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Advanced Materials Center of Excellence
Frequently Asked Questions


Q: When is NIST announcing the new Centers of Excellence?
A: The Advanced Materials Center of Excellence has been announced. Additional Centers of Excellence are expected to be announced in FY2014, contingent upon the availability of funds. Additional information on the Centers of Excellence program can be found at www.nist.gov/coe.

Q: How much Federal investment will go into each Center of Excellence?
A: NIST will invest roughly $5 million per year for up to 10 years in the Advanced Materials COE. Additional Centers will be announced in FY14 and are expected to be roughly similar in size and scope.

Q: What are the technology focus areas of these new Centers of Excellence?
A: NIST has announced the Advanced Materials COE. NIST researchers will collaborate with researchers from academia and industry on advanced materials development through innovations in measurement science and in new modeling, simulation, data, and informatics tools. Technology focus areas for the future Centers will be announced in FY14.


Q: What is the primary objective of the NIST Advanced Materials Center of Excellence?
A: The long-term objectives of the NIST Advanced Materials COE are to accelerate materials discovery and development, transition new breakthroughs in advanced materials to industry, provide training opportunities for scientists and engineers in materials metrology and demonstrate use of the tools and resources developed by the administration's Materials Genome Initiative that will serve as a foundation for strengthening domestic industry.

Q: How is the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence related to the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI)?
A: The NIST Advanced Materials Center of Excellence, while aligned with the overall goals of the administration's Materials Genome Initiative (www.whitehouse.gov/mgi), is focused on measurement science aspects of materials discovery and development. The goals of the MGI are to double the speed at which we discover, develop and manufacture new materials by:

  • Developing a "materials innovation infrastructure" that includes:
    • Computational tools: software for predictive modeling, simulation, design and exploration
    • Experimental tools: synthesis and processing; quantitative characterization and analytic tools; accelerated testing and rapid prototyping; techniques to validate and advance materials theory
    • Digital data: data and interoperability standards for material properties; advanced data mining, analytic tools and open/proprietary data warehouses
    • Collaborative networks: integrated centers in computation, data informatics and experimentation; sharing of best practices across disparate centers via formal and informal networking; educational materials for the next generation workforce; public/private partnerships
  • Building the materials innovation infrastructure while addressing high priority material problems of national importance
  • Advancing a culture that supports the use of the materials innovation infrastructure and also embraces a more open, collaborative approach to developing advanced materials.

Q: Where can I find more information about NIST research in advanced materials and the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI)?
A: NIST research in advanced materials, as it relates to the NIST MGI program, is summarized at www.nist.gov/mgi. The Federal MGI program is described at www.whitehouse.gov/mgi.

Q: Who is eligible to apply for the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence?
A: Accredited institutions of higher education and non-profit organizations located in the United States and its territories. (See www07.grants.gov/aboutgrants/eligibility.jsp for a complete list of organization types recognized by Grants.gov.) An eligible organization may work individually or include proposed subawardees, contractors or other collaborators in a project proposal, effectively forming a team or consortium. An organization may only be the lead organization on one proposal. In a team or consortium, eligible subawardees are U.S. non-profit organizations, accredited institutions of higher education, commercial organizations, and state, tribal, and local governments. Federal agencies may participate in projects but may not receive NIST funding.

Q: Are DOE national laboratories (federally funded research and development centers, FFRDCs) or energy lab contractors eligible to receive funds under this FFO?
A: The eligibility of a FFRDC or contractor can vary from situation to situation depending on different factors such as whether they would be acting on their own behalf or on behalf of the Department of Energy or another Federal agency. We recommend that these organizations consult with their legal offices to determine whether or not they are eligible for funds or the conditions that would allow them to be eligible to receive funds as defined under the eligibility requirements of the FFO.

Q: What is the ideal mix of participants to comprise the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence?
A: Competitive applications for a Center should demonstrate the applicant's ability to create and manage a world-class research program, via a partnership with NIST, aimed at broadly accelerating the design, discovery, development and deployment of advanced materials by the nation's academic and industry enterprises. The Center should establish opportunities for extended collaborations between NIST, lead and partner institutions, and recipient scientists through the Center, employing mechanisms such as staff exchanges, jointly advised graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and guest scientists. The Center should create a collaborative environment and concentration of scientific and technical capability to accelerate materials discovery and development; provide opportunities to transition new breakthroughs in advanced materials to industry; convene multidisciplinary and multi-sector communities for in-depth discussions; and provide training opportunities for scientists and engineers in materials metrology.

