Archives—November 2015

NSF Dear Colleague Letter: Germination of Research Ideas for Large Opportunities and Critical Societal Needs (GERMINATION)

Dear Colleagues:

Today, with growing and aging population, we are facing many societal challenges including pressing demands for food, land, energy and water, urgent need for educating students from diverse backgrounds, requirement of security in an increasingly connected world, more effective and affordable healthcare, and sustainable economic growth for employment. These and other such challenges are likely to become even more important in the coming years. At the same time, they represent potentially large and fertile opportunities for science and engineering research for advancement of society. It is ever more critical to conceive and conduct fundamental research that holds the promise of unlocking these big opportunities and addressing important societal needs, thus enhancing our quality of life, security, and economic competitiveness.

This Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) seeks EAGER (EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research) proposals with exploratory ideas to design learning frameworks, platforms and/or environments to enable participants to conceive research ideas and questions with potentially transformative outcomes.

Motivating Question: How can effective learning frameworks, platforms and/or nurturing experiential environments be designed in which early- and mid-career faculty, as well as graduate students and post-doctoral fellows can be stimulated to germinate transformative research ideas and questions to open large opportunities that address important societal needs?

Contending with Reviewer’s Comments (about research proposals)

Contending with Reviewer’s Comments (about research proposals)

The posting below looks at a variety of helpful response approaches to feedback from reviewers of research proposals .  It is from Chapter 2, Contending with Reviewer Comments, in the book The Research Funding Guidebook: Getting It, Managing It, & Renewing It, by Joanne B. Ries and Carol G. Leukefeld.  SAGE Publications, Inc. 2455 Teller Road Thousand Oaks, California 91320 E-mail: Copyright © 1998 by Sage Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission.

Investigators’ reactions to comments about their application may be unique in the ebb, flow, and intensity, but their substance is similar. When an application is funded, the mood is one of elation moderated by reaction to the negative comments, which inevitably are included. When an application is not funded, the mood is disappointment, frustration, and sometimes discouragement and resignation. This chapter is about investigators’ behavioral and emotional responses to not being funded and suggests strategies that might help keep their research program on course.

Reestablish Control

It is our recommendation that before responding to the reviewers’ comments an investigator recall the events that led to the application’s submission. This reminiscing can clarify the role the application was perceived to play in their career plans and can rekindle motivation. These memories can provide a platform from which to evaluate their past decisions and inform the decision about continuing the application process.

Reviewers’ comments usually hold surprises for investigators. Sometimes when investigators learn that they have not been funded, they quickly conclude that it was a specific factor that reviewers did not like.  When an investigator can identify a weakness, a sense of control can be maintained, and the investigator’s scoping systems remain in good order. The review comments, however, might be very different from those anticipated, and the investigator is left to deal with criticism for which he or she is unprepared.

An expected characteristic of review comments is the unrelenting demand for scientific rigor, theoretical relevance, and important societal implications. Whether the competition is in-house, regional, or national, reviewers generally demand a high level of scientific rigor.  Sometimes investigators believe that the demand of some reviewers for detail in the project design, analysis section, and comprehensiveness in the literature review are excessive – even bordering on being picky. Minor criticisms can evoke a variety of emotional responses, and suggestions of inadequate scientific rigor in the project plan or that the project has little theoretical importance strike at the heart of an investigator’s self-image as a scientist.

Professional careers seem to be fraught with opportunities to receive criticism. Consequently, it is important that investigators develop coping mechanisms for dealing with criticism, and often strategies for doing so are actively sought. The effectiveness of these strategies frequently depends on the source of the criticism, the personal relevance of what is criticized, and whether the criticism appears in a public forum.  With experience as the target for criticism comes the ability to ignore criticism that is unfair or unjustified and to search diligently for the value in criticism from an informed source. Reviewers’ comments are particularly difficult for investigators to deal with because they have a strong belief in the importance of their project and they might perceive reviewers to be important sources of information. This already difficult situation is made more difficult because the usual coping mechanisms developed for dealing with criticism in professional life are often different from what is required if an investigator wishes to revise and resubmit an application. Reviewer comments, therefore, have the potential to push investigators beyond their usual coping systems. However, if investigators wish to resubmit an application, they cannot retreat from or ignore the comments. The only choice they have is to respond to each of the criticisms whether it is perceived as being unfair, unjustified, or arising out of misinformation.

