Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI: BIC)

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

The Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) program supports academe-industry partnerships which are led by an interdisciplinary academic research team collaborating with a least one industry partner. In this program, there is a heavy emphasis on the quality, composition, and participation of the partners, including their appropriate contributions. These partnerships focus on the integration of technologies into a specified human-centered service system with the potential to achieve transformational benefits, satisfying a real need by making an existing service system smart(er) or by spurring the creation of an entirely new smart service system. The selected service system should function as a test bed.

Service systems are socio-technical configurations of people, technologies, organizations, and information [1] designed to create value by fulfilling the needs of those participating in the system. A "smart" service system is a system that amplifies or augments human capabilities [2] to identify, learn, adapt, monitor and make decisions. The system utilizes data received, transmitted, or processed in a timely manner, thus improving its response to future situations. These capabilities are the result of the incorporation of technologies for sensing, actuation, coordination, communication, control, etc. 

PFI:BIC funds research partnerships working on projects that operate in the post-fundamental/translational space; the proposers must be mindful of the state of the art and the competitive landscape. However, a clear path to commercialization does not need to be a central part of this proposal. These projects require additional effort to integrate the technology into a real service system, incorporating human factors considerations to assure the system’s efficacy. The research tasks in turn might spawn additional discoveries inspired by this interaction of humans with the technology.

Examples of partnership activities that drive sustained innovation include the targeted allocation of resources such as capital, time, and facilities; and sharing of knowledge in a cross-organizational and interdisciplinary context. The research tasks of the project must demonstrate a highly collaborative research plan involving participation of the primary industrial partner(s) as well as of any other primary partners with the academic researcher during the life of the award.

NSF recognizes that interdisciplinary collaboration (involving many areas of expertise beyond just those related to the technology) is needed to achieve successful integration into a smart service system. The research components to be included in this project are: 1) engineered system design and integration; 2) computing, sensing, and information technologies; and 3) human factors, behavioral sciences, and cognitive engineering. The proposer must show how these components will be integrated in the context of the project as part of the research plan in the Project Description. 

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: 2


  • Duke Internal: September 20, 2016
  • Letter of Intent Due Date(s) (required) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time): October 14, 2016
  • Full Proposal Deadline(s) (due by 5 p.m. proposer's local time): November 16, 2016


Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

Who May Submit Proposals:

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Universities and Colleges - Universities and two- and four-year colleges (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in, the US acting on behalf of their faculty members. Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.
  • Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities.

Who May Serve as PI:

The PI cannot concurrently be a PI on more than one active PFI:BIC award.

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: 2

Academic institutions are limited to participation on two (2) proposals as a lead institution.

A lead academic institution that has submitted a proposal has the option to participate as a subawardee on additional proposals submitted under this solicitation. Lead academic institutions that have submitted a proposal may also provide consultants to other proposals submitted under this solicitation. There is no limit on the number of times an institution is a subawardee or a consultant in proposals lead by another academic institution.



Amount Description

Estimated Number of Awards: 10

Anticipated Funding Amount: $10,000,000

  • Anticipated Funding Amount is subject to the availability of funds and the quality of proposals received.
  • Awards may be up to a total budget of $1,000,000 with an award duration of three (3) years.

Funding Type





Community Outreach and Engagement
Curriculum Development
Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences
International Opportunities
Medical - Translational
Social Sciences

Internal Nomination

Owing to the sponsor's restriction on the number of applications that may be submitted from Duke, anyone wishing to pursue nomination should submit the following materials as one PDF.

* A letter of support from dean/chair - 1 to 1.5 pages
* DRAFT of the first two sections of the LOI, Synopsis and Other Comments (each 2500 characters maximum, including spaces), should be used to convey important aspects of the project, such as information about the areas of expertise that comprise the three required components of this project: 1) engineered service system design and integration; 2) computing, sensing, and information technologies; and 3) human factors, behavioral sciences, or cognitive engineering.

Under Additional Information, three (3) data fields are provided. Each data field can contain a maximum of 255 characters or approximately 30 words for each section. For PFI:BIC, these are as follows:

  • Test Bed for Technology Integration: Briefly describe the technology-based service system and how the technology will make it "smart" or "smarter" and contribute to its efficacy.
  • Primary Industrial Partner(s): Provide for each: Name, Founding Date, Number of Employees, Location (City & State), Commercial Revenues for the preceding calendar year, and Project Role (s). Reasonable abbreviations can be used. If you cannot accommodate the information, include the rest of the information under Other Comments (see above).
  • Human Factors Research Tasks to be carried out which are essential to the design of the smart service system. List a few major research activities which illustrate how human-centered design considerations will be informed by the human factors research tasks.

If the limited spaces designated for Primary Industrial Partners and/or Human Factors Research Tasks are not sufficient, the Other Comments section may be used to describe these aspects of the project.

* NSF Biosketch

Applicants will need to submit internal materials through My Research Proposal.(Code ILN)

Instructions for setting up your account and uploading internal applications can be found here: Instructions_FINAL.pdf


Internal Deadline

September 20, 2016

External Deadline

October 14, 2016