Q: What types of activities would the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence focus on?
A: The Advanced Materials Center of Excellence will conduct research and programs focused on:

  • the development of new modeling, simulation and other computational tools for materials design,
  • the development of advanced information management systems needed to support the creation and integration of tools for data-driven scientific discovery and engineering of materials, and
  • the establishment of standards, infrastructure, and reference databases needed to enable reliable computational-driven materials discovery and optimization.

Further, the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence will foster the discovery of revolutionary new materials by academic and industry researchers by leveraging and amplifying access to the world-class, often unique facilities and expertise for materials characterization at NIST including:

  • x-ray and neutron scattering and diffraction tools tailored for the analysis of soft materials, lightweight alloys, and advanced electronics,
  • soft x-ray synchrotron tools for nanoscale-resolved mapping of materials composition and structure,
  • advanced microscopy facilities that provide hyperspectral analysis of materials structure and properties,
  • expertise and facilities in nanomechanical testing and nanomaterials analysis, and
  • facilities for combinatorial materials library production and high-throughput testing.

Q: How will the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence be funded?
A: The Advanced Materials Center of Excellence will be funded by a competitively awarded cooperative agreement. Instructions on how to apply can be found at www.grants.gov or www.nist.gov/coe/advmat.

Q: Are matching funds required?
A: Matching funds are not required. However, additional resources (internal or external to the applicant's organization) committed to the project are a consideration under the "Experience (Qualifications), Resources Availability, and Industry Impact" evaluation criteria, as described in the Federal Funding Opportunity Number 2013-NIST-ADV-MAT-COE-01.

Q: How long will NIST support the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence?
A: NIST plans to make an award for an initial five-year period, pending satisfactory annual progress and availability of NIST funds. Based on the results of a formal assessment of the progress and accomplishments of the awardee, at the end of the initial five year award, a second five-year period may be funded, for a total of ten-year funding. At the conclusion of ten years, if NIST chooses to continue funding advanced materials research through the Centers of Excellence model, NIST may consider opening a new funding opportunity for the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence.

Q: Are existing collaborations with NIST staff affected by this Federal Funding Opportunity?
A: Collaborations between NIST staff and applicants in research areas outside the scope of this Federal Funding Opportunity are not affected. Pre-existing collaborations between an applicant and NIST staff should be identified to NIST in order to avoid conflicts of interest during the review process.

Q: How are proposed collaborations with NIST staff handled?
A: New or changes to existing collaborations with NIST staff, proposed as a result of this Federal Funding Opportunity, must be identified within the application. However, as indicated within the Federal Funding Opportunity, no applicant will be granted higher or lower ratings in the review based upon the proposal of specific NIST staff collaborations. In the event an applicant is selected for an award, the identity of NIST staff member(s), their level of commitment, physical location, and scope of work with regards to this opportunity will be negotiated between the applicant and NIST.

Q: Are references included in the page count for the technical proposal?
A: References are considered part of the technical proposal and are therefore subject to the 25 page limit.

Q: Will funds from the grant need to be directed toward NIST for the collaborations and joint work?
A: NIST may not receive any funding from the grant. All work performed under the award by the recipient and its contractors and subawardees must be funded using the grant funds.

Q: We are putting together a collaboration between several universities to respond to this FFO. Will the proposal submission date be extended to allow additional time for agreements between partners?
A: We do not anticipate extending the submission deadline.

Q: Should IP issues be finalized prior to the submission? Getting IP agreements hammered out between multiple universities before the submission deadline will be a challenge.
A: Any necessary IP agreements between partner organizations should be finalized prior to acceptance of an award.

Q: Is the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence supposed to be structurally similar to the other existing NIST-sponsored centers, such as Joint Quantum Institute, Institute for Biology and Biotechnology Research, or JILA?
A: No. The key elements for the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence are defined in the FFO. However, it is up to the proponent to propose what they feel is the optimal structure for the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence.

Q: The FFO limits applicants to five one-page resumes. Can we include more than five?
A: No, resume pages in excess of the five one-page resumes will not be considered. However, applicants are encouraged to briefly describe the capabilities and accomplishments of additional personnel within the 25-page technical proposal.

Q: Is there a maximum or minimum percentage of the funding that can be budgeted toward subawardees?
A: No.

Q: Can a subawardee charge a fee – if so is there a cap?
A: Page 7, Section III.5 of the FFO indicates that "Profit or fee is not an allowable cost."