Develop an Adaptive Behavioral Response

Receiving news that a project has not been funded can influence multiple aspects of investigators’ professional lives whether they are clinicians, basic scientists, community practitioners/scientists, or administrators. In some cases, it may not matter how close the project’s score was to the funding payline because project complications can arise from delays incurred with a resubmission. For example, those who had arranged to free up time for the project may now have to reschedule that time as well as free up future time if the project is to be resubmitted. For investigators who were relying on the funding to keep their program going, the delay of another funding cycle might place their program in jeopardy. For others, being close to the funding payline can be significant. If, for example, the not-funded application was a second or third resubmission and was given a poor score, an investigator may have to face a decision about continuing the particular line of investigation or seeking an alternative funding source. Whereas if the score is excellent or outstanding, the time and effort of resubmitting could be well spent.

A project application eventually involves a spectrum of people (e.g., administrators, collaborators at other sites, colleagues, administrative staff such as department heads/chairs, deans). Many of these people often meet with the principal investigator (PI), attend the same professional meetings, and possibly are collaborators on other projects. In view of this small but influential community that evolves from a project application, it is critical that investigators, whatever their internal state, maintain a public appearance as stable, rational individuals who learn from their experiences.

We have known investigators who, on receiving news that their application was not funded, essentially stopped their research careers. Sometimes this was their intention. They were not able to maintain their coping mechanisms or could not find answers to questions posed by the reviewers and eventually decided that having externally funded projects was not desirable. Others may, by their behavior, give the impression that they have resigned. Their colleagues perceive them as not being intellectually responsive, as using their time for other pursuits, and as no longer being reliable consultants and collaborators. To prevent such an impression, it is imperative that investigators continue to interact with their colleagues and, if anything, make their ongoing projects more visible, however serious the disruption is from not being funded. It is important to remember that many careers require external funding to sustain advancement and that most applications require collaborators. Until investigators definitely decide to segue out of the external funding stream, it is imperative that they continue to behave as competent and reliable investigators who are able to complete projects and overcome barriers. It is only in this way that investigators can successfully negotiate with colleagues for their valuable time and in turn continue to be considered a valuable asset on their projects.

Develop an Adaptive Psychological Response

Investigators have different strategies for developing an adaptive psychological stance to deal with reviewer comments. One common strategy is to read the comments, get the gist of them, and then put them out of sight for a few weeks. This is not to be viewed as an act of procrastination. Investigators faced with reviewer comments are on the threshold of making important decisions. Putting the comments aside can give them time to come to terms with being criticized and to get better acquainted not only with the nature of the criticisms but also with the reviewers’ perceptions of the application’s strengths.  This strategy helps to ensure that the decisions made about the project are based on its value, not on the intensity of fluctuating emotions.

Fuller wrote about the course through which an investigator’s emotions might flow after reading the reviewers’ comments for the first time. She called this course the “pink sheet syndrome” (Fuller, 1982) after the color of the paper on which the reviewer comments were then printed.  It seems that emotional detachment is difficult to maintain when an investigator’s favorite ideas and professional abilities are being criticized. Even when a proposal receives a fundable score, it is difficult to read the reviewer’s negative comments with equanimity.  When, however, the score places the proposal in the not-funded, emotional detachment is not only difficult but usually impossible to achieve.  This reach is understandable considering the amount of intellectual and administrative work embodied in a completed application. Usually, investigators have battled with competing theories, designs, analyses, and data sources before arriving at the product that was reviewed. Investigators become intellectually attached to the final project, are convinced of its significance, and are hopeful that they have communicated their vision and their enthusiasm. In addition to investing creativity, the investigator has endured the mundane labor of producing the application forms and presenting the project plan according to funding source instructions – an activity rarely done under conditions of calm confidence. For some investigators, the mere thought of repeating this activity is onerous. In spite of this, the review comments must be read and evaluated, and ultimately responded to with emotional neutrality.

