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Partnerships for Innovation (PFI)

Status: Archived

Archived funding opportunity

This document has been archived. See NSF 23-538, NSF 14-612, and NSF 16-591 for the latest documents.

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.


One of the general goals of the Partnerships for Innovation Program (PFI) is to stimulate the transformation of knowledge created by the research and education enterprise into innovations that create new wealth; build strong local, regional, and national economies; and improve the national well-being.  Aligned with this goal, the PFI competition for FY 2011 funds will provide support for innovation capacity building to sustained, dynamic interactive knowledge-enhancing partnership groups composed of academic researchers and small business (as defined by the Small Business Administration (SBA)) practitioners focused on intense exploration, re-definition, and creation of novel platforms for translating research and moving it towards impact.  The basic organizational core of each proposed knowledge-enhancing partnership group must be composed of an academic lead institution and, at a minimum, two small businesses.  These newly created partnership groups will provide small group process models for innovation, their hallmark being a collaboration in which research and its translation paths are shaped and expanded from both the research and the business perspectives. While the center-piece of this group is academe and small business, large businesses and non-profits may participate in this core knowledge-enhancement partnership unit, which in turn may be embedded in the broader network of a PFI partnership.

The purpose of these knowledge-enhancing partnership groups is to develop researchers more agile in adapting their research for use in new applications and to increase the potential viability of existing small businesses to leverage this capacity.  In particular, these interactive relationships will increase the researchers' effectiveness to respond to and anticipate the constraints imposed by the operational limitations on translation of the research.  They will improve the business practitioners' capability to develop products that will have potentially strong market demand in the future.

The ideal project would consist of exploration, re-definition, and creation of a novel platform, that is, one that can be applied to many markets and problems/opportunities (multi-product or process platforms).  Some examples of platforms include the following: laser-based technologies that have multiple applications in product verticals; software algorithms that can be customized in different applications to provide multiple functionalities; nano-structured materials that may have multiple applications, environmental remediation technologies; re-manufacturing technologies--a more sustainable approach than conventional manufacturing involving a process of returning used products to at least original performance--that can be applied to diverse industries; energy conservation or storage technologies; innovation through design or education in innovation with widespread impact; and personalized medicine/genetic testing. Partnerships that support areas pertaining to energy, sustainability, or education of next generation entrepreneurs are particularly desirable.  Some examples of the kinds of activities that could be engaged in by the knowledge-enhancing partner companies working with academe are feasibility research, alpha-prototype development, design, and product conceptualization.

This competition will support 9 to 11 promising partnerships between academic researchers and small business practitioners that engage in the important process of dynamic knowledge enhancement to build capacity to generate and sustain innovation.  Partnerships may also include other academic institutions, other private sector organizations (such as large businesses and not-for-profit organizations) and state/local/federal government.

Program contacts

Sara B. Nerlove
PFI Program Director (Primary Contact)
snerlove@nsf.gov (703) 292-7077
Donald Senich
Section Head, Academic Programs
dsenich@nsf.gov (703) 292-7082

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