Q: Is there a restriction on foreign nationals?
A: In general, there is no restriction on foreign nationals working for an awardee,subawardee, or contractor. However, applicants should be aware of the following:

  • Foreign nationals visiting or working at NIST are subject to the security screening and/or background check requirements for visiting or working on a NIST site.
  • Recipients are responsible for effective export compliance procedures during performance of an award, including control of access to export controlled items by foreign nationals, as further described in Department of Commerce Financial Assistance award term L.13, linked in the FFO on page 10 at Section VI.1., http://www.osec.doc.gov/oam/grants_management/policy/documents/DOC_Standard Terms_and_Conditions_01_10_2013.pdf.

Q: Are the presentation and video from the webinar posted?
A: Yes. Please see www.nist.gov/coe/advmat. However, you may need to hit the refresh button on your browser so that the latest version of web page is loaded.

Q: Can you describe NIST policy on patents?
A: It is part of NIST's mission to transfer the results of its research, including intellectual property, to industry, academia and government agencies. Generally, inventions conceived in whole or in part by a grantee or contractor of the Federal government are subject to the Bayh Dole Act. Subject to certain conditions, contractors or grantees who invent while using Federal funds are entitled to elect to retain their ownership interest in the invention. If such an invention is co-invented by a Government employee and a Federal grant recipient or contractor, the government will retain its ownership interest in the invention and the contractor or grantee will be entitled to elect to retain their ownership interest in the invention. As such, an invention that is jointly created will be jointly owned when the contractor or grantee elects to retain title. Further, the contractor or grantee may be given the opportunity to apply for an exclusive license to the government's interest in the jointly owned invention. Invention made solely by NIST employees are owned solely by NIST, although such invention may be made available for licensing. Further information can be found the Commerce Financial Assistance Standard Terms L.04 and L.10 (http://www.osec.doc.gov/oam/grants_management/policy/documents/DOC_Standard Terms_and_Conditions_01_10_2013.pdf).

Q: Are foreign or multi-national companies eligible as sub-awardees?
A: Provided that a company otherwise meets all eligibility requirements described in the Federal Funding Opportunity, foreign or multi-national companies are not excluded as sub-awardees. However, it is the mission of the U.S. Department of Commerce to support U.S. industry whenever possible. Additionally, recipients are responsible for effective export compliance procedures during performance of an award, including control of access to export controlled items by foreign nationals, as further described in Department of Commerce Financial Assistance award term L.13, linked in the FFO on page 10 at Section VI.1., http://www.osec.doc.gov/oam/grants_management/policy/documents/DOC_Standard Terms_and_Conditions_01_10_2013.pdf.

Q: Can you clarify the rules for contacting NIST employees regarding collaborations or identifying a NIST collaborator in this solicitation?
A: NIST requests that applicants do not contact NIST employees, other than those specifically identified as NIST contact points within the Federal Funding Opportunity. As the Federal Funding Opportunity requires, proposed collaborations with specific (named) NIST researchers must be approved prior to submission of an application. However, applicants should note that identification of a specific NIST employee will not provide an advantage to an applicant; consequently, NIST encourages applicants to propose specific techniques or research areas rather than specific employees in order to minimize the burden associated with pre-approval of identified NIST collaborations. Technical information regarding NIST research is available on the NIST website (including www.nist.gov/mgi). If a specific collaboration with a NIST employee is to be identified in a proposal, please contact Jason Averill at jason.averill@nist.gov to initiate the process or for additional information.

Q: Is the $5 million budget the total cost or the direct cost? Will the NIST award exceed $5 million?
A: The NIST award will not exceed $5M in total funds annually.

Q: Can letters of support be submitted after the due date for the Federal Funding Opportunity?
A: No.

Q: Can you indicate whether NIST desires an emphasis on breadth of research or depth of research in this solicitation?
A: The evaluation criteria include an assessment of the"scope of work, including the number and type of materials and the nature of proposed disciplinary approach." NIST has not specified a preferred approach. It remains up to the applicant to develop its strongest proposal within the scope identified in the Federal Funding Opportunity.

Q: Can the budget include instrumentation costs?
A: Yes.

Q: Can the budget include construction costs?
A: No. The program description does not envision construction of new buildings.

Q: Can the budget include costs for staff, including administrative support?
A: Yes.

Q: Is it possible to propose work in the application and establishment of MGI principles to materials systems that NIST is not currently investigating?
A: Yes. The FFO states that the Evaluation Panel will consider "the extent to which the proposed scope of the research (materials, computational methods, personnel, or equipment) is complementary to the research programs and research goals in these areas at NIST as described at www.nist.gov/mgi." Complementary research can include materials, methods, or equipment that NIST is not currently engaged directly with, as long as the purpose still falls within the objectives as stated in Section I of the FFO.

