the project must demonstrate a highly collaborative research plan involving participation of the primary industrial partner(s) as well as of any other primary partners with the academic researcher during the life of the award.

NSF recognizes that interdisciplinary collaboration (involving many areas of expertise beyond just those related to the technology) is needed to achieve successful integration into a smart service system. The research components to be included in this project are: 1) engineered system design and integration; 2) computing, sensing, and information technologies; and 3) human factors, behavioral sciences, and cognitive engineering. The proposer must show how these components will be integrated in the context of the project as part of the research plan in the Project Description. 

WEBINARS: Webinars will be held to answer questions about the solicitation. Register on the PFI:BIC website (http://www.nsf.gov/eng/iip/pfi/bic.jsp). Potential proposers and their partners are encouraged to attend. Also encouraged to attend are the following stakeholders: Vice Presidents for Research, Vice Presidents for Research and Innovation, and academic personnel concerned with the internal review of their respective institution’s selection of candidates for submission, individuals from Sponsored Research Offices, and those focused on the identification and understanding of limited application submissions.


[1] Maglio, Paul P.; Kwan, S.K.; Spohrer, J. (2015). Toward a Research Agenda for Human-Centered Service System Innovation. Editorial Commentary. Service Science 7(1):1-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/serv.2015.0091

[2] Ng, I. (2015). The Internet of Everything and the Future of Service. Speech, 2015 Frontiers in Service Conference in San Jose, CA. Accessible online at: http://hubofallthings.com/hat-in-the-usa/.

Program contacts

Alexandra Medina-Borja
amedinab@nsf.gov (703) 292-7557 ENG/CMMI
Ann C. Von Lehmen
avonlehm@nsf.gov (703) 292-4756 CISE/CNS
Jordan M. Berg
jberg@nsf.gov (703) 292-5365 ENG/CMMI
David J. Mendonca
mendonca@nsf.gov (703) 292-7081 ENG/CMMI
William J. Cooper
wjcooper@nsf.gov (703) 292-5356
Leon Esterowitz
lesterow@nsf.gov (703) 292-7942
Michele Grimm
mgrimm@nsf.gov (703) 292-4641

Awards made through this program

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