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NSF Funding Innovation Research, Collaboration, Training

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National Science Foundation (NSF) has begun a new funding program, Accelerating Innovation Research, with two related activities to help accelerate the translation of new knowledge from research into products with market value. The activities aim to spur translation of fundamental research, to encourage collaboration between academia and industry, and to train students who understand innovation and entrepreneurship.

The first activity, Technology Translation Plan Competition, supports innovative ideas in the translation of fundamental science and engineering discoveries into commercial reality.  In this program, NSF aims to put more discoveries on the path to becoming new technologies, and to engage faculty and students in entrepreneurial/innovative thinking.

Under this option, investigators can complete the necessary research (such as prototyping and/or scale-up of production) and prepare a Technology Translation Plan for their new product or process concept.  The NSF award will require the investigator to generate a plan for bringing to market a concept for which the basic research has previously been completed. Proposals will include a preliminary plan, which after review and comment by academic and business experts, will be followed by a final plan that includes a demonstration designed to attract funding for commercialization.

The second activity is the Research Alliance Competition that seeks to foster collaborations between an NSF-funded innovation research alliance and at least one partner to form a synergistic relationship that accelerates the innovation of a product, a process or system. Examples of NSF-funded alliances are the Industry & University Cooperative Research Programs and Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers.

In the second option, NSF is looking particularly for partnerships that leverage the collaborative relationship developed under the grant to strengthen the innovation ecosystem.  The collaboration should link organizations so research results more rapidly become marketable products, through the creation of new start-up businesses or partnerships with existing businesses.

Grants may be used to fund translational research necessary to bring a particular technology from either the research alliance or the partner entity to market, or to fund infrastructure, such as a rapid prototype facility, that would enable technologies to be more rapidly commercialized.  NSF also wants the awards to lead to more tangible outcomes such as new startup business, better connections between university researchers and innovators, creation of jobs, or preparation of students who understand innovation and entrepreneurship.

While the grants will go to academic institutions, NSF wants the grant recipients to secure third-party investments, either through traditional financing or in-kind services. Eligible investors include industrial partners, venture capitalists, angel investors, customers, and contracts from state and federal governments.

Letters of intent are required and due to NSF by 1 December 2010, with full proposals due by 1 February 2011.

Hat tip: Science Careers/GrantsNet

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