The negative comments make the biggest impression the first time the reviewer’s comments are read. Fuller (1982) calls this Stage I: the onset of anxiety and panic. During this stage, the investigator places exaggerated importance on comments that seem directed at the viability of the project. Sometimes serious thought is given to abandoning the line of investigation and “moving on to something less demanding.” The counterpoints that investigators find during this stage are the positive comments often provided. Although these comments seldom are sufficient to quickly restore an investigator’s emotional equilibrium, they do provide encouragement and inhibit precipitous abandonment of the project.

Stage II, according to Fuller, can take the form of depression, shame, or anger. Investigators are besieged by doubts of their ability to think and to achieve success, shame about what others will say when they learn that the project has not been funded, and anger at the funding source for failing to understand the value of the proposed project.  During this period, because it is fraught with emotional uncertainty, we suggest that investigators resist making public statements about reviewers (investigators do not know who knows whom), calling members of the review panel (usually against the rules), or calling program officers (unless a prepared script is used and emotional equilibrium restored). Cultivating a demeanor that makes a good impression on colleagues and the funding source representatives is as important during this phase as it was when the initial contacts were made.

The key to career longevity for many investigators is to develop a psychological stance that enables them to revise the application and to benefit from the experience. A good way to maintain a positive attitude is to remember how the project was thought about during its early stages of development. Recognize that the predominant theme during that time, whether it was stated or not, was risk taking. Science requires intellectual risks such as public discussions of new ideas and submitting new ideas for competition. Investigators recognize that not taking risks can lead to intellectual stagnation. Expanding a knowledge base requires investigators to take risks knowing that inherent in this pursuit is the potential for failure, and occasional failure should not be surprising. Failures, when put to work, can be the foundation for future successes. Investigators, to take advantage of these opportunities for future success, need to be teachable and be open to all learning opportunities.

A unique educational opportunity is offered in the review comments. They could be considered to be courses designed by national experts as a guide to future work. If investigators ask themselves, “Would I have sent this application to an eminent scientist in my field for review?” most would answer no. (If the answer is yes, it is hoped that it was sent before submission and that comments were incorporated in the application.) In fact, that is exactly what investigators do when they submit an application for funding. From that perspective, the most rational action for investigators is to make the best possible use of the opportunity for career development by using the reviewer comments in the revised application.

The emotional response to the second reading of the comments is usually less intense and is often quickly followed by asking colleagues for opinions about the comments. To reap the greatest advantage from reviewers’ comments, investigators need to get help from someone who has already been through the process, responded to comments, and is alert for information gleaned from “reading between the lines.” Sometimes reviewer comments have been compiled by staff from the original reviewer statements and may have been edited to keep the tone from being harsh. Other times an investigator receives the comments exactly as written by the reviewer. The second method provides a better opportunity to understand how each reviewer saw the project, and it enables following their line of thought. In many instances, it also provides the investigator with better insight into where the communication between the reviewers and the investigators went astray.

Sometimes the overall project will be discussed in positive terms and perhaps specifically, for example, its value or the value of the unique data to be collected. These comments are to be interpreted within the context of the other positive and negative comments that follow. The introductory comments should be evaluated in terms of what they say and do not say. Although the absence of comments about the value of the project, the data collected, or the scientific endeavor need not spawn discouragement, it does need to be taken seriously. Investigators need to determine if there has been an oversight or if the reviewers are actually discouraging further project development. One way to get a better understanding of how to use these opening comments is to read comments received by a colleague. The objectivity inherent in this situation allows an examination of the pattern of reviewer comments, an understanding of the way negative and positive comments are developed, and how these might have been weighted during the decision-making process.

The weight given negative and positive comments is usually reflected in the application’s score. It is this score that needs improving. This is best done by realistically assessing the positive comments and making plans to respond to the negative comments. Sometimes, however, there are very few or very minor criticisms with not many positive comments and a poor score. This kind of review usually represents a situation in which, for some reason, the reviewers react negatively to the application and were unable to state their objections.  In this situation, an investigator needs to contact the program official by telephone to try to determine how the disparity between the score and the comments arose.

