The Frequently Asked Questions page is intended to clarify and provide guidance on information set forth in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) on April 12, 2023. Following the release of this document, further questions may be submitted to InnovationFund@ntia.gov for consideration to include in future FAQ documents.
The below FAQs are for informational purposes only and are intended solely to assist potential applicants in better understanding the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund and the application requirements set forth in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for this program. The FAQs do not and are not intended to supersede, modify, or otherwise alter applicable statutory or regulatory requirements, or the specific application requirements set forth in the NOFO. In all cases, statutory and regulatory mandates, and the requirements set forth in the NOFO, shall prevail over any inconsistencies contained in the below FAQs.
Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) is an approach to radio access network design that leverages open, interoperable, and standards-based RAN elements to form a virtualized and disaggregated RAN.
Open and interoperable wireless networks offer numerous benefits over traditional, closed networks that will help lower the barriers of entry for new and emerging companies. Using open and interoperable wireless networks allows operators to procure the best solutions for their specific needs by mixing and matching network components, rather than procuring proprietary end-to-end solutions from a single supplier. Open and interoperable networks may also reduce costs for consumers and network operators by increasing competition between 5G radio access network suppliers and/or potentially lowering capital expenditures and operating expenses. Thus, the shift to open networks enhances 5G supply chain security by increasing competition and resilience in the global telecommunications equipment market.
The Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund is a 10-year competitive grant program authorized under the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act and funded through the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. The fund will help drive wireless innovation, foster competition, and strengthen supply chain resilience. It will also help unlock opportunities for companies from the United States and its global allies, particularly small and medium enterprises, to compete in a market historically dominated by a few suppliers, including high-risk suppliers that raise security concerns.
The federal government intends to use the Innovation Fund to facilitate the adoption of open and interoperable wireless networks by:
Accelerating commercial deployment of open, interoperable equipment.
Promoting and deploying compatibility of new 5G equipment.
Managing integration of multi-vendor network environments.
Identifying criteria to define equipment as compliant with open standards; and
Promoting and deploying security features and network function virtualization for multi-vendor, interoperable networks.
The first NOFO focuses on activities that will promote and improve the open and interoperable RAN testing and evaluation ecosystem, as well as research and development into test methods. NTIA’s NOFO is responsive to feedback NTIA received during listening sessions and the Request for Comment period. These activities are foundational to the ultimate success of open and interoperable wireless networks and will help build confidence in the viability of Open RAN solutions and remove barriers to adoption.
NTIA will support two specific research focus areas under this first NOFO:
Expanding industry-accepted testing and evaluation (T&E) activities to assess and facilitate the interoperability, performance, and/or security of open and interoperable, standards-based 5G radio access networks; and
Developing new and/or improved testing methodologies to test, evaluate, and validate the interoperability, performance, and/or security of networks, including their component parts.
The first of two Specific Research Focus Areas covered in this NOFO. Testing and evaluating the degree to which different manufacturers and vendor equipment, components, and software can operate as an open, interoperable, and standards-based RAN, including in a virtualized and disaggregated environment RAN, using testing and evaluation methods currently accepted by industry. The T&E must address one or more of the following: interoperability of the components, the performance of the system, and/or the security of the system. (See Section 3.3.1 for more information.)
The second of two research focus areas covered under this NOFO. The process to identify new methods or to materially improve existing methods of testing, evaluating, and validating the interoperability, performance, and/or security of open, interoperable, and standards-based RAN elements, addressing needs not currently met by existing, industry-accepted tests and best practices. (See Section 3.3.2 of the NOFO for more information.)
Eligibility and Program Details
Except where otherwise prohibited by statute and/or the NOFO, personnel costs for those residing outside the U.S. associated with this program are allowable, as they meet the general criteria defined in 2 C.F.R Part 200.403-405. Allowable costs for Federal awards are determined in accordance with the Federal Cost Principles identified in 2 C.F.R. Part 200, Subpart E, which are applicable to this award program. Costs associated with a federal award must be allowable, reasonable, necessary, and allocable and conform to generally accepted accounting principles defined in 2 C.F.R. Part 200, Subpart E.
All testing and R&D activities must originate from within the United States or its territories, even when a testing entity has research locations outside the United States. Anything adjacent to those activities, such as writing test scripts and software development, may be performed outside the United States. Federal funds may be allocated to work occurring overseas, including T&E activities and R&D projects, unless this work constitutes the actual testing or research activity itself (i.e., an activity that must take place within the United States and its territories). Costs associated with these adjacent activities are allowable as defined in 2 C.F.R. Part 200, Subpart E.
Components of R&D projects occurring abroad can be submitted as proposals to this NOFO, but only the work taking place within the United States and its territories is eligible for federal funding. However, components of an R&D project that are adjacent and/or are necessary to the overall operation and performance of the project may have eligible allowable costs for participants outside the United States. For example, testing participants may access virtual testing from outside of the United States, provided that the testing participants have been determined to be eligible entities. See Section 2 of the NOFO for more information on eligible and ineligible participation. Costs associated with those remote, eligible participants may be allowable.
