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CIF / DIF FY2014
September 25, 2013


Center Innovation Fund / Director’s Innovation Fund - 2014 - Request for Proposals


The NASA Ames Research Center Office of the Chief Technologist (OCCT), jointly with the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS), releases this Request For Proposals (RFP) for the FY14 Center Innovation Fund (CIF)/Director’s Innovation Fund (DIF). The purpose of the CIF/DIF is to stimulate and encourage creativity, innovation and collaboration within Ames, and between Ames and other NASA Centers in addressing the science and technology needs of NASA and the Nation. This advanced science and technology investment helps make Ames more competitive, provides opportunities for risk reduction and/or increased cost effectiveness, and initiates potentially transformational solutions to the most challenging mission-related problems.


Program Focus:

This year the Center Innovation Fund is combined with the Director’s Innovation Fund. The CIF focuses on technology investments that are longer-term, higher-risk, high-impact, and not necessarily tied to any future mission opportunity, while the DIF seeks hypothesis driven research that is needed to enable high priority science for anticipated or planned NASA research projects and missions. Potential proposers may submit their concepts to either or both categories. Special consideration this year will be given to proposals in one or more of the following 5 focus areas:

1)    (CIF ONLY) Proposals with a high-level of inter-center collaboration
2)    Proposals that use the Ames SpaceShop
3)    Proposals that align with the Flight Opportunities Program
4)    Proposals that align with National Initiatives, especially Synthetic Biology Initiative, National Nanotechnology Initiative, Materials Genome Initiative, National Network for Manufacturing Initiative, the National Robotics Initiative, and/or the BRAIN Initiative
5)    (DIF ONLY) Proposals that align with Center Core Research Areas

Focus Area 1) Proposals with a High-Level of Inter-Center Collaboration (CIF Only)

CIF proposals that leverage the expertise and capabilities at other NASA centers will be given special consideration.  Inter-center collaborations are on a “no exchange of funds” basis. The roles and responsibilities of each center should be clearly stated, and should not be duplicative, but rather complementary. To facilitate cross-Agency collaboration on CIF concepts, the NASA CIF: Agency Concepts for Collaboration website has been developed (see link below).  The website allows for the early assessment of similarities among anticipated CIF concepts prior to individual center CIF award final selection. Specifically, this tool allows a potential PI to: 1) share his/her anticipated CIF concept to inform other researchers across the Agency with similar areas of interest that may wish to establish a mutually beneficial partnership; or 2) search for other potential CIF concepts across the Agency that may benefit from his/her particular technical expertise.  This site should contain no proprietary data, but only the PI’s contact info, CIF proposal title, a brief description of the CIF concept, and a list of other potential partners.  If your proposal involves partnership with other centers, use of this website is required; you must state your intent to submit a proposal to this focus area in the NASA CIF: Agency Concepts for Collaboration website by September 18, 2013.  Review and selection of proposals in this focus area will be managed by the Chief Technologists Council to facilitate inter-center coordination.  Details of the NASA CIF: Agency Concepts for Collaboration website are found at:


Focus Area 2) Proposals that Use the Ames SpaceShop

CIF/DIF proposals that leverage the newly opened NASA Ames SpaceShop to develop prototypes and other hardware will be given special consideration. The SpaceShop contains a variety of large- and small-scale additive and subtractive manufacturing tools that are available for use by all NASA civil servants, contractors, and students/interns.  In addition, Project Acceleration Services are available for end-users that need more in-depth use of the tools in the SpaceShop.  Such services can range from specialized training, extended-run 3D prints or mill cuts, or overall project prototyping/fabrication services.  If you intend to use SpaceShop or Project Acceleration Services as part of your CIF/DIF proposal, then you must contact Kenny Cheung (kenneth.c.cheung@nasa.gov) to determine appropriateness and availability of SpaceShop resources prior to submitting your proposal. Details of the Ames SpaceShop, including a list of available tools, are found at:


Focus Area 3) Proposals that Align with the Flight Opportunities Program

CIF/DIF proposals that develop hardware in alignment with the Flight Opportunities Program will be given special consideration. The Flight Opportunities Program provides rides on commercial flight vehicles including high altitude balloon, suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles (sRLVs), and parabolic flights on aircraft via the Reduced Gravity Office at JSC. The Flight Opportunities Program is interested in new technologies for space flight, and in new technologies that enhance the capabilities of the balloons and sRLVs to perform tests or demonstrations of other new technologies or carry instruments to perform science experiments. A detailed description of how this CIF/DIF will align follow-on work with the Flight Opportunities Program must be provided in the proposed work plan. If you intend to propose to this focus area and need further details regarding the Flight Opportunities Program, then you should contact Douglas Maclise (douglas.c.maclise@nasa.gov) prior to submitting your proposal. Details of the Flight Opportunities Program are found at:


Focus Area 4) Proposals that Align with National Initiatives

CIF/DIF proposals that align with the Presidential National Initiatives, especially the Synthetic Biology Initiative, the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the Materials Genome Initiative, the National Network for Manufacturing Initiative, and/or the National Robotics Initiative, will be given special consideration. If you intend to propose to this focus area, then a detailed description of how work proposed in this CIF/DIF is aligned with the National Initiatives must be provided in the proposed work plan. Further details regarding these specific National Initiatives are found at:

Synthetic Biology Initiative (National Bioeconomy Blueprint)

National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)

Materials Genome Initiative (MGI)

National Network for Manufacturing Initiative (NNMI)

National Robotics Initiative (NRI)

Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative


Focus Area 5) Proposals that Align with Center Core Research Areas (DIF Only)

DIF proposal that align with the Center core research capabilities, especially the initiatives in the areas of Air Traffic Control, Earth Science, High Performance Computing, Small Spacecraft, Synthetic Biology and Thermal Protection Systems.   Other Center core capabilities include Space Sciences, Biological Sciences, Biotechnology, Intelligent Systems, Advanced Aerospace Materials and Devices, Space Transportation Technology, Human Systems Integration, Airspace Systems and Applied Aerospace and Information Technology.


Eligibility and Guidelines:

Only Ames civil servants can serve as the Principal Investigator (PI) and submit proposals.  However, partnerships are encouraged with on-site contractors and other external organizations that take advantage of mutual interests and capabilities as well as leveraged funding.

Award Duration

Each CIF/DIF proposal is selected for only a single year, and all work is to be completed during FY14.  A work plan that requires more than one year may be accepted, but must clearly state those tasks to be completed and covered by this CIF/DIF award, and demonstrate significant progress within the award year toward those identified tasks. Work beyond this fiscal year must compete in succeeding years for follow-on funding.  Winning an award does not constitute a multi-year commitment to any task.

Award Resources

There is no preset award amount in the CIF category.  Previous CIF awards have typically been between $25K - $150K in procurement (including contract labor), and between 0.1 – 2.0 FTEs. However, requests outside these guidelines will be considered. This year it is anticipated that Ames will receive approximately $500K and 4.5 FTE for all CIF awards.
It is anticipated that the typical DIF award will be between $25K - $50K, with approximately $200K being allocated from Center funds for all DIF awards.  Limited FTE may also be available for DIF awardees.
Each award will be judged on its individual merits, financial needs, and potential. CIF/DIF resources are not intended to fund or supplement work that is part of an existing project.  Should there be a strategically important connection with an approved project, the task must be justified based on the longer-term strategic interests of the Center, and not on the near-term needs of an already approved project.

Proposal Approval

Proposers must inform their Branch and/or Division managers about their CIF/DIF proposals for concurrence on the strategic value, availability of labor resources, and proposal-development support. This step is important to ensure availability of human and facility resources to deliver on the commitment in the time allotted, if selected.  Approval of a Branch Chief or higher is required for proposal submission.

Technical Equipment Requirements and Dependencies

To increase coordination and simplify decision-making about investments in technical equipment, proposals that request to procure technical equipment in excess of $2K must show why that investment is unique and necessary to the proposed effort; proposals should also identify any other known existing projects, tasks or efforts at the Center that depend on this proposed acquisition of technical equipment.  If the proposal depends on the use of existing (already purchased) specialized or general-purpose technical equipment that may be in high demand, please specify this dependency, timeframe and duration the equipment is needed.


Proposal Preparation and Submission:

The FY14 CIF/DIF uses a two-step submission, review and selection process.

Step-1 Proposals

Prospective PIs initially submit an abbreviated proposal hereby referred to as a “Step-1” proposal. The Step-1 proposal is a template-based, one- to two-page abstracted proposal that requests: 1) a summary of technical/science objectives; 2a) CIF only - a brief description of how the work to be performed is innovative, creates an opportunity, and provides substantial payoff potential; 2b) DIF only - a brief description of how the hypothesis-driven work to be performed enables the science goals of an anticipated or planned science project or mission; and 3) a summary of the required resources.  The results of the Step-1 proposals will be sent out via email according to the CIF/DIF Development Schedule below. Once a Step-1 proposal is submitted, the concept and all submitted information are considered the Intellectual Property of the submitting PI. 