References: Fuller, E.O. (1982). The pink sheet syndrome. Nursing Research, 31(3), 185-186.

Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards – Limited Submission due Nov. 30; Full due Jan. 11

Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Awards

Sponsor: Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU)

Internal deadline: November 30, 2015

PI/Co-PI/Senior personnel eligibility: Full-time assistant professors within two years of their initial tenure track appointment at the time of application at an ORAU member institutions are eligible.

Number per organization: Two

Full proposal deadline: January 11, 2016

More Information

NSF RFPs for late Nov.

Solicitation: NSF 16-504
Due Date: January 11, 2016
Solicitation: NSF 13-589
Due Date: December 15, 2015
Full Proposal Target Date: December 14, 2015
Proposals are expected to be submitted by the target date. Proposers that need additional time for submission must contact the program director prior to the target date and receive an email with permission to submit.
Program Guidelines: NSF 15-603   EarthCube is a community-driven activity to transform the conduct of geosciences research and education, sponsored through a partnership between the NSF Directorate of Geosciences and Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. EarthCube aims to create a well-connected and facile environment to share data and knowledge in an open, transparent, and inclusive manner, thus accelerating the ability of the geosciences community …More at

Full Proposal Window: December 16, 2015
Program Guidelines: NSF 15-575
Cyberspace has transformed the daily lives of people for the better. The rush to adopt cyberspace, however, has exposed its fragility and vulnerabilities: corporations, agencies, national infrastructure and individuals have been victims of cyber-attacks. In December 2011, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) with the cooperation of NSF issued a broad, coordinated …
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Supplement Deadline Date: December 4, 2015
Program Guidelines: PD 16-7172
The new internship initiative described in the GRIP Dear Colleague Letter 16-015 expands opportunities for NSF Graduate Fellows to enhance their professional development by engaging in mission related research experiences with partner agencies across the federal government.  GRIP is open only to NSF Graduate Fellows, recipients of the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) …
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 Full Proposal Deadline Date: December 18, 2015
Exploration Projects (EXPs)
Program Guidelines: NSF 14-526
The purpose of the Cyberlearning and Future Learning Technologies program is to integrate opportunities offered by emerging technologies with advances in what is known about how people learn to advance three interconnected thrusts:


 Full Proposal Window: December 18, 2015
Capacity Track
Program Guidelines: NSF 15-584

Cyberspace has transformed the daily lives of people. The rush to embrace cyberspace, however, has exposed its fragility and vulnerabilities: corporations, agencies, national infrastructure and individuals have been victims of cyber-attacks. In December 2011, the National Science and Technology Council with the cooperation of NSF advanced a broad, coordinated Federal strategic plan for cybersecurity research and education to “change the game,” examine the …
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Wisconsin DOT Research Program Requests for Proposals – Variable deadlines (Nov. 30 – Jan. 22)

The Wisconsin DOT has issued requests for proposals (RFPs) for the Wisconsin Highway Research Program (WHRP) to be funded in federal fiscal year 2017.

Please visit

The site contains individual links to the RFPs, proposal guidelines and resources, and the schedule of proposal deadlines.

Army/DoD Medical research funding opportunities conference: April 19-20th

Military Medicine in a Complex Environment

Event Date: 
April 19-20, 2016

Turf Valley, Ellicott City, MD


Event POC:
Tiffany Wilson
Meeting Planner
(703) 247-9467

The National Defense Industrial Association cordially invites you to attend the second Medical Research, Development and Acquisition in Support of the Warfighter Conference co-hosted by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC). This event will be held April 19-20, 2016 at Turf Valley Hotel and Conference Center.

The first event took place in March 2015 and focused on USAMRMC missions, goals and objectives.  This second event expands to include the medical research, development, test and evaluation (RDTE) missions across the Department of Defense (DoD), and will include perspectives from Army, Navy, Air Force and the Defense Health Agency.

