Limited funding opportunity – NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program

August 16, 2018 by School of Medicine Webmaster

The VP for Research has announced the internal process for selecting the UVA candidates for ­­­­the NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI) Limited Submission Opportunity.

The program serves to increase access to shared scientific and engineering instruments for research and research training in our Nation’s institutions of higher education, not-for-profit museums, science centers and scientific/engineering research organizations. The program provides organizations with opportunities to acquire major instrumentation that supports the research and research training goals of the organization and that may be used by other researchers regionally or nationally. Each MRI proposal may request support for the acquisition or development of a single research instrument for shared inter- and/or intra-organizational use. Development efforts that leverage the strengths of private sector partners to build instrument development capacity at MRI submission-eligible organizations are encouraged. The instrument acquired or developed is expected to be operational for regular research use by the end of the award period.

The number of MRI proposal submissions allowed per institution continues to be a maximum of three, but is now based on the dollar value of the amount requested from NSF; no more than two submissions are permitted in a newly-defined Track 1 (Track 1 proposals are those requesting from NSF $100,000 [1] to less than $1 million) and no more than one submission is permitted in a newly defined Track 2 (Track 2 proposals are those requesting from NSF $1 million up to and including $4 million). Proposal submissions within the two tracks may be either for acquisition or development of a research instrument. NSF strongly values MRI proposals that seek to develop next-generation research instruments that open new frontiers of research. As a result the MRI program seeks to support development proposals in numbers (i.e., up to 1/3 of awards) consistent with recent competitions, depending on the numbers and quality of the proposals.

Emphasis has been provided to indicate that the MRI Program seeks broad representation by PIs in its award portfolio, including women, underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities. Since diversity may be greater among early-career researchers, the MRI program also encourages proposals with early-career PIs and proposals that benefit early-career researchers.

The MRI program does not support the acquisition or development of a suite of instruments to outfit research laboratories or facilities, or that can be used to conduct independent research activities simultaneously. Cost-sharing of precisely 30% of the total project cost is required for Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education and for non-degree-granting organizations.

Total Funding and Award Size: Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation will be competing for up to $75 million, pending availability of funds and numbers/quality of proposals, with approximately 1/3 of the available MRI funding expected to support Track 2 awards. NSF strongly encourages MRI proposals that seek to develop next-generation research instruments that open new frontiers of research; therefore up to 1/3 of the MRI awards are expected to support instrument development in either track; therefore within their submission limit organizations are encouraged to submit proposals for innovative development projects.

Estimated Number of Awards: 150 awards – Proposals that request funds from NSF in the range $100,000-$4 million may be accepted from any MRI-eligible organization. Proposals that request funds from NSF less than $100,000 may also be accepted from any MRI-eligible organization for the disciplines of mathematics or social, behavioral and economic sciences, and from non-Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education for all NSF-supported disciplines.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: 3 (2 for Track 1; 1 for Track 2).

Instructions for Submitting a Letter of Intent (LOI): To apply, click on View Letter of Intent. You will login to the system using NetBadge. If the PI is submitting the Letter of Intent, the PI’s name and email will already be filled in. If you are submitting the proposal on behalf of the PI, please fill in the PI’s name and email address (use the PI’s UVA ID, not an email alias). Enter the proposal title, the list of participating faculty (name and Department), and a short (no more than 1 paragraph) description of the planned proposal. This information will be used to help develop the internal review panel, if necessary. Letters of Intent must be received by 5:00pm on September 13, 2018.

Faculty submitting LOIs will be contacted regarding an internal competition, if necessary. If a competition is necessary, the internal application will be due on October 11, 2018 and must include (one pdf file):

  1. Project Narrative (4-pages single spaced, references do not count toward the page limit). The narrative should track the NSF RFP guidelines, and should describe the impact on UVA’s research and training infrastructure. The project title must be concise and convey the primary purpose of the proposal, e.g., “MRI: Acquisition of ____,” or “MRI: Development of ____”;
  2. 2-page CV for the PI only;
  3. A one-page budget outline (in column format) showing major budget categories for the project period and justifications if necessary (for eligible costs, see section V.B. in NSF Program Solicitation 15-504);
  4. Endorsement letters from Department Chair(s) and Dean(s) that describe required cost-share commitments (see section V.B).
  5. Past applicants should include the Summary Statement from their most recent submission.

Limited Submission Alerts, Process, and Review

To sign up for direct email alerts for all limited submission opportunities, send an email to with the word subscribe as the only word in the Subject heading (do not use capital letters or other punctuation in the Subject heading).

More information on the limited submission review process can be found here:, and in the documents found therein. To summarize, reviewers for individual limited submission opportunities are drawn from a standing committee of tenured faculty members who are nominated by the Schools and appointed by the VPR. Ad hoc committee members may also be invited to serve on specific panels based on their subject expertise and/or their experience with a particular sponsor or program. The internal review committee provides critical reviews of internal pre-proposals and makes recommendations for the pre-proposals that should go forward for external submission. The VPR office follows the best practice of many foundations and agencies and does not disclose the names of individual reviewers who contribute to a specific review panel. The limited submission team notifies individual internal applicants of their pre-proposal review results via email. The limited submission team notifies the Department, School, and Office of Sponsored Programs of the proposal(s) that will go forward for external submission via email.

Sponsor deadline: January 22, 2019

Program URL:


Filed Under: Funding Opportunities