Notice of NIH Participation in the National Robotics Initiative (NRI)
Notice Number:

Key Dates

Release Date:

March 19, 2021

Related Announcements


Issued by

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)

National Eye Institute (NEI)

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)

National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)


The purpose of this Notice is to announce NIH’s collaboration on a multi-agency funding opportunity, The National Robotics Initiative (NRI) 3.0 (, whose goal is to support research that promotes integration of robots to the benefit of humans. Innovative robotics research and applications emphasizing the realization of robots is supported by multiple agencies of the federal government including the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Transportation (DOT), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Collaboration among academic, industry, government, non-profit, and other organizations is encouraged to establish better linkages between fundamental science and engineering and technology development and use, through partnerships among researchers, applications developers, users, and industry.

The general interests of the participating NIH Institute organizations are outlined below:

National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)

NIBIB supports projects developing platform technologies that are applicable to a broad spectrum of disorders and diseases. Applicants may propose research that utilizes only a single physiological condition or disease as the model system to facilitate the development of a more broadly applicable enabling technology. Through this FOA, NIBIB has interests in the development of robotic technologies to improve human health and address health disparities. Examples of research of interest to NIBIB include, but are not limited to:

  • Autonomous control systems for improving robotic use via teleoperation, navigation, or sensory feedback
  • Biologically inspired manipulators
  • Soft robots for therapeutic and assistive applications
  • Implantable self-propelled devices

National Eye Institute (NEI)

NEI supports research on visual disorders and the special health problems and requirements of the blind. NEI has particular interest in development of robotic technologies that address telemedicine, rehabilitative strategies, assistive devices, and robotic aids for low vision and/or loss of vision.

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

The mission of NIA is to improve the health, well-being, and independence of older Americans through research. NIA has a broad interest in the development of robotics and related technologies and using artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance health and reduce illness and disability in older Americans. Individuals with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and AD-related dementias (ADRD), cognitive decline, mobility disability, or other aging-related conditions are of particular interest. Programmatic areas of interest include telemedicine, in-place monitoring, rehabilitation, psychosocial support (e.g., enhancing mood, mitigating the effects of loneliness, enhancing social connection and communication), physiological interventions (e.g., stress reduction through the biofeedback and other forms of behavioral therapy), assistance with care self-management (e.g., dispensing medications, monitoring vital signs, communicating with care givers), enabling and supporting individuals with AD/ADRD to live independently and safely in various environments (e.g., urban vs. rural homes, assisted living facilities), and promoting social interaction and engagement and reducing loneliness among individuals with AD/ADRD and their caregivers.

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)

NCATS' mission is to catalyze the generation of innovative methods and technologies that will enhance the development, testing and implementation of diagnostics and therapeutics across a wide range of human diseases and conditions. For this FOA, NCATS is seeking innovative research in integrated robotic systems in the preclinical and healthcare settings. In the preclinical realm, NCATS is interested in the development of robotic and drone systems for novel high-throughput technologies that focus on making translational research more efficient. In the healthcare setting, NCATS is interested in applications that employs collaborative robots that performs functions such as medical transportation drones; disinfection and sanitation robots; telemedicine such as remote disease monitoring and assessments; home care and long-term personalized care to include geriatric care, rehabilitation, and behavior therapy; assistive technologies for sensorimotor impairments, communication and cognition impairments, impaired vision; and therapeutic delivery systems employing micro and nanorobots.

National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)

The mission of the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) is to promote and improve the health of individuals, families, and communities. NINR has broad interests in the development of robotic technologies that facilitate caregiving and enhance quality of life across populations. Program areas include home and long-term personalized care, psycho-social care, physical assistance, and telepresence and communication robot systems that reduce health disparities.

Application Preparation and Submission Instructions

Proposals submitted in response to this program solicitation should be prepared and submitted in accordance with the general guidelines contained in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG). Applications must be submitted to the NSF, not to the NIH.

The complete text of the PAPPG is available electronically on the NSF website at: Paper copies of the PAPPG may be obtained from the NSF Publications Clearinghouse, telephone (703) 292-8134 or by Proposers are reminded to identify this program solicitation number in the program solicitation block on the NSF Cover Sheet for Proposal to the National Science Foundation. Compliance with this requirement is critical to determining the relevant proposal processing guidelines. Failure to submit this information may delay processing.

Budgetary Information

NIH will consider projects with budgets ranging from approximately $100,000 to $250,000 per year in direct costs averaged over the duration of the project, with durations of one to three years. Applicants who wish to submit a proposal to NIH of more than $250,000 in direct costs for any grant 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.

NIH Process

A goal for this activity is to involve multiple agencies using one application and one review. For those applications that are selected for potential funding by participating NIH ICs, the PD/PI will be required to repackage the application in an NIH-approved format to the NIH. PD/PIs invited to submit to NIH will receive further information on submission procedures from NIH. An applicant will not be allowed to increase the proposed budget or change the scientific content of the proposal in the submission to the NIH. Indirect costs on any foreign subawards/subcontracts will be limited to eight percent. The results of the NSF review will be presented to the involved Institutes' National Advisory Councils for the second level of review. For information purposes, NIH PD/PIs may wish to consult the OER website which provides information about all aspects of NIH grantsmanship, including competing renewals (

Please note that applications will be submitted for review to the NSF on May 3rd, 2021. The earliest project start date for NIH applications will be April 1st, 2022.


Please direct all inquiries to:

Inquiries are encouraged and NIH Scientific/Research contacts are listed below. Please see the National Robotics Initiative website for names and contact information of participating NSF Directorates.

Dr. Moria Fisher Bittmann
National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB)
Telephone: 301-451-4778

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

Dr. Danilo Tagle
National Center for Advancing Translation Sciences (NCATS)
Telephone: 301-594-8064

Dr. Cheri Wiggs
National Eye Institute (NEI)
Telephone: 301-451-2020

Dr. Kristopher Bough
National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR)
Telephone: 301-337-1372

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