Planned conference topics include:

  • Modeling and Stimulation
  • Traumatic Brain Injury and Psychological Health
  • Human Performance
  • The Medical Technical Enterprise Consortium, a newly formed 501(c)(3) corporation
  • Air Evacuation
  • Undersea Medical Operations
  • Global Health Engagement
  • Joint perspectives on:
    • Medical Training and Health Information Sciences
    • Military Infectious Diseases
    • Military Operational Medicine
    • Combat Casualty Care
    • Clinical and Rehabilitative Medicine
  • Funding Opportunities

Attendance from industry, academia, and government health agencies at this event will increase the collaboration of knowledge and effectiveness within all fields of military medicine.

A draft agenda will be available soon. Bookmark the event page to stay updated!


Department of Homeland Security: 2016 Summer Internship Applications due Dec. 16th.

DHS HS-STEM 2016 Summer Internship Program

The Department of Homeland Security sponsors a 10-week summer internship program for undergraduate and graduate students majoring in homeland security related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (HS-STEM) disciplines.  The program provides students with quality research experiences at federal research facilities located across the country and allows students the opportunity to establish connections with DHS professionals.

Graduate Students receive a $700 stipend per week plus travel expenses

Undergraduate Students receive a $600 stipend per week plus travel expenses

Areas of research: Engineering, computer science, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biological / life sciences, environmental science, emergency and incident management, social sciences, and many more.

10-week research experiences are offered at:  Coast Guard Research and Development Center ● Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute ● Customs and Borders Protection ● Engineer Research and Development Center ● Federal Emergency Management Agency ● National Security Technologies ● National Urban Security Technology Laboratory ● Naval Research Laboratory ● Transportation Security Laboratory ● DOE National Laboratories: Argonne, Berkeley, Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, and Sandia

How to Apply: Applications and supporting materials must be submitted at

Detailed information about the internships can be found at

Joint Program Committee 2 (JPC-2)/Military Infectious Diseases Research Program (MIDRP)

The Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) Joint Program Committee 2 (JPC-2)/Military Infectious Diseases Research Program (MIDRP) is funded with Defense Health Program appropriations through the Defense Health Agency, Research, Development, and Acquisition Directorate to support targeted research efforts to ensure the health and readiness of our military forces. Program announcements will be administered by the US Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity. The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) Defense Medical Research and Development Program (DMRDP) will be the managing agent for program announcements and subsequent awards, with strategic oversight from JPC-2/MIDRP.

The DMRDP is providing the information in this pre-announcement to allow investigators time to plan and develop applications. FY17 DMRDP JPC-2/MIDRP Program Announcements and General Application Instructions for the following award mechanisms are anticipated to be posted on the website in December 2015. Pre-application and application deadlines will be available when the program announcements are released. This pre-announcement should not be construed as an obligation by the government.

The FY17 JPC-2/MIDRP is seeking research focused on combat-related or trauma-induced wound infection, specifically involving the following areas. Additional information regarding focus areas will be available when the program announcements are released.

Applied Research:

•             Development of new methods for rapid multi-pathogen/multi-phenotype detection of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) and nosocomial pathogens, and/or characterization of antimicrobial resistance patterns.

•             Development of assays for host immune response biomarkers for diagnosis or prognosis.

•             Development and preclinical testing of novel chemotypes (chemical classes/materials), biologics as potential therapeutics or prophylactics for wound infection, and/or biofilm formation, maintenance, or propagation.

Clinical Trials/Testing:

•             Evaluation of optimum preventive or directive therapies for combat-related or trauma-induced wound infections using Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs, biologics, or devices either alone or in combination.

•             Evaluation of a functional prototype device or assay for the rapid detection of pathogens and/or microbial drug resistance markers.

•             Evaluation of a functional prototype device or assay for the rapid detection of novel and specific in vivo or in vitro biomarkers (from wound, serum, saliva, or urine) that predict development of infection or discriminate between infection and colonization.

Military Infectious Diseases Applied Research Award (MID-ARA)

•             Independent investigators at all academic levels (or equivalent).

•             Both intramural and extramural investigators are encouraged to apply.

•             A pre-application is required

•             The FY17 MID-ARA intent is to support hypothesis-testing and/or proof-of-concept studies in in vitro and/or in vivo models, concept refinement, product candidate evaluation, maturation and/or down-selection, or completion of studies in support of IND/IDE applications.

