Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE): Use-Inspired Research Challenges on Climate Change and Clean Energy

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

This PIRE competition invites visionary, ambitious, interdisciplinary, use-inspired research proposals that address scientific challenges related to climate change and/or clean energy.

Many cutting-edge research questions require international collaboration to achieve important advances. They also require insights from diverse disciplines to address the full complexity of the research, as well as active participation of stakeholders outside of academia to ensure research findings connect to real-world solutions to societal challenges related to climate change and/or clean energy. Climate change and clean energy research teams that incorporate some of these characteristics are increasingly common, but many have not had the opportunity to fully integrate all elements into their research agenda. This PIRE program invites PIs to develop these partnerships to exploit their full potential in the future.

The projects will utilize multi-stakeholder and international partnerships that are essential to address these challenges of critical societal importance at a regional or global scale. The research areas may include any combination of the natural and physical sciences, engineering, and the social sciences. Proposals that advance understanding of the human and behavioral aspects of climate change and/or clean energy challenges are encouraged.  Educational activities should be integral to the project. Only high caliber research proposals that require international collaborations and show a clear potential for rapid scale-up and growth will be considered. Proposals that could be submitted to regular disciplinary and interdisciplinary programs at NSF will be returned without review. 

Proposals must clearly and succinctly address the following requirements. Note that reviewers will be asked to comment on how well these points are addressed in the submitted proposals.

·       What is the societal challenge of global importance to be addressed?

·       What is the novel scientific challenge of the proposed research? How will the proposed project utilize inter-, multi-, trans-disciplinary approaches and/or convergence approaches to address the science challenge?

·       What is the proposed use-inspired nature of the research?

·       Why is the international partnership required, who are the partners, what are their contributions and roles in the project?

·       What is the role of multi-sector and multi-stakeholder partners included (including but not limited to academia, private sector, public sector, philanthropies, etc.) in the proposed PIRE project?

·       How will diversity, equity and inclusion be integrated into the research and education effort?

·       What is your vision and strategy for growth, scaling up and expanding the research beyond the PIRE project period?

The PIRE projects are expected to be driven by a bold vision for high-impact use-inspired basic research along with a strategy to leverage the PIRE opportunity to integrate diverse perspectives from different disciplines, international partners, and stakeholder groups into the research. It is expected that this effort will enhance societal benefits and increase potential to scale up and expand the partnerships beyond the PIRE funding period, catalyzing center-level activities in the future.

Awards are intended to support a combination of research and readiness-building that fully integrates a diverse set of partners into the research agenda, regularly engages relevant stakeholders and adapts the research to incorporate relevant insights. Education efforts are expected to play an integral role in this effort, and both research and education plans are expected to reflect intentional effort to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in science and engineering.

It is envisioned that PIRE funded projects will demonstrate readiness to scale-up and expand their partnerships to compete successfully for support to undertake center-scale activities and to serve as enduring international hubs of research excellence that advance knowledge, empower communities, and generate discovery and innovative technological solutions at a regional or global scale.

U.S. PIs are encouraged to work with their foreign collaborators to secure additional funding from the foreign agencies and build partnerships with other potential donors, including but not limited to private parties, foundations, industry, etc.


  • Letter of Intent (required): Feb. 8, 2022
  • Full Proposal: March 25, 2022

Agency Website

Eligibility Requirements

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.

An individual may be listed as a PI or co-PI on no more than one proposal submitted in response to this solicitation. An Individual may be listed as Other Senior Personnel, consultant or lead of a subaward on no more than three proposals in total, including no more than one as PI or co-PI. Proposals exceeding the limit for any person will be returned without review in the reverse order received.



Amount Description

Award size is expected to be up to $1.5 million in total over 3 years.

Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds.

Funding Type





Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences
International Opportunities

External Deadline

February 8, 2022