Call for Letters of Intent and Pre-proposals

Competition to Select the Topic for the 2022 State Proposal to the NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-1 Program - SC EPSCoR Solicitation Number 12-2020


Download PDF of full Solicitation (Released: December 10, 2020)
Note: Forms required for the pre-proposals will be posted in January 2021.

A. Introduction


As a National Science Foundation (NSF) EPSCoR Jurisdiction, South Carolina is preparing for the next NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-1: (RII Track-1) proposal submission. The NSF RII Track-1 program provides support for sustainable improvements in a jurisdiction’s academic research infrastructure that leads to increased research capacity and competitiveness. The program aims to improve jurisdictional capacity in areas of STEM research and education that are supported by the NSF and aligned with the jurisdiction’s science and technology priorities. The NSF-RII Track-1 is a five-year, $20M award.

This call for Letters of Intent (LOIs) and Pre-proposals is in anticipation of the solicitation release by NSF and is the first step in the preparation of the submission of a state-wide proposal by the State of South Carolina. The program is administered through the SC EPSCoR State Office to identify the theme(s) and institutions that will be included in the submission to NSF.

Program Description

The science or engineering research program for which improved infrastructure is requested is the central piece of the RII Track-1. The intellectual merit and broader impacts of the proposed activities provide the rationale for the requested infrastructure investments that, in turn, enhance the overall research capacity of South Carolina. These awards are unique in their statewide scope and complexity; in their integration of individual researchers, institutions, and organizations; and in their role in developing the diverse, well-prepared, STEM-enabled workforce necessary to sustain research competitiveness and catalyze economic development. A RII Track-1 award is intended to add specific value to South Carolina’s academic research infrastructure not generally available through other NSF funding mechanisms. Essential to EPSCoR's goal of enhancing the competitive position of South Carolina’s research and research-based education in science and engineering is alignment of the award with the South Carolina Science and Technology Plan, Vision 2025 Advancing South Carolina Capacity and Expertise in Science and Technology.

SC EPSCoR welcomes LOIs and Pre-proposals for competition in the selection of the next RII Track-1 topic and project. The LOIs and Pre-proposals should present a clear vision for how the planned effort will substantively enhance Research and Development competitiveness of South Carolina’s colleges and universities. This includes detailed plans for how the vision will be implemented with description of how the proposal’s goals and objectives will be achieved. The expected outcome is that the Track-1 will: increase success in securing additional, sustainable large-scale non-EPSCoR research support; further effective STEM education and workforce development opportunities that broaden participation; and strengthen individual and institutional collaborations in South Carolina.

Proposal Topics

Proposals must address topics consistent with the South Carolina Vision 2025 – Advancing South Carolina’s Capacity and Expertise in Science and Technology and the research themes of NSF. 

Activities proposed to be carried out in the Pre-proposal are subject to the restrictions concerning eligible science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines and activities detailed in the NSF Proposal and Award Policy and Procedures Guide (PAPPG)   

The SC EPSCoR State Office is particularly interested in the potential for the Track-1 project to support and provide connectivity of the state’s existing educational and research resources, as well as sustainability of the research program beyond the Track-1 funding period. Proposed activities may include the hiring of a small number of faculty to achieve these goals.

Eligible Organizations and Institutions

Up to three LOIs and the corresponding Pre-proposals may be submitted in response to this call by each of Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina, and the University of South Carolina Columbia (the three Comprehensive Research Universities, CRUs). Only Pre-proposals for which LOIs are submitted will be accepted. Each CRU will establish its own procedure for selecting which LOIs and Pre-proposals are submitted from their institution. The Vice President for Research or Chief Academic Officer of the CRU will provide a brief letter of endorsement for each Pre-proposal submitted.

LOIs and Pre-proposals in response to this call must engage South Carolina’s diversity of institutions of higher education, including the STEM PhD-granting institutions, the Technical Colleges, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and other predominantly undergraduate institutions (PUIs). Engagement between South Carolina's CRUs, PUIs, and HBCUs is expected in research, workforce development and broadening participation, and is an important review criterion for Track-1 projects.

