Notice of Updates to the National Robotics Initiative (NRI)

Notice Number: NOT-EB-15-008

Key Dates
Release Date:  December 22, 2015

Related Announcements

Issued by
National Eye Institute (NEI)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR)
National Science Foundation (NSF )
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR)
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)


This Notice updates and supersedes the previous Guide Notice, NOT-EB-14-008, published in the NIH Guide, October 23, 2014.

The NIH is collaborating on a multi-agency funding opportunity, the National Robotics Initiative (NRI), whose goal is to accelerate the development and use of robots in the United States that work beside, or cooperatively with, people (, or carry out work for people in dangerous environments.  Innovative robotics research and applications emphasizing the realization of such co-robots working in symbiotic relationships with human partners is supported by multiple agencies of the federal government including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The purpose of this program is the development of this next generation of robotics, to advance the capability and usability of such systems and artifacts, and to encourage existing and new communities to focus on innovative application areas. It will address the entire life cycle from fundamental research and development to manufacturing and deployment. Collaboration between academic, industry, non-profit and other organizations is strongly encouraged to establish better linkages between fundamental science and technology development, deployment and use.

The NIH encourages robotics research and technology development to enhance health, lengthen life and reduce illness and disability. The NIH also supports non-hypothesis driven applications, which includes technology-driven and problem-driven applications. Specifically, the participating NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) on this solicitation are interested in targeting this solicitation to support the development of assistive robotic technology to achieve functional independence in humans; improve quality of life; assist with behavioral therapy and personalized care; and promote wellness/health. The most significant challenges will be in addressing safety issues, especially for applications to be used in home-based and long-term care settings where integration of complex systems will be required. Additionally, these assistive robots need to quickly adapt to changes of the user and the environment. Human assistive devices should be designed to assist healthcare providers and as well as the individuals needing care. Development of robotic applications is important to NIH because of their potential significant impact on healthcare in the future. Human assistive devices will revolutionize healthcare in the next 20 years as much as personal electronics have changed our daily lives in the past two decades. Affordable and accessible robotic technology can facilitate wellness and personalized healthcare. Continual health assessment and personalized intervention have the potential to offset the shrinking size of the healthcare workforce and the growing elderly and disabled population. In the future, assistive robotics will enable people to engage in all aspects of human life with endurance and dignity.

Examples of assistive robotic technology development include but are not limited to:
- Homecare and long-term personalized care robots
- Robotic wellness/health promotion and maintenance
- Robotic behavioral therapy
- Robotic aids for mobility, manipulation, human communication and cognition, vision for non-sighted persons
- Assistive robotics to eliminate health disparities across populations

When developing appropriate assistive co-robotic technologies, applicants should consider the following basic characteristics: effectiveness, affordability, cultural acceptability, and accessibility to those who need them. Applicants should describe how these technologies will address the healthcare needs of the end user (healthy individuals, persons with disability, and or health disparity populations).  The proposer should compellingly describe the healthcare problem being addressed and the technology solution being proposed.  It is strongly encouraged that a healthcare expert be included on the research team (as a consultant or collaborator, as appropriate).

The robotic applications promoted in this solicitation are for non-operative settings.  The NIH is still interested in supporting robotics for surgical health interventions, robotic exoskeletons, and prosthetics, however, not in response this solicitation. Applicants interested in these areas should send inquiries to the NIH contacts listed below. 

Award Information
All NIH awards made under this solicitation will be as R01 grants.  Award sizes for NIH funded research projects are expected to range from approximately $100,000 to $250,000 per year in direct costs, with durations of one to three years. No award will exceed $250,000 per year in direct costs. Applicants who wish to submit an application to NIH of more than $250,000 in direct costs for any year should contact the Program staff of an NIH Institute/Center directly for alternate proposal mechanisms.  Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size and duration are subject to the availability of funds.  Determination of awards is based on three criteria: 1) availability of funds, 2) program priorities, and 3) scientific merit. Subsequent grant administration procedures will be in accordance with the policies of the awarding Institute.

Application Preparation and Submission Instructions
Applications submitted in response to this solicitation should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the general guidelines contained in the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG).  Applications must be submitted to the NSF, not to the NIH.  In the full solicitation, there are additional instructions listed for applicants interested in NIH consideration for funding (e.g. Human/Animal Subjects Protections, Review Criteria, etc.). Applicants are reminded to identify the NSF program announcement number in the program announcement block on the NSF Cover Sheet for Proposal to the National Science Foundation.  Compliance with this announcement is critical to determining the relevant application processing guidelines. Failure to submit this information may delay processing.

Budgetary Information
Cost sharing is not required in applications submitted to this funding opportunity. Budgets should include travel funds for the PD/PI and team members to attend an annual NRI Principal Investigators' meeting. 

NIH Process
The mission of the NIH is to support science in pursuit of knowledge about the biology and behavior of living systems and to apply that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life and reduce illness and disability. While many of the NIH and NSF review criteria are based on the same standards of scientific evaluation, some scoring mechanisms and programmatic emphases vary. For example:

  • All proposals under consideration by NIH will be scored by their respective review panels using the NIH 1-9 scoring system, which does not include consideration of broader impacts.
  • Applicants should pay particular attention to NIH evaluation standards represented by criteria for human protections, inclusion of women, minorities, and children in the study population, and animal subjects’ protections, as well as biohazards.

In general, NIH funding priorities will be directed toward applications that best address the criteria that are used by NIH.

A goal for this activity is to involve multiple agencies using one application and one review. To meet NIH requirements, for those applications that are identified for potential funding by participating NIH ICs, the applicant organization will be required to submit an R01 application in an NIH-approved format.  PDs/PIs invited to submit to NIH will receive further information on submission procedures from the NIH.  The NIH application will not be allowed to increase or alter the proposed budget or change the scientific content of the application in the converted submission to the NIH. The summary statement will be presented to the involved IC's National Advisory Council for the second level of review. Subsequent to the Council review, NIH ICs will make their funding determinations and selected awards. Grant administration procedures for NIH awardees, including those related to New and Early Stage Investigators will be in accordance with the policies of NIH.

Please note that applications will be submitted for review to the NSF on March 7, 2016. PDs/PIs of applications selected for potential funding by the participating NIH ICs will be notified by the end of June 2016.  The converted submission to NIH will be due July 15, 2016.  The PD/PI should  work closely with their Sponsored Programs Office to assure a timely submission during this submission window. The earliest project start date will be September30, 2016.


Written and telephone inquiries are encouraged.  NIH Program contacts are listed below. Please see the NSF NRI website for names and contact information for each of the participating NSF Directorates, USDA, NASA, DARPA, AFOSR, and DOE. 

Grace C.Y. Peng, Ph.D.,
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
Telephone: 301-451-4778; 

Tom Greenwell, Ph.D.
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Telephone: 301-451-2020

Lyndon Joseph, Ph.D
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Telephone: 301-496-6926

Louis Quatrano, Ph. D.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
Telephone:  301-402-4221

Roger L. Miller, Ph.D.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Telephone: 301-402-3458

Daofen Chen, Ph.D.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Telephone: 301-496-9964

Augie Diana, Ph.D.
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Telephone: 301-402-6423