OSP FO# 11-078

AGENCY: National Science Foundation (NSF)/Directorate for Engineering (ENG)/Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)

PROGRAM: Engineering Research Centers (ERCs): Partnerships in Transforming Research, Education and Technology-A Focused Call for Nanosystems ERCs (NERCs)
OBJECTIVES: The goal of the Gen-3 Engineering Research Centers Program is to create a culture that links scientific discovery to technological innovation through transformational fundamental and engineered systems research in order to advance technology and produce engineering graduates who will be creative U.S. innovators in a globally competitive economy. The Nanosystems ERCs (NERCs) awarded under the targeted topic area “Transformational Nanotechnology Engineered Systems” through this solicitation will function with the Gen-3 goal and key features.

To achieve this goal, Gen-3 ERCs will have the following key features:

·         Guiding strategic vision for joining fundamental research and transformational engineered systems to innovation and developing an innovative, globally competitive engineering workforce;
·         Strategic plans for research, education, innovation and diversity;
·         Cross-disciplinary research program designed to support systems-motivated fundamental research and advance it to innovation and rapid commercialization;
·         Cross-cultural global research and education experiences through partnerships with foreign universities;
·         Education program strategically designed, in partnership with academic engineering departments, to produce creative, innovative engineers by engaging ERC students in all phases of the research and innovation process;
·         Long-term partnerships with middle and high schools to bring engineering concepts and experiences to the classroom and increase enrollment in college-level engineering degree programs;
·         An innovation ecosystem that includes partnerships with:
o    Member firms/practitioners to support and strengthen the ERC and streamline technology transfer;
o    Other small firms in translational research to accelerate commercialization of high risk ERC advances; and,
o    Local or national level organizations to stimulate entrepreneurship and job creation and accelerate technological innovation.

A Gen-3 Nanosystem Engineering Research Center (NERC) will focus on a transformational engineered system(s) that could not be achieved without a significant level of fundamental knowledge of nanoscale phenomena that feeds into devices and components needed to realize the targeted engineered system(s). NERCs will be supported in emerging areas of nanoscale science that are ready to feed into proof-of-concept engineered systems within the 10-year life span of support. These emerging areas might include nanobio systems for healthcare delivery, nanosystem architectures for communication and other industry sectors, nanoscale processes for sustainable development in areas such as energy and other infrastructure systems, nanoscale manufacturing process systems, among other potential areas to be proposed.

As appropriate to the topic area, the NERC will include the societal and environmental implications of the nano-enabled scientific and technological breakthroughs and involvement of a wide range of relevant industry and practitioner groups. Like all Gen-3 ERCs, the NERCs are expected to create science and engineering platforms for the respective fields of nanoscale research, education, and innovation.

ELIGIBILITY RESTRICTIONS: Only U.S. academic institutions with undergraduate, masters, and doctoral engineering programs of sufficient depth and breadth appropriate to support the vision may submit proposals as the lead institution. Proposals must be submitted by the lead institution. Separately submitted collaborative proposals are not acceptable.

NERC Proposals must meet all of the following organizational requirements or they will be returned without review:

·         Commitments for domestic lead and core partner university cost sharing and industrial/government agency financial support must be included in the proposal.
·         The number of domestic partner universities is limited to the lead university plus one to four additional domestic partner universities. The lead or one of the domestic partner universities must be a university that serves large numbers of students predominantly underrepresented in engineering in the U.S. (i.e. women, African Americans, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, or persons with disabilities). However, the overall requirement of broadening participation through diversity will not be the sole responsibility of institutions that serve large numbers of women and underrepresented minorities as each partner university is responsible for meeting an ERC’s diversity goals.
·         At least one but no more than three foreign universities are required to be partners in research and education to fill gaps in expertise that is missing from the ERC domestic partners and provide cross-cultural research and educational experiences for U.S. students.
·         The NERC must partner in pre-college education with middle and high schools nearby the lead and partner universities that agree to include engineering concepts and experiences in their classrooms. The NERC must partner with local level organizations devoted to stimulating entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation based on university technology.

The center director must be a tenured faculty member at the lead institution in an engineering department or may hold a joint appointment in an engineering department. The director’s doctoral degree must be in engineering or an associated field of science; if the latter, she/he must have substantial career experience in engineering and a joint appointment in an engineering department. A PI may be identified as Center Director on only one proposal.

