NSF Major Research Instrumentation Program (MRI)

Please Note: NSF MRI limited submission requirements have changed!

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). 

If you are interested in submitting to this program please notify Michelle Wonsey via email asap but no later than July 30th.  Please advise which Track and if it is for Development or Acquisition that you will be submitting for.


Those interested are asked to provide the following additional information by September 15th. It is strongly encouraged to meeting with Ian Raphael, Director Research Project Management, in advance of submission to be sure pre-proposals and cost share plans meet requirements. iraphael@research.umass.edu, 545-5261.

1)      A two to three-page project summary that must include:

a.      project goals,
b.      equipment specifications,
c.       objectives,
d.      methods, and  
e.      a short statement of competitiveness (i.e. what you think will discriminate your proposal from the competition, including anything you have done to pre-position yourself/your team for this funding opportunity).

2)      A short statement from each group on the anticipated use of the equipment and what proposals the equipment will enable 

3)      A simple yet clear budget with identified cost share commitments. The VCRE commitment will generally support 50% of the cost share, depending on availability of funds.

4)      A short-form CV for the PI and each senior staff person.

5)      Current and Pending support for (a) confirmed users and (b) potential users, and a statement describing the significance of the proposed instrumentation and their estimated use.

6)      A pro forma business plan for a sustainable financial model or a statement from the core business manager in which the equipment will be situated.

7)      If you have submitted a proposal on the same topic previously and were not funded, please provide reviews and detail how you responded to comments.

8)      A signed copy of the Facility Assessment Worksheet.

Please note that you will have to work with Design and Construction Management (formerly Facilities planning) to complete #8. The pre-proposal will not be accepted without it.  Please note that this evaluation process may take up to three weeks to complete.

If more than the number allowed express interest in submitting there will be an internal review to select the nominees. The information requested above will serve as a pre-proposal and will be sent to the internal review committee.


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 $100,0001 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.

Consistent with the America COMPETES Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-69), 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.

 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.