Funding Opportunity - NSF EPSCoR RII Program: Track-2 Competition Announced


  • Letter of Intent (required): December 18, 2020 (Due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time)
  • Full Proposal: January 25, 2021 (Due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time)
  • Access the Full Solicitation

Important! The information below was obtained from NSF Program Solicitation NSF 21-518 on 10/23/2020; the information was accurate at the time of posting; only part of the solicitation has been included below. Interested parties should visit the NSF website to obtain the most up-to-date information prior to developing their proposals. The full solicitation NSF 21-518 may be accessed here. 


  • Anticipated Type of Award: Cooperative Agreement
  • Estimated Number of Awards: 7 in FY 2021
  • Anticipated Funding Amount: $7,000,000 to $10,500,000
  • Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the quality of proposals and availability of funds.


Only jurisdictions that meet the EPSCoR eligibility criteria may submit proposals to the Research Infrastructure Improvement Program Track-2 (RII Track-2) competition.

  • There is a limit of a single proposal from each submitting organization.
  • Each proposal must have at least one collaborator from an academic institution or organization in a different RII-eligible EPSCoR jurisdiction as a coPrincipal Investigator (co-PI).
  • There must be one co-PI listed on the cover page from each participating jurisdiction. Proposals that depart from these guidelines will be returned without review.
  • For the FY 2021 RII Track-2 FEC competition, all proposals must promote collaborations among researchers in EPSCoR jurisdictions and emphasize the recruitment/development of diverse early career faculty and STEM education and workforce development on the single topic: "Advancing research towards Industries of the Future to ensure economic growth for EPSCoR jurisdictions.“
  • Inclusion of Primarily Undergraduate Institutions and/or Minority Serving Institutions as partners is strongly encouraged.
  • The extent and quality of the inter-jurisdictional collaborations must be clearly articulated.
  • A letter of Intent (LOI) is required for the FY 2021 RII Track-2 FEC competition. LOIs must be submitted by the Authorized Organizational Representative of the submitting organization via FastLane on or before the LOI due date. Any proposal submitted without a prior Letter of Intent will be returned without review.
  • An investigator may serve as Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-PI on only one RII Track-2 award at any given time.
  • Proposals must be submitted as “Submission of a collaborative proposal from one organization” with support for non-lead collaborating organizations requested as subawards (PAPPG Chapter II.D.3.a). Proposals that depart from these guidelines will be returned without review.
  • The project title must begin with “RII Track-2 FEC:” and follow with an informative title in the topic area.
  • Allowable RII Track-2 FEC award amounts depend on the number of participating EPSCoR jurisdictions. If two RII-eligible EPSCoR jurisdictions collaborate on a proposal, the award amount may not exceed $1 million per year. If three or more RII- eligible EPSCoR jurisdictions collaborate on a proposal, the award amount may not exceed $1.5 million per year. In either case, awards are for a maximum of four years.
  • The project team must cooperate with NSF EPSCoR’s programmatic evaluation and assessment activities. Awardees are expected to work with EPSCoR and/or its designated entity for centralized project data collection and provide all required data in a timely manner. See Section V.B for corresponding budget requirements. This data collection complements but does not replace individual evaluation and assessment activities. Awardees are still required to fulfill NSF Reporting requirements as well as engaging with an independent project evaluator.
  • Page limits apply. See Section V.
  • At the bottom of the Project Summary, PIs should indicate the Letter of Intent (LOI) number, and the NSF Directorate(s), Division(s), and Program(s) that most closely aligns with the proposal's research focus
  • No Letter of Collaboration should be included in the Supplementary Documents. See Section V.A.10. A maximum of five letters of support may be included. See Section V.A.10.
  • The list of all organizations and companies involved in the project must include locations.
  • Collaborators and Other Affiliations Information : Proposers should follow the guidance specified in PAPPG Chapter II.C.1.e.

Any proposal submitted in response to this solicitation should be submitted in accordance with the revised NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 20-1), which is effective for proposals submitted, or due, on or after June 1, 2020. 


The Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is designed to fulfill the mandate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote scientific progress nationwide. A jurisdiction is eligible to participate in NSF EPSCoR if their most recent 5-year level of total NSF funding is equal to or less than 0.75% of the total NSF budget subject to certain exclusions. Jurisdictions above 0.75% but less than 0.80% are allowed to remain EPSCoR-eligible for up to 5 years. For more details, see: Through this program, NSF establishes partnerships with government, higher education, and industry that are designed to effect sustainable improvements in a jurisdiction's research infrastructure, Research and Development (R&D) capacity, and hence, its R&D competitiveness. RII Track-2 FEC builds interjurisdictional collaborative teams of EPSCoR investigators in scientific focus areas consistent with NSF priorities. Projects are investigator-driven and must include researchers from at least two EPSCoR eligible jurisdictions with complementary expertise and resources necessary to address challenges, which neither party could address as well or rapidly independently. The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research and education activities should seek to broaden participation through the strategic inclusion and integration of diverse individuals, institutions, and sectors throughout the project. Proposals must describe a comprehensive and integrated vision to drive discovery and build sustainable STEM capacity that exemplifies diversity of all types (individual, institutional, geographic, and disciplinary). The development of diverse early-career faculty is a critical component of this sustainable STEM capacity. For FY 2021, RII Track-2 FEC proposals are invited on a single topic: “Advancing research towards Industries of the Future to ensure economic growth for EPSCoR jurisdictions.”

A single proposal is submitted for a project. Support for non-lead collaborating organizations should be requested as subawards. Separately submitted collaborative proposals are not allowed. Each participating EPSCoR jurisdiction must have at least one co-PI on the project. Proposals that do not comply with these requirements will be considered not responsive, and will be returned without review.


The primary driver for RII Track-2 FEC investments is the need to build investigator-driven, interjurisdictional research collaborations with the potential to be nationally and internationally competitive. The project description should include a strong rationale for the collaboration and demonstrate that the partnership is designed to facilitate discovery and innovation in the focus area, which neither party could address as well, or as rapidly, alone. RII Track-2 FEC proposals are unique in their integration of researchers into collaborative teams across EPSCoR jurisdictions, and must develop a diverse, well-prepared, STEM-enabled workforce necessary to sustain research competitiveness. Moreover, NSF EPSCoR recognizes that the demographic of the United States is changing and therefore to be competitive, EPSCoR jurisdictions need to be intentional regarding the involvement of diverse individuals as they consider the future. In addition, the recruitment and/or development of early-career faculty that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields as well as the involvement of traditionally underrepresented groups at all levels of this project are critical in achieving this goal and must be an integral component of the proposed project.

Over the long term, RII Track-2 FEC investments are expected to result in sustained improvements in research competitiveness, enabling EPSCoR investigators to successfully pursue significant opportunities of national and international importance in science and engineering research and education. Moreover, specific to this solicitation, it is expected that previous NSF and other federal agency investments will be leveraged and translate into advancing Industries of the Future in the involved jurisdiction(s). Non-EPSCoR and international collaborations may be included, but no EPSCoR funds should be directed to these organizations.

Central to the success of the proposal is the clear demonstration that the collaboration is well-positioned to produce outcomes that cannot be obtained through the efforts of a team in a single jurisdiction working alone. The proposal must clearly identify the roles and contributions of each partner in the project, the anticipated increases in research capacity and competitiveness, the projected workforce development and educational plan and outcomes, and the benefits to the jurisdictions, nation, and society. It is expected that these collaborations be balanced, with participating jurisdictions each contributing to and benefitting from projects at levels that are appropriate to their capabilities.

To ensure maximum impact of limited EPSCoR funds, requests for RII Track-2 FEC funding must:

  • Add significantly to the research capability of the participating jurisdictions in the designated focus area;
  • Contribute to the advancement of research and innovation in the proposal’s focus area;
  • Illustrate how the participating jurisdictions’ research capacities will be positively impacted by the collaborative effort;
  • Outline clear plans for the recruitment and/or development of early-career faculty that are underrepresented in the chosen STEM field;
  • Engage the diversity of the participating jurisdictions’ resources including two- and four-year colleges, minority serving institutions, and local and state industry in STEM workforce development; and
  • Present a detailed sustainability plan to show the economic impact of the endeavor and also will generate subsequent, sustained non-EPSCoR funding from federal, jurisdictional, or private sector sources.

Note: In all instances, clear specification of research and education goals, performance metrics, evaluation, management, and a timetable for achieving goals is a requirement for EPSCoR support.

RII Track-2 FEC proposals are expected to be investigator-driven collaborations and the PI and co-PIs must all be active researchers in the focus area of the proposal. Proposals should clearly specify research, education and workforce development goals, and the expected leveraging of the proposed research to aid in the development of a chosen industry of the future in the target jurisdiction(s). A timetable for achieving those goals, and an evaluation plan with measurable performance metrics is required.

In FY 2021, RII Track-2 FEC proposals must be aligned with the following focus area: “Advancing research towards Industries of the Future to ensure economic growth for EPSCoR jurisdictions.” According to the 2021 OMB/OSTP Research and Development priorities memo, “Industries of the Future” are a key component to the country’s economic and national security.