Q: Should we provide the one-page CV's and then also describe separately in the body of the proposal the qualifications and activities of key personnel?
A: Yes. The 25-page technical proposal should succinctly describe the qualifications and activities of key personnel. This can be supplemented by up to five one-page resumes (not part of the page count).

Q: For the references at the end of  the 25-page technical proposal, does the minimum 10 point font requirement apply?
A: Yes, references at the end of the 25-page technical report are to be in a minimum 10 point font.


Q: How do I apply to the Federal Funding Opportunity announcement?
A: Electronic applications will be accepted on www.grants.gov through 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, August 12, 2013.

Q: How will the proposals for Centers of Excellence be evaluated? Who evaluates the proposals?
A: Applications that are determined to be eligible, complete, and responsive will proceed for full reviews in accordance with the review and selection processes below:

Each application determined to be complete and timely, will be reviewed by at least three (3) independent, objective reviewers, knowledgeable in the subject matter of this FFO and its objectives and who are able to conduct a review based on the evaluation criteria. All applications will be provided to the Evaluation Panel with their respective reviews for further consideration.

An Evaluation Panel will be established. The Evaluation Panel will consist of NIST staff and/or other federal agency employees with appropriate technical expertise. The Evaluation Panel may ask questions of some or all applicants in writing and/or may require teleconferences with some or all applicants. Using the additional information obtained by the Evaluation Panel, the Evaluation Panel will prepare and provide a final adjectival ranking of the applications to the Selecting Official, the NIST Associate Director for Laboratory Programs, or designee, for further consideration. The adjectival rankings are:

  • Fundable, Outstanding
  • Fundable, Very Good
  • Fundable
  • Unfundable

The Selecting Official will make final application selection and recommend funding to the NIST Grants Office.

Q: What criteria will be used to evaluate proposals for the Advanced Materials Centers of Excellence?
A: The proposals will be evaluated according to four criteria: 1) rationality; 2) experience (qualifications), resource availability, and industry impact; 3) technical merit; and 4) success metrics. The first criterion evaluates the clarity of the proposer's approach to effectively address scientific and technical challenges relevant to the objectives of the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence. The second criterion evaluates the extent to which the proposer has access to the necessary facilities and overall support to accomplish project objectives. The third criterion evaluates the technical merit of the proposed work and the value it would contribute to future breakthroughs in advanced materials. The fourth criterion evaluates the clarity and quality of proposed metrics and mechanisms for evaluating the effectiveness of outputs from the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence, including links to U.S. industry and the potential for commercialization.

Q: How will the success of the Center of Excellence be determined?
A: The success of the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence will be evaluated against progress towards the original goals of the Center. These goals include accelerating materials discovery and development, transitioning new breakthroughs in advanced materials to industry, providing training opportunities for scientists and engineers in materials metrology, and demonstrating use of the tools and resources developed by the administration's Materials Genome Initiative that will serve as a foundation for strengthening domestic industry. Additionally, awardees will propose specific metrics that will be used to periodically evaluate progress and success.

Q: What are the metrics for reviews and renewals?
A: NIST anticipates seeking an independent, objective evaluation of the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence that includes scientific and technical experts not affiliated with NIST or the recipient to assess the effectiveness and continued desirability of the program. NIST plans to consider the results of such a review, including any findings and recommendations, as part of the process of determining whether to approve potential renewal of the project. This process may be used as part of the overall assessment, consistent with the potential long-term nature and purpose of the program. The full process is expected to include programmatic, policy, financial, administrative, and responsibility assessments, and the availability of funds, consistent with Department of Commerce and NIST policies and procedures in effect at that time.

Q: Who can I contact if I have additional questions about the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence?
A: Questions about the Advanced Materials Center of Excellence Federal Funding Opportunity may be directed to the following individuals:

Programmatic and technical questions:
Jason Averill
Phone: 301-975-2661
Fax: 301-216-0529
E-mail: jason.averill.@nist.gov

Electronic proposal submission through Grants.gov:
Christopher Hunton
Phone: 301-975-5718
Fax: 301-840-5976
E-mail: christopher.hunton@nist.gov

Grant rules and regulations:
Scott McNichol
Phone: 301-975-5603
Fax: 301-840-5976
E-mail: scott.mcnichol@nist.gov

Questions from the media may be directed to:
Michael Baum
Phone: (301) 975-2763
Email: michael.baum@nist.gov