There is no limit on the number of proposals to be submitted by a lead university and there is no limit on the number of ERC partnerships a partner university may join. A lead university can receive only one ERC award through this solicitation.

BU Internal Deadline: May 25, 2011
Letter of Intent (required): July 15, 2011
Full Proposal: September 16, 2011
FUNDING INFORMATION: NSF anticipates providing approximately $9.75 million to support up to three new Gen-3 Nanosystems ERCs (NERCs) in late summer of 2012, with year one start-up budgets each of up to $3.25 million. Subsequently, there would be year two budgets of up to $3.5 million, year three budgets of up to $3.75 million and years four and five budgets of up to $4 million each, pending satisfactory annual performance and availability of funding. The actual number of ERCs funded will depend on the scale and scope of the proposed Centers, the availability of funds, and the quality of the proposals submitted.

Academic cost sharing is required to support and sustain the ERC. Upon issuance of the award, the lead university is responsible for securing, retaining, managing, and certifying and delivering to NSF the ERC’s cost sharing (cash and in-kind), at the level stated in the cooperative agreement. The total level of cost sharing will be the responsibility of the lead university, but such cost sharing also can include contributions by any or all of the partner universities. Cost sharing is not required nor expected of institutions solely contributing affiliated faculty.

Lynn Preston
Leader of the Engineering Research Centers Program and Deputy Division Director
National Science Foundation
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Room 585 N
Arlington, Virginia 22230
Telephone: (703) 292-5358
Fax: (703) 292-9051
E-mail: lpreston@nsf.gov
Web: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2011/nsf11537/nsf11537.htm

REMARKS: An internal deadline has been established to coordinate institutional cost-sharing commitments for this program. Principal Investigators (PIs) interested in submitting a proposal should forward a memorandum to their Associate Dean by Wednesday, May 25, 2011. In the memorandum, (1) briefly describe the proposed project, (2) list key participating faculty, (3) itemize all cost-sharing commitments being requested from the University, within the context of a fully developed project budget, and (4) cite any program features which should make it particularly competitive for NSF funding. The memorandum should be countersigned by the relevant department chair/center director to indicate endorsement of the project. After the Dean’s assessment, if a commitment of Provost funds is required, the memorandum will be forwarded to OSP-CRC Director Joan Kirkendall for review and then to the Provost’s Office for authorization. PIs will then be advised of authorized institutional cost-sharing commitments in time to complete the project budget and process their proposal for final review. PIs are encouraged to consult with the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) for assistance with the preparation of the project budget.

Please note: inclusion of cost sharing above the mandatory level as stated in the ERC cost sharing formula would be considered “voluntary cost sharing” which is specifically prohibited in NSF’s revised cost sharing principles. The ERC cost sharing requirements are graduated and vary by the basic classification categories of universities and colleges as defined in the “Carnegie Foundation’s Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.” The classification categories and ERC cost sharing requirements can be found in the complete guidelines above. Cost sharing is required of the lead university and core domestic partner university(ies) and must be identified and commitments made in the proposal.

A Letter of Intent is required to facilitate the NSF review process. Please see the complete program guidelines for detailed information regarding this letter. Letters of Intent must be submitted through the NSF FastLane system.

Full applications must be submitted electronically using either the NSF FastLane system or Grants.gov. However, because of the complexity of the proposals being submitted, NSF strongly encourages the use of FastLane to prepare and submit proposals. For more information about FastLane, or to register as a FastLane user, please contact India Adams (adamsi@bu.edu) or A. B. Effgen (abeffgen@bu.edu) in the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) at x3-4365. Information about Grants.gov for BU Investigators can be obtained on the OSP website at: http://www.bu.edu/osp/proposal-preparation/electronic-submission/. In addition, for investigators interested in submitting proposals via Grants.gov, NSF has published the NSF Grants.gov Application Guide which may be found online at: http://www.nsf.gov/bfa/dias/policy/docs/grantsgovguide.pdf. Investigators should contact the OSP Assistant Director assigned to their school or department as soon as possible to coordinate submission through either FastLane or Grants.gov.

Complete program guidelines and application material (NSF 11-537 and NSF GPG 11-1) may be obtained from the web site listed above or from the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP). Please distribute this notice to any faculty or staff members who might be interested in the information. For more information, please contact the OSP at X3-4365 or ospinfo@bu.edu, or visit the OSP web site at http://www.bu.edu/osp.