In 2016, the National Science Foundation (NSF) unveiled a set of “Big Ideas,” 10 bold, long-term research and process ideas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering (see https://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/big_ideas/index.jsp). The Big Ideas represent unique opportunities to position our Nation at the cutting edge of global science and engineering leadership by bringing together diverse disciplinary perspectives to support convergence research. As such, when responding to this solicitation, even though proposals must be submitted to the Office of Integrative Activities, once received, the proposals will be managed by a cross-disciplinary team of NSF Program Directors.
Please consult NSF’s Large Facilities Manual (LFM) and its successor to be published as the Major Facilities Guide (MFG) for definitions of terms used in this solicitation, such as the Project Execution Plan. Note that Project Execution Plans should be appropriate for the complexity of the project, and may not require all of the elements described in the LFM/MFG.
NSF-supported science and engineering research increasingly relies on cutting-edge infrastructure. With its Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) program and Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) projects, NSF supports infrastructure projects at the lower and higher ends of infrastructure scales across science and engineering research disciplines. The Mid-scale Research Infrastructure Big Idea is intended to provide NSF with an agile, Foundation-wide process to fund experimental research capabilities in the mid-scale range between the MRI and MREFC thresholds.
Within Mid-scale RI-1, proposers may submit two types of projects, “Implementation” and “Design”. Design and Implementation projects may comprise any combination of equipment, infrastructure, computational hardware and software, and necessary commissioning. Design includes planning (preliminary and final design) of research infrastructure with an anticipated total project cost that is appropriate for future Mid-scale RI-1, Mid-scale RI-2 or MREFC-class investments. Mid-scale RI-1 uses an inclusive definition of implementation, which can include traditional stand-alone construction or acquisition and can include a degree of advanced development leading immediately to final system acquisition and/or construction.
Mid-scale RI-1 “Implementation” projects may have a total project cost ranging from $6 million up to below $20 million. Projects must directly enable advances in fundamental science, engineering or science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education research in one or more of the research domains supported by NSF. Implementation projects may support new or upgraded research infrastructure. Only Mid-scale RI-1 “Design” projects may request less than $6 million, with a minimum request of $600,000 and a maximum request below $20 million as needed to prepare for a future mid-scale or larger infrastructure implementation project. (Successful award of a Mid-scale RI-1 design project does not imply NSF commitment to future implementation of that project.)Note: Mid-scale research infrastructure projects beyond the Mid-scale RI-1 program limit are anticipated to be separately solicited by a Mid-scale RI-2 program.
Mid-scale RI-1 emphasizes strong scientific merit and response to an identified need of the research community. Demonstrated technical and managerial experience is required for both design and implementation projects, as are well-developed plans for student training and the involvement of a diverse workforce in all aspects of mid-scale activities.
- Early Career
- Established Investigator