We have written numerous time in the past about the Materials Genome Initiative, which was launched in June 2011. Just to review, the MGI sets the goal of cutting in half the current time and cost of bringing new materials from the lab to the marketplace. At the federal level the MGI is viewed as an interagency effort that aims to accelerate the discovery-to-deployment timeline by creating a materials innovation infrastructure that will more closely integrate experimental tools, computational tools and digital data.
In support of MGI, this year NSF launched its “Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future” — a program to fund proposals that go beyond simple and more traditional collaborations among theorists, computational experts and experimentalists. Instead, the focus of the DMREF is on iterative processes, in which data drive theory and simulation, and theory and simulation drive experiments.
Earlier this year (for FY 2012), NSF organized the first DMREF competition, during which the agency reviewed approximately 140 discrete projects. Ultimately, the agency announced Oct. 11 that it is issuing $12 million in awards for 22 projects (many of which were collaborative) to fund 14 distinct efforts: seven projects based in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences and seven based in the Directorate for Engineering, at a total investment in excess of $12 million.
The good news is that support for DMREF is continuing. NSF today announced that it is holding a similar competition for FY 2013 awards. Although the amount of available funding isn’t certain, the president’s 2013 budget request to Congress included $35 million for DMREF. Meanwhile, the NSF has posted a “Dear Colleague Letter” detailing its interests and the process for submitting FY 2013 proposals. This letter notes the NSF seeks research
“…to advance fundamental understanding of materials across length and time scales to elucidate the effects of microstructure, surfaces and coatings on the properties and performance of engineering materials. The ultimate goal is to control material properties through design via the establishment of computational interrelationships between composition, processing, structure, properties, performance and process control, validated and verified through measurement and experimentation. This requires new data analytic tools and statistical algorithms; advances in predictive modeling that leverage machine learning, data mining and sparse approximation; data infrastructure that is accessible, extensible, scalable, and sustainable; and new collaborative capabilities for managing large, complex, heterogeneous, distributed data supporting materials design, synthesis, and longitudinal study. …the proposed research must be a collaborative and iterative process where computation guides experiments and theory, while experiments and theory advance computation. The proposal should provide a plan for enhanced data management that ensures transparency, data-sharing and open source software.”
Regarding NSF’s desire mentioned above for collaborative proposals, the agency says that proposals are expected to be collaborative and iterative; as such, some divisions are particularly interested in receiving proposals from small groups or teams of faculty.
Several additional divisions say they intend to participate in the FY 2013 DMREF awards. The full list of divisions now includes: Chemistry; Materials Research; Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems; Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation; Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems; and all divisions in the Directorate for Computer & Information Science & Engineering.
The window for submitting FY 2013 DMREF proposals is Jan. 15–Feb. 15, 2013.
NSF says that participants interested in submitting proposals are strongly encouraged to first contact a program officer at the appropriate division (listed in the DCL). Likewise, final proposals should be submitted to individual programs, where they will be reviewed separately by each division or co-reviewed when appropriate.
Caution: Submitters should adhere to the guidelines listed in the latest version of NSF’s Grant Proposal Guide, which goes into effect on Jan. 14, 2013.
DMREF is part of the OneNSF investment in Cyber-Enabled Materials, Manufacturing, and Smart Systems, which plays a key role in NSF’s growing portfolio of advanced manufacturing investments.