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NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program

General Information

Program Description

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program serves to increase access to multi-user scientific and engineering instrumentation for research and research training in our Nation’s institutions of higher education and not-for-profit scientific/engineering research organizations. An MRI award supports the acquisition of a multi-user research instrument that is commercially available through direct purchase from a vendor, or for the personnel costs and equipment that are required for the development of an instrument with new capabilities, thereby advancing instrumentation capabilities and enhancing expertise for instrument design and fabrication at academic institutions. MRI instruments are, in general, too costly and/or not appropriate for support through other NSF programs.

MRI provides support to acquire critical research instrumentation without which advances in fundamental science and engineering research may not otherwise occur. MRI also provides support to obtain next-generation research instruments by developing instruments with new capabilities that open new opportunities to advance the frontiers in science and engineering research. Additionally, an MRI award is expected to enhance the research training of students who will become the next generation of instrument users, designers, and builders.


  • Open to faculty at all levels in the following schools:
    • School of Engineering and Applied Science
    • School of Arts and Sciences
    • Weitzman School of Design
    • Perelman School of Medicine
  • For any sponsored research projects, the applicant must be eligible to serve as Principal Investigator for the project, unless otherwise noted in the LSO. Please see Penn’s PI Eligibility requirements to ensure you are eligible.

Award Information

  • Varies by Track – see the solicitation for details. Note: cost sharing requirements for new awards in the MRI Program are waived for a period of 5 years.

MRI Track Criteria

TRACK 1: (limit – 2 proposals)

Track 1 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $100,000 and less than $1,400,000.

Note: Track 1 proposals requesting funds from NSF less than $100,000 will be accepted only from eligible performing organizations requesting instrumentation supporting research in the disciplines of mathematics or social, behavioral, and economic sciences

TRACK 2: (limit – 1 proposal)

Track 2 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $1,400,000 up to and including $4,000,000.

TRACK 3: (limit – 1 proposal)

Track 3 MRI proposals are those that request funds from NSF greater than or equal to $100,000 and less than or equal to $4,000,000 for requests that include the purchase, installation, operation, and maintenance of equipment and instrumentation to reduce consumption of helium.

OVPR Review Process

The University has been invited to nominate four (4) faculty member(s) across the various Tracks (1-3) outlined below. A committee established by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) will determine the final nominee(s) to represent the University.

Application Requirements

Applications must include the following:

  1. Research Proposal (maximum three (3) pages): Must include the following
    • Instrument location and type
    • A summary of the proposed project if this is a development proposal, describe significant new capabilities and how it builds capacity for instrument development in the institution
    • Research Activities to be Enabled
    • Description of the Research Instrumentation and Needs
    • Broader Impacts (Including Impact on Research and Training Infrastructure).
    • Management Plan
  2. A rough draft of the budget (maximum one (1) page), including estimates for equipment, salaries, etc.
  3. NSF biosketch for the lead PI/PD only (maximum five (5) pages)

Applicant Resources:

Contact: If you have questions about this competition, please contact Penn Limited Submissions at