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University-Industry Engagement Advisor

NSF’s Partnerships for Innovation program adds new supplemental funding for patent expenses


By David Schwartz
Published: June 8th, 2021

In a new “Dear Colleague” letter, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced new supplement funding to cover certain patent expenses incurred for universities participating in its Partnership for Innovation (PFI) program.

The PFI program was developed in part to catalyze university-industry partnerships that could accelerate commercial translation of NSF-funding technologies. It has found high patent expenses – particularly among Minority Serving Institutions – to be a significant barrier to achieving that goal, and so the agency is now offering an “Allowable Patent EXpenses (APEX) supplement for active awardees.

According to the NSF letter, “the APEX supplement enables awardees to: a) defray internal costs incurred by their technology transfer office (TTO) during the evaluation and protection of intellectual property reduced to practice with PFI funding; or b) secure the services of one or more third-party service providers to assist in the evaluation and protection of the intellectual property. Filling expenses of both provisional and non-provisional patents are appropriate for this supplement.”

Those third-party services might also include tasks such as customer discovery, market fit, and assessment of commercial market value of PFI-funded proof-of-concept work. Only those PFI awardees that have participated in the I-Corps program are eligible, since the agency considers that program essential to commercialization of patented technologies.

The PFI program, the letter states, “is particularly interested in increasing the participation of underrepresented groups such as women, persons with disabilities, and underrepresented minorities, and those from geographically underrepresented areas in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and the APEX supplement is designed to bolster their commercialization capabilities in particular.

The supplement will not cover expenses incurred by licensees and industry partners; expenses incurred prior to the effective date or after the date of termination of the PFI award; or expenses that are not directly related to PFI-funded inventions. Supplemental funding requests may be submitted at any time, but for FY 2021 NSF has set a target date of June 15.

The maximum supplement funding allowed is 20% of the original PFI award or $50,000, whichever is less. For complete details, click here.

Posted under: University-Industry Engagement Week

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