Step-2 Proposals

PI’s with successful Step-1 proposals must submit a Step-2 penta-chart by Tuesday, December 3.  You may also submit two additional viewgraphs of your choice, if needed.  In addition, PI's (or designated representative from the proposal team) have the opportunity to give a 10-minute oral presentation to the review panel on November 26, 1-4 PM in N202/200A.  Oral presentations are not required.  However, if you plan to present, please confirm via email to Julianna Fishman by 5PM Monday, 11/25.  Visual presentation material is at the discretion of the presenter (i.e., you may use the template, other material, or simply present orally, with no viewing material).  A schedule for oral presentations will be provided Tuesday morning, and you will not be permitted to attend or listen to other proposer's presentation.  Please arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your time slot.

Templates and Proposal Submission

Use of the templates is mandatory. Templates for the Step-1 and Step-2 proposals, are below:

Step-1 Proposal Template link to download
Step-2 Proposal Template link to download

All proposals must be submitted electronically through this website. To access the system, login using your NDC user name and password on a computer connected to the Ames network (or Ames VPN). An automated notification will confirm successful submission of your proposal. All Step-1 proposals must be uploaded to the website noted above by 5:00 PM (Pacific) on November 12, 2013.

Submit Step-2 Proposal

RFP Questions & Answers

Questions and answers (Q&A) regarding the FY14 CIF/DIF RFP will be posted on the CIF Ames website and updated periodically as new questions are received. Questions can be posted on the website until one week prior to the Step-1 proposal due date, or November 5, 2013.

Q & A


Selection Criteria FY14 CIF/DIF:

Both CIF and DIF Step-1 and Step-2 proposals will be reviewed and evaluated by a panel comprised of science and technology experts from across the center. The following set of criteria will be used for evaluation and selection:

1.     Innovation: Does the proposal put forth an innovative concept, idea, or technology development effort to support Center goals or uniquely contribute to otherwise unmet Agency or National needs?  What is the new technology or science idea and why will it succeed now?
2.     Technical/Scientific Merit: Does the proposal put forth a technically or scientifically sound research and development plan?
3.     Effective Resource Planning and Utilization: Does the proposal put forth a realistic and coherent funding plan that is linked to the development plan? Is the proposal team experienced? Is there realism in the stated cost and facilities usage?

And special consideration for:
4.     Focus Areas: Does the proposal fall within one of the five Focus Areas for the FY14 RFP?


Reporting Requirements:

Principal Investigators with successful Step-2 CIF/DIF proposals will be required to:

1)    Conduct an oral mid-term progress review (often in-lab);
2)    Submit a final written (1-2 pages) report;
3)    Present their final results at a Centerwide seminar; and
4)    Upload their CIF data to the Agency’s Technology Portal (TechPort) or submit the DIF data to the OCS.

Both the mid-term review and final report must include a resource expenditure report. Templates for these materials will be available to the PIs on the CIF website.


CIF/DIF Development Schedule and Deadlines:

The projected schedule for the FY14 CIF/DIF is provided below.  Any changes to this schedule will be reflected on the CIF webpage noted above.

Calendar Year 2013 Activities
Sep 4                     Call For Proposals issued
Sep 18                   Focus Area-1 proposals to upload ‘intent to submit’ to the NASA CIF: Agency Concepts for Collaboration
Nov 5                     Last day to submit questions to the RFP Q&A
Nov 12                   Step-1 proposals due
Nov 22                   Target date for Step-1 announcement
Nov 26                   Optional 10-minute oral presentation to the review panel
Dec 3                     Step-2 proposals due
After Dec 3            Target date for Step-2 announcement

Calendar Year 2014 Activities
Apr 1 – Apr 4         In-lab mid-term progress reviews
Aug 29                    PIs to upload CIF data to NASA Technology Portal
Aug 29                    Final progress reports due
Sep 29                    Final center-wide seminar


Ames CIF Program Contact Information:

Dr. Jill Bauman is the Ames CIF Program Manager and the co-chair of the CIF/DIF review committee. She will provide informal feedback on all CIF proposals after the review. Questions regarding the Ames CIF Program should be directed to her at: jill.bauman@nasa.gov.  Dr. Harry Partridge is the selecting official for the CIF call.


Ames DIF Contact Information:

Dr. Jacob Cohen is the Ames DIF administrator and the co-chair of the CIF/DIF review committee. He will provide informal feedback on all DIF proposals. Questions regarding the Ames DIF should be directed to him at: jacob.cohen-1@nasa.gov.  Dr. Cohen is the selecting official for the DIF call. 


Past CIF Awards

To read descriptions of ARC projects funded by the CIF, please click below:

CIF FY 2011
CIF FY 2012
CIF FY 2013

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Page Last Updated: January 27th, 2014
Page Editor: Sonja Caldwell