Button to scroll to the top of the page.
Download as iCal file
NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program -- Internal competition deadline
Friday, September 06, 2019, 08:00am - 05:00pm
Contact Bob McGarrett, VPR: bob.mcgarrett@austin.utexas.edu


Internal Submission Deadline: 5:00 pm CST, Friday, September 6, 2019

Funding Organization Deadline: 5:00 pm CST, Sunday, January 19, 2020

Discipline/Subject Area: Engineering, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Geosciences, Computer and Information Science and Engineering, Biological Sciences, Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences, and Education and Human Resources

Funding Available: $4,000,000.00

Documents Required for UT Internal Submission (Please submit these in the following order as a single .pdf document)

  • Brief (2-page maximum) project summary
  • Current C.V.
  • List of collaborators and affiliations on this project
  • Letter/memo of cognizance from Dean's/Associate Dean's office for 30% mandatory cost share associated with this program. To receive this memo for CNS applications, please email Dan Bost (dan.bost@austin.utexas.edu) the following:
    • A quote to verify the 30% cost-share amount;
    • List of collaborators and affiliations on this project (same as preceding bullet); and
    • A summary (forwarded emails will suffice) showing that preliminary discussions with affiliated department chairs/other college ADRs have occurred.
  • If an applicant has any additional supporting information -- such as an endorsement or explicit cost sharing agreement from their Dean/Associate Dean -- that information may be included in the letter of cognizance.
  • If resubmitting to NSF, include a copy of your NSF reviewer comments from your previous submission along with a brief description in your internal competition submission of how you’ve addressed the reviewers’ concerns.

Overview of Opportunity

The Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program serves to increase access to multi-user scientific and engineering instrumentation for research and research training in our Nation's institutions of higher education and not-for-profit scientific/engineering research organizations. An MRI award supports the acquisition or development of a multi-user research instrument that is, in general, too costly and/or not appropriate for support through other NSF programs.

MRI provides support to acquire critical research instrumentation without which advances in fundamental science and engineering research may not otherwise occur. MRI also provides support to develop next-generation research instruments that open new opportunities to advance the frontiers in science and engineering research. Additionally, an MRI award is expected to enhance research training of students who will become the next generation of instrument users, designers and builders.

An MRI proposal may request up to $4 million for either acquisition or development of a research instrument. Beginning with the FY 2018 competition, each performing organization may submit in revised “Tracks” as defined below, with no more than two submissions in Track 1 and no more than one submission in Track 2.

  • Track 1: Track 1 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $100,0001and less than $1,000,000.
  • Track 2: Track 2 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $1,000,000 up to and including $4,000,000.

Non-Ph.D.-granting institutions of higher education are exempt from the cost-sharing requirement and cannot include it. National Science Board policy prohibits voluntary committed cost sharing. 


  • The MRI program requires that an MRI-eligible organization may, as a performing organization, submit or be included as a significantly funded subawardee (see below) in no more than three MRI proposals. Each performing organization is now limited to a maximum of three proposals in “Tracks” as defined below, with no more than two submissions in Track 1 and no more than one submission in Track 2. Any MRI proposal may request support for either the acquisition or development of a research instrument. Within their submission limit, NSF strongly encourages organizations to submit proposals for innovative development projects.
  • Any MRI proposal may request support for either the acquisition or development of a research instrument:
    • Track 1: Track 1 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $100,0001 and less than $1,000,000.
    • Track 2: Track 2 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $1,000,000 up to and including $4,000,000.
  • An unfunded collaboration does not count against the submission limit. Inclusion as a funded subawardee on a development proposal at a level in excess of 20% of the total budget requested from NSF, or as a funded subawardee, when allowed, on any acquisition proposal, will be counted against an organization's proposal submission limit. Separately submitted linked collaborative proposals count against the submission limit of each of the submitting organizations. However, if a subaward to an organization in a development proposal is 20% or less of the proposal's total budget request from NSF, the subawardee's submission limit will not be affected. For subawards within a linked collaborative proposal, the 20% threshold applies to the budget request from NSF in the proposal containing the subaward(s), not to the combined budget request from NSF for the collaborative projec
  • Consistent with the America COMPETES Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-69), cost sharing of precisely 30% of the total project cost is required.
  • The MRI Program especially seeks broad representation of PIs in its award portfolio, including women, underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities. Since demographic 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.
  • For tips on preparing a competitive NSF MRI proposal, review the attached document, "Beyond the RFP: NSF MRI Tips & Strategies."
  • This announcement provides only opportunity highlights. Please carefully review the sponsor's website and guidelines for any requirements and expectations related to eligibility, budget, collaboration, priority research areas, letter of intent requirements, and review criteria before submitting to this internal competition.


Review criteria are based on the NSF's criteria as stated in the program solicitation and may include the following:

For all proposals:

The extent to which the proposed project will make a substantial improvement in the organization's capabilities to conduct leading-edge research, to provide research experiences for undergraduate students using leading-edge capabilities, and to broaden the participation in science and engineering research by women, underrepresented minorities (African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians), and persons with disabilities. Involvement of students in terms of both project needs and training the next generation of instrumentalists. Whether the request is justified and reasonable in magnitude.

For instrument acquisition proposals:

  • The extent of shared use of the instrumentation for research and/or research training.
  • Whether the management plan includes sufficient infrastructure and technical expertise to allow effective usage of the instrument.
  • Whether the request is justified and reasonable in magnitude
  • For instrument acquisition proposals of $1 million or above, the potential impact of the instrument on the research community of interest at the regional or national level, when appropriate.

For Instrument development proposals:

  • The availability of appropriate technical expertise to design and construct the instrument. The need for development of a new instrument. Will the proposed instrument enable enhanced performance over existing instruments, or new types of measurement or information gathering? Is there a strong need for the new instrument in the larger user community?

Note that the top candidates as ranked by the review committee will be required to meet with Vice President Jaffe and Associate Vice President Gardner before final selection.,

Program Website:




Important Dates: 

Documents due to CompetitionSpace: 5pm CST, Friday, September 6, 2019


Full Proposal Deadline: 5pm CST, Sunday, January 19, 2020