Major Research Instrumentation

The MRI program2 is an NSF-wide program that seeks to improve the quality and expand the scope of research and research training in science and engineering. It encourages the development and acquisition of research instrumentation for shared inter- and/or intrainstitutional use and in concert with private-sector partners.

The MRI program has five goals:

  • Support the acquisition, through purchase, upgrade, or development, of major state-of-the-art instrumentation for research, research training, and integrated research and education activities at institutions;

  • Improve access to and increase the use of modern research and research training instrumentation by scientists, engineers, and graduate and undergraduate students;

  • Enable academic departments or cross-departmental units to create well-equipped learning environments that integrate research with education;

  • Foster the development of the next generation of instrumentation for research and research training; and

  • Promote partnerships between academic researchers and private sector instrument developers.

The MRI program assists institutions in the acquisition or development of major research instrumentation that is, in general, too costly to support through other NSF programs. With the change in NSF cost-sharing requirements, the maintenance and technical support associated with these instruments are no longer directly funded. Proposals may be submitted for a single instrument, a large system of instruments, or multiple instruments that share a common or specific research focus. NSF supports the development of the next generation of research instrumentation by encouraging institutions to submit proposals that target instrument development. Individual investigators and teams of researchers are encouraged to apply for instrument development support.

DMR usually captures about 10 percent of the funds awarded annually (see Table F.1); the total MRI program has increased to more than $100 million in the 2004 solicitation. The overall proposal success rate for the FY 2003 MRI competition was approximately 40 percent. Awards for instrumentation ranged from


This section is based on materials from the Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) Program Solicitation: Instrument Development and Acquisition, NSF 05-515. Available online at; last accessed June 1, 2005.

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