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.
The need for a well-defined NSF mid-scale funding program has been recognized by stakeholders in the scientific community and by Congress in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA) of 2017. As one of four “process ideas” in the NSF suite of 10 Big Ideas, the Mid-scale Research Infrastructure Program is aimed at transforming scientific and engineering research fields as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education research fields by making available new capabilities, while simultaneously training early-career researchers in the development, design, and construction of cutting-edge infrastructure.
The NSF Mid-scale Research Infrastructure-2 Program (Mid-scale RI-2) supports implementation of projects that comprise any combination of equipment, instrumentation, computational hardware and software, and the necessary commissioning and human capital in support of implementation of the same. The total cost for Mid-scale RI-2 projects ranges from $20 million to below the minimum award funded by the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) Program, currently $70 million. Mid-scale RI-2 projects will directly enable advances in any of the research domains supported by NSF, including STEM education. Projects may also include upgrades to existing research infrastructure.
The Mid-scale RI-2 Program emphasizes strong scientific merit and response to an identified need of the research community, technical and managerial readiness for implementation, and a well-developed plan for student training and involvement of a diverse workforce in mid-scale facility development, and/or associated data management.
Mid-scale RI-2 will consider only the implementation (typically construction or acquisition) stage of a project, including a limited degree of advanced development immediately preparatory to implementation. It is thus intended that Mid-scale RI-2 will support projects in high states of readiness for implementation, i.e., those that have already matured through previous developmental investments. Accordingly, Mid-scale RI-2 does not support pre-implementation (early-stage design or development). Mid-scale RI-2 also does not support post-implementation research, operations or maintenance, the anticipated source(s) of which are expected to be discussed in the proposal.
It is anticipated that solicitations will be issued approximately biennially after the first issuance.
Research infrastructure and instrumentation in the range just above the current Major Research Instrumentation Program threshold and below the Mid-scale RI-2 threshold is the subject of the Mid-scale Research Infrastructure-1 solicitation.
- Early Career
- Established Investigator