NSF Materials Innovation Platforms (MIP)

The following is a limited submission opportunity with only ONE proposal as lead institution is allowed. If you are interested in this program please email me a single PDF by November 30, 2018 with the following pre-proposal requirements:

1.      A two-page summary that must include your research/project:
                   a.      goals
                   b.      objectives
                   c.       methods, and
                   d.      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 pro forma budget, including any cost-sharing and facilities requirements and how you plan to meet them; use template: https://www.umass.edu/research/form/pro-forma-budget-template

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

4.      Current and Pending Support of PI’s


Program Description:

Materials Innovation Platforms (MIP) is a mid-scale infrastructure program in DMR that supports transdisciplinary research and education, cutting-edge tools, and knowledge sharing in key enabling areas of national priority. The MIP Program aligns with the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI), which strives to "discover, manufacture, and deploy advanced materials twice as fast, at a fraction of the cost." A 2014 NSF Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) Advisory Subcommittee study, Closing the Loop: Materials Instrumentation, points out the opportunity to advance materials science through targeted, shared, mid-scale  infrastructure investments. The MIP Program is designed to fill this need. It also embodies several of NSF's "Ten Big Ideas," including Growing Convergence Research, Harnessing the Data Revolution, Mid-scale Research Infrastructure. The research topics of specific MIP proposals may also be of high relevance to other Big Ideas such as Future Work at the Human-Technology Frontier, Quantum Leap, and/or Understanding the Rules of Life.

Fiscal Year 2019 MIP Competition

As highlighted in the Closing the Loop: Materials Instrumentation report, advancing the field of materials synthesis represents a unique opportunity to reclaim US leadership in this domain which could lead to the next generation of breakthroughs in materials science and engineering. As an example, the report states, "The growing areas of soft and bio-inspired materials are just beginning to explore rich new horizons of complexity and functionality that require their own set of innovative synthesis techniques." This second MIP competition focuses on the convergence of materials research with biological sciences for developing new materials. New ways of synthesis/processing of complex materials with novel functionalities are of high priority. Scalable and sustainable synthesis/ processing approaches are also of high interest. In addition, MIPs are expected to make full use of opportunities provided by engaging the emerging field of data science.

A successful MIP must be transformational, focus on a grand challenge or challenges of fundamental research, and align with national priorities. Some grand challenges are identified in, as examples, the 2007 National Academy Report Condensed-Matter and Materials Physics: The Science of the World Around Us, 2008 National Academy Report Inspired by Biology: From Molecules to Materials to Machines, 2012 Biomaterials Workshop Report, and 2016 Workshop Report on Frontiers in Polymer Science and Engineering. A common theme in these reports is that many of these grand challenges will not be overcome by one discipline alone and must be addressed through a transdisciplinary approach that utilizes expertise in materials science, physics, chemistry, engineering, biology, mathematics, and computer science. A convergence of ideas, approaches and technologies from diverse fields of knowledge will stimulate innovation and discovery. A highly successful MIP builds a new Platform for complex materials through convergence of expertise from various fields that have different perspectives to address a common grand challenge of multiple disciplines.

Additional links for useful documents and related activities:

  • 2016 Biomaterials Midscale Tools Workshop (While this MIP solicitation is not limited to biomaterials, some instruments identified in the report of this workshop can be considered.)
  • A living foundry for Synthetic Biological Materials: A synthetic biology roadmap to new advanced materials
  • DARPA Living Foundries
  • Synthetic biology in China, UK and US
  • The FAIR Guiding Principles for Scientific Data Management and Stewardship

Additional Information for MIP

The complexity and challenge of activities addressed by this program require a transformative approach to discovering and developing new materials, predicting and optimizing properties of these materials, and informing the design of materials systems. MIPs are driven by the MGI approach with materials synthesis/processing, materials characterization, and theory/modeling/simulation applied to targeted outcomes. Accordingly, the proposed activities must close-the-loop, i.e., be a collaborative and iterative process wherein, for example, theory guides computational simulation, computational simulation guides experiments, and experiments further inform theory. It should be noted that the loop can be entered from any point, not just from theory, and can be bidirectional (e.g., experimental results improve simulation). Through this tightly connected iterative process, new discoveries are anticipated to occur at a faster rate than conventional modes of collaboration. Advances in each of the three areas (synthesis/processing, characterization, and theory/modeling/simulation) are expected for MIPs. The interactive, closed-loop process is required for in-house research and is expected for the user program as a whole, but not required for individual user projects. In addition, MIPs are expected to engage the emerging data science, including artificial intelligence and/or machine learning capabilities, as appropriate. Accelerating the closed-loop process by leveraging artificial intelligence, automation, and decision theory could eventually lead to autonomous materials discovery.