Eligibility of Science Director

Each LOI/Pre-proposal will identify one tenured Full Professor to serve as Science Director and ultimately as one of the co-PIs of the proposed Track-1 project. An individual may serve as a Science Director on only one LOI and Pre-proposal submitted in response to this solicitation. A Science Director may be a co-PI on another Pre-proposal but not as the Science Director of the other Pre-proposal.

Pre-proposals may identify up to three other individuals as prospective co-PIs. Note that NSF limits the number of co-PIs on a Track-1 proposal; the current limit is four. The final determination of the number of co-PIs of the selected Track-1 Pre-proposal is subject to change as the full proposal is developed.

Pre-proposals typically involve multiple CRUs, as well as PUIs and HBCUs. Pre-proposals should also identify at least one collaborator or point of contact from each of the collaborating institutions participating in the project.

Selection Process Timeline

The timeline for submission and review of Letters of Intent and Pre-proposals is given below. Any revisions to the Timeline below will be posted on the SC EPSCoR website and disseminated widely through other mediums. 



Release Call for LOIs and Pre-proposals

Thursday, December 10, 2020

SC EPSCoR Track-1 Informational Webinar

Friday January 22, 2021

Letters of Intent Due

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Pre-proposals Due

Monday, June 21, 2021

External Review Complete

Monday, August 9, 2021

Presentations by top 3 Pre-proposals

Monday, August 16, 2021

Announcement of Pre-proposal to go forward

Monday, August 23, 2021

While NSF has not yet set the due dates for the NSF RII Track-1 Competition in 2022, SC EPSCoR expects the LOI to be due to NSF during the first week of July 2022, and the full proposal due approximately one month later.

Individuals engaged in the preparation of LOIs and Pre-proposals in response to this call are strongly encouraged to refer to the current NSF EPSCoR program Solicitation NSF 20-571. Final proposals will be prepared in accordance with the NSF solicitation in effect at the time.

Submission of LOI and Pre-proposals

The lead CRU should submit its LOIs and Pre-proposals via the SC EPSCoR Portal (maximum three per institution). If not previously registered in the Portal, please follow the instructions on the main Portal page to register.

Contact Information

Dr. Jim Doolittle

Director, SC EPSCoR State Office


T: 803.737.7813

April Heyward, MRA

Program Manager, SC EPSCoR Program 


T: 803.733.9068


B. Letter of Intent (Due by Thursday, April 1, 2021 by 5:00 PM) 


A LOI is required to compete in the selection of the next RII Track-1 topic and project. An LOI is required from the CRU that proposes to lead the research effort. Because the LOIs will be used to identify potential external reviewers for the Pre-proposals, the Pre-proposal topic should not deviate from the general subject area of the LOI. Pre-proposals received without a prior LOI submission or with a different subject area from what was submitted in the LOI will be rejected.;

The LOI should include the following:

  • Cover Letter. The lead CRU must submit a Letter of Endorsement signed by the Vice President for Research or Chief Academic Officer of the institution. The letter should provide the title of the proposed project, identify the proposed Science Director, delineate the institution’s support for the project, and include a commitment to prepare the follow-on Pre-proposal, and full proposal if selected. 
  • Summary (Maximum 4 Pages). The summary should:
    1. Present the vision and description of the proposed project and impact
    2. Describe the proposed project scope; RII Track-1 project organization; research and education activities; and their integration.
    3. Present a brief summary of the 1) intellectual merit and 2) broader impacts of the proposed project.
    4. Delineate alignment with the South Carolina Vision 2025 – Advancing South Carolina’s Capacity and Expertise in Science and Technology and the research themes of NSF.
  • Biographical Sketches. Provide the biographical sketches for the Science Director and the prospective Co-PIs in the current NSF format

C. Pre-proposal (Due by Monday, June 21, 2021 by 5:00 PM) 

More details on the pre-preoposal requirements can be found in the full Solicitation.
Note: Forms required for the pre-proposals will be posted in January 2021.

D. Pre-proposal Review Process

More details on the pre-preoposal review process can be found in the full Solicitation.