For the National Science Foundation, these industries have been defined across several categories and include: Advanced Manufacturing; Advanced Wireless; Artificial Intelligence; Biotechnology; Quantum Information Science; and Spectrum Innovation Science. Moreover, these industries will require new advances in and integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning, new cyber infrastructure, new approaches for mathematical and computational modeling, new dynamics and control methodologies, new ways to integrate systems biology, synthetic biology and bioprocessing, and new ways to contribute to influence the economy, workforce, and society. For this solicitation, research focused in these areas is strongly encouraged, however, in rare cases, additional industries relevant to a Jurisdiction’s Science and Technology Plan can be considered for this solicitation with appropriate strong justification.

NSF EPSCoR has stated that one of its driving goals is to enhance research competitiveness by strengthening STEM capacity and capability which “impacts jurisdictional economic development.” Therefore, by leveraging current and previous NSF as well as other federal agencies substantial investments in the industries and investments in the research underlying or supporting these industries, this solicitation seeks to create a significant and collective impact at targeted jurisdictions by advancing future investments towards jurisdictions’ socio-economic growth. Proposals submitted for the FY21 RII Track-2 FEC competition should leverage already documented outcomes from any project (or projects) related to the industries of the future topics across multiple jurisdictions and collectively bring those together to address new economic opportunities either within those jurisdictions, or in additional EPSCoR jurisdictions.

As a result, these projects are expected to create or establish a solid pathway towards impacting the jurisdictions at an economic scale guided by a diverse STEM workforce.

Moreover, to understand the impacts of these industries in the jurisdiction(s), it is critical to understand their influence from a social perspective. This could include understanding and assessing any specific disruptive impact of the technology on the industry, developing innovative educational plans to prepare a skilled technical workforce (K-12, two year colleges, undergraduate and graduate students to university faculty), or understanding the social and political impacts of this technology on the environment or current social-economic demographic that is present in the jurisdiction. To do this NSF EPSCoR envisions the convergence of multidisciplinary and diverse teams that span the sciences, engineering, social sciences, and innovation research to understand and build the science, scale it up, and ground it within the economic and societal realms both directly and indirectly influenced by the technology. In addition, partnerships with companies, innovation experts, or relevant local and State government and other stakeholders would be expected to allow this proposal to have the anticipated economic scale impact required for this solicitation.

Furthermore, the anticipated needs of the future workforce mandate that data science skills be incorporated broadly across education programs; therefore, projects should develop strong educational programs in these emerging areas that can be implemented across institutions of higher learning in participating jurisdictions. Additionally, NSF and EPSCoR recognize that STEM talent must be cultivated in underrepresented populations of individuals in order for jurisdictions to keep pace with industries of the future’s changing workforce needs. Accordingly, proposals should include a strong commitment to building a diverse workforce. The inclusion and involvement of two- and four-year colleges, Primarily Undergraduate Institutions and Minority Serving Institutions that serve under-represented minorities in STEM is strongly recommended. Involvement and mentoring of early-career faculty is required and a detailed mentoring plan that leverages national best practices for STEM mentoring is expected. More information on NSF’s commitment to broadening participation can be found in the “Framework for Action Report.”

Proposals that do not align with this focus area will be returned without review. The proposed research, and education activities, innovation, workforce development, diversity, sustainability, and other project activities should be closely tied to the focus area of “Advancing research towards Industries of the Future to ensure economic growth for EPSCoR jurisdictions”

The proposed RII Track-2 FEC activities should not duplicate other ongoing RII activities or any other activities in the jurisdictions but may leverage and build upon the existing infrastructure.


RII Track-2 FEC proposals may include support for academic, jurisdictional, profit and non-profit organizations, as well as eligible individuals employed by such organizations. In addition, cooperative programs among research institutions within or across EPSCoR jurisdictions, or between jurisdictions’ research and predominantly undergraduate institutions, especially minority serving institutions within the jurisdictions, qualify for EPSCoR support.

In all cases, PIs of proposed EPSCoR projects must be affiliated with institutions of higher education, agencies, or organizations within the participating jurisdictions. The PI and co-PIs must all have disciplinary expertise in the research area being proposed. Whereas the proposed project may employ collaborations between EPSCoR and non-EPSCoR participants, EPSCoR funding can only be requested and used for the EPSCoR-based components. In addition, all activities carried out under an EPSCoR award are subject to the restrictions concerning eligible STEM disciplines and activities detailed in the NSF PAPPG found on the NSF website at


The RII Track-2 FEC award amount is restricted based on the number of eligible jurisdictions participating in the project. If organizations from two RII-eligible EPSCoR jurisdictions collaborate on a proposal, the award amount may not exceed $1 million per year for up to four years. If organizations from three or more RII-eligible EPSCoR jurisdictions collaborate on a proposal, the award amount may not exceed $1.5 million per year for up to four years. Program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the quality of proposals and availability of funds.