This collaborative and iterative process requires a team with the requisite expertise in synthesis/processing, characterization, theory/modeling/simulation, etc. The proposed projects are directed by a team of at least three Senior Personnel with complementary expertise. The whole MIP team also includes Senior Personnel and technical staff with expertise in tool development, data, and user facility operation. Advancement in characterization methodologies and theory/modeling/simulation approaches that benefit the research endeavor is also expected. While all instruments needed for world-class research facilities will be considered, a high priority for NSF is to support instruments with unique capabilities.

MIPs engage in a limited number of education and outreach activities that integrate strategically with the research goals, further the training mission, and increase the broader impacts. Training includes next-generation instrument developers, users, and in-house research participants. Outreach activities are designed to attract users from diverse communities and level of expertise. MIPs are expected to demonstrate a significant commitment to the involvement of underrepresented groups (e.g., women, underrepresented minorities, persons with disabilities) as MIP participants and as users.

MIPs provide access to existing and new instrumentation, techniques, samples, software, modeling and simulation tools, data, databases and other resources to the broad scientific community. MIPs go beyond traditional user facilities that provide access to instrumentation; they create and nurture scientific ecosystems by bringing together the scientific and technical expertise of in-house researchers, users, and other contributors through knowledge and data sharing. Specifically, the tools supported by NSF MIP funding are for shared use by users and for in-house research; each MIP also develops and uses mechanisms to share codes, samples, data, and know-how among a community of practitioners (in-house researchers, users, and other contributors). A MIP is also expected to leverage the emerging field of data science as part of the integration and iteration of experiment and computational efforts. and, as appropriate, to utilize cloud resources for data storage and sharing. Because of these efforts and a transdisciplinary team, each MIP is a scientific ecosystem that promotes cross-fertilization of ideas and enables new science that cannot be accomplished otherwise.

MIPs must support broad accessibility to a rich national user base at universities, national laboratories, and industry. They operate user facilities that are open to a diverse community of external and internal researchers at various institutions. To promote usage of their facilities, MIPs do not charge academic users in the United States for reasonable time with experts, technicians, or use of equipment acquired through the MIP award. Major equipment acquired through the MIP funding must devote at least 50% of the instrument operational time to external users (defined as those who are neither MIP participants nor affiliated with the institutions where MIP user facilities are located). Users may be charged for consumables and supplies, especially those that are expensive and not routine. Full cost recovery is applied to proprietary research.

Platforms reside at academic institutions where the appropriate infrastructure, including laboratory, common space and sharing of equipment, already exists to assist in the proposed research and add value to the MIP user facility. MIPs are also funded for acquisition and development of new equipment, tools, and supporting technologies that will position and maintain the facility at the frontier of the proposed materials research area. Tools (or suite of tools) acquired or developed through a MIP award are novel and/or unique and go beyond the scope and scale of those tools that are acquired through other NSF modes of support, such as the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program.

The MIP Program will support acquisition and development of instruments, software and databases; service contracts on purchased equipment; professional staffing including support for the principal investigators, other senior personnel and technicians; and a limited number of students and postdoctoral researchers. Five-year awards totaling $15,000,000 to $25,000,000 for the award period are anticipated. Equipment acquisition and development is expected to be mainly in the first few years. User facility operation may ramp up over time and is expected to reach a steady state by year 4. Approximately 50% of the MIP funds provided by NSF, after subtracting instrument acquisition and development costs, should be devoted to the user facility operation.

The MIP program will NOT support requests for any of the following:

  • Construction, renovation or modernization of rooms, buildings or research facilities;
  • General purpose and supporting equipment. Supporting equipment refers to basic, durable components of a research facility that are integral to its operation (e.g., fume hoods, elevators, laboratory casework, cryogen storage systems, general-purpose computational or data storage systems);
  • Sustaining infrastructure and/or building systems. This category includes (but is not limited to) the installation of or upgrades to infrastructure related to the supply of power, ventilation, water or research gases, routine multi-purpose computer networks, standard safety features, and other general purpose systems (e.g., toxic waste removal systems, and telecommunications equipment); or
  • General purpose platforms or environment. This category includes (but is not limited to) general purpose fixed or non-fixed structures and vehicles whose role is to host or transport an instrument.

DMR manages the MIPs through the National Facilities and Instrumentation program in the division. MIPs are awarded as cooperative agreements with an initial commitment of five years, with the possibility of one five-year renewal, subsequent to a rigorous and favorable review by NSF.