•             The anticipated funding limit is $2.0M total costs.

•             The anticipated maximum period of performance is 3 years.

Military Infectious Diseases Clinical Trial Award (MID-CTA)

•             Independent investigators at all academic levels (or equivalent). Both intramural and extramural investigators are encouraged to apply.

•             A pre-application is required

•             The FY17 MID-CTA intent is to support early phase clinical trials and medical device (including diagnostics) testing with the potential to have a major impact on prevention and treatment of combat-related or trauma induced wound infections.

•             The anticipated funding limit is $2.5M total costs.

•             The anticipated maximum period of performance is 3 years.

A pre-application is required and must be submitted through the electronic Biomedical Research Application Portal (eBRAP) at prior to the pre-application deadline. All applications must conform to the final Program Announcements and General Application Instructions that will be available for electronic downloading from The application package containing the required forms for each award mechanism will also be found on A listing of all CDMRP funding opportunities can be obtained on the website by performing a basic search using CFDA Number 12.420.

Applications must be submitted through the federal government’s single-entry portal, Submission deadlines are not available until the Program Announcements are released. Requests for email notification of the Program Announcement release may be sent to For more information about other CDMRP administered programs, please visit the CDMRP website (

Point of Contact:

CDMRP Public Affairs


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Grand Challenges Explorations Announced – Next applications due March 2016

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the latest Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) grant recipients on November 12, 2015.

Grand Challenges Explorations grant program funds early-stage discovery, awarding initial grants of US $100,000 and potential follow-on grants of up to US $1 million. Grants target an expanding set of topics.

59 projects in 16 different countries received an initial grant of US$100,000. We have highlighted some of the funded projects on our slideshow and blog.

We will begin accepting applications for the next round of GCE starting in March 2016.

Congratulations to the grant recipients and thank you for your commitment to solving the world’s greatest health and development challenges.

The Grand Challenges Team

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.

Visit our site

NSF RFPs due in December & later

Solicitation: NSF 16-513
Due Date: February 16, 2016
Institutional Limit: 1
Limit Summary:An academic institution – a university, or a campus in a multi-campus university — may submit no more than one (1) proposal on which it is the lead organization in response to this solicitation. Potential PIs are advised to contact their institutional office of research regarding processes used to select proposals for submission. The same organization may be a collaborative partner in any number of other multi-organization group proposals in which it is not the lead. A proposal involving more than one organization must be submitted as a single proposal in which a single award is requested, with the managing principal investigator from the lead organization and subawards administered by the lead organization to any other participating organizations. 

Full Proposal Deadline Date: December 10, 2015
Integrative (INT) ProposalsProgram Guidelines: NSF 13-543
The goal of the Smart and Connected Health (SCH) Program is to accelerate the development and use of innovative approaches that would support the much needed transformation of healthcare from reactive and hospital-centered to preventive, proactive, evidence-based, person-centered and focused on well-being rather than disease. Approaches that partner technology-based solutions with biobehavioral health research are supported by multiple agencies of the federal government including the …
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Letter of Intent Deadline Date: December 10, 2015
The complexities of brain and behavior pose fundamental questions in many areas of science and engineering, drawing intense interest across a broad spectrum of disciplinary perspectives while eluding explanation by any one of them. Rapid advances within and across disciplines are leading to an increasingly interconnected fabric of theories, models, empirical methods and findings, and educational approaches, opening new opportunities to understand complex aspects of neural and cognitive …
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Full Proposal Deadline Date: December 11, 2015
Proposals submitted outside the window of November 11 – December 11, 2015 will be returned without review. Proposer’s time is defined as the time zone associated with the company’s address (as registered in FastLane!) at time of submission.Program Guidelines: NSF 15-604
The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program is intended to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector by strengthening the role of small business concerns in meeting Federal research and development needs, increasing the commercial application of federally supported research results, and fostering and encouraging participation by socially and economically disadvantaged and women-owned small businesses.

The SBIR/STTR program solicits proposals from the small …
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