Please consult NOFO section 2: Eligibility Information and Program Details for details. Ineligible applicants include, but are not limited to, any company that is a foreign entity of concern or included in the following resources:
Included on the Bureau of Industry and Security's Entity List (15 CFR part 744, supplement no. 4);
Included on the Department of the Treasury's list of Non-SDN Chinese Military-Industrial Complex Companies (NS-CMIC List); or
Identified in the Federal Communications Commission's list of Equipment and Services Covered By section 2(a) of the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 as providing covered equipment or services.
The $2M cap for Testing Methods R&D is for the Federal portion of funding that may be provided. In this case, the proposal of a total $3M project where $2M would be Federal share and $1M would be non-Federal share would be allowable.
Equipment can be sourced from a foreign nation, as long as the equipment or its vendor do not fall under NOFO section 184.108.40.206 Equipment, Supplies, and Services from Untrusted Vendors. Award recipients should be prepared to provide documentation that allows NTIA to verify that its vendors or equipment or services do not pose an undue risk to promoting a more secure, diverse, sustainable, and competitive wireless technology supply chain.
Per the Department of Commerce (DOC) standard terms and conditions, an applicant can use a provisional rate (greater than 10% de minimis) on their application and then submit documentation to NIST within 90 calendar days of the award start date to negotiate an indirect cost rate agreement. The applicant would need to determine who their cognizant Federal Agency would be. Per the DOC standard terms, with respect to for-profit organizations, the term cognizant Federal agency generally is defined as the agency that provides the largest dollar amount of negotiated contracts, including options. See 48 C.F.R. § 42.003. If the only Federal funds received by a commercial organization are DOC award funds, then DOC becomes the cognizant Federal agency for indirect cost negotiations.
If DOC is not the cognizant agency and the applicant is using a F&A rate greater than the 10% de minims, the applicant must provide a copy of a negotiated rate agreement, or a copy of the transmittal letter submitted to the cognizant agency requesting a negotiated rate agreement within 30 calendar days of receipt of a negotiated rate agreement or submission of a negotiated rate proposal.
If the recipient fails to submit required documentation to NIST within 90 calendar days of the award start date, the NIST Grants Office may amend the award to preclude the recovery of any indirect costs under the award. In addition, the NIST Grants Office will include an Indirect Cost Special Award Condition (SAC) in all the awards providing submission guidance if NIST is the cognizant agency.
Note that Technical Assistance will be provided to grantees post-award on how to handle very specific allowable costs, budgets, and other questions specific to their grant.
Virtualized and remote testing must be conducted and operated from the United States and its territories. Testing participants may access the testing from outside of the United States provided that the testing participants have been determined to be eligible entities. See Section 2 of the NOFO for more information on eligible and ineligible participation.
Non-citizens may work on grants (except those non-citizens who are from countries of concern.
The Innovation Fund aims to support U.S. leadership in the global telecommunications ecosystem, foster competition, and drive wireless innovation. We also aim to unlock opportunities for new and emerging U.S. companies, particularly small and medium enterprises, to compete in a market historically dominated by few suppliers, including high-risk suppliers that raise security concerns. By ensuring T&E events and R&D events take place in the U.S. and territories, we are investing in U.S. innovation and the promise of open and interoperable networks – including the opportunities this approach presents for the U.S. and our allies. This helps create jobs for U.S. citizens and aligns with methods implemented by our like-minded government partners in Europe and Asia conducting similar programs.
Besides the requirement that federally funded work be performed in the United States (including its territories and possessions), International Entities with no subsidiary in the U.S., must obtain an NCAGE Code from the NCAGE Code Request Tool page before starting a Sam.gov registration. Sam.gov also provides a Quick Start Guide for International Registrations [.pdf] that can help such entities throughout the process.
Indirect Costs are allowable costs under this NOFO. This means that indirect costs can be a direct federal cost or can be used as a cost share. You may use a maximum de minimis rate of 10% with no additional documentation required or you may use a previously negotiated federal indirect costs rate. In such a case, please provide a copy of the approved negotiated agreement. Please see Section 3.2.g. of the NOFO and 2 C.F.R. § 200.414 for more information.
We do not anticipate any handling of classified information/documents during the grant activities, therefore, please do not include any classified information in your submission.
See 2 CFR § 200.475: Travel costs may be charged on an actual cost basis, on a per diem or mileage basis in lieu of actual costs incurred, or on a combination of the two, provided the method used is applied to an entire trip and not to selected days of the trip, and results in charges consistent with those normally allowed in like circumstances in the non-Federal entity's non-federally-funded activities and in accordance with non-Federal entity's written travel reimbursement policies. In the absence of an acceptable, written non-Federal entity policy regarding travel costs, the rates and amounts established under 5 U.S.C. 5701–11, (“Travel and Subsistence Expenses; Mileage Allowances”), or by the Administrator of General Services, or by the President (or his or her designee) pursuant to any provisions of such subchapter must apply to travel under Federal awards (48 CFR 31.205–46(a)). GSA Per Diem rates can be found in the GSA's Per Diem page.
Possibly. The investment must be directly allocable, and the cost share attributed to the proposed project must be proportional to the investment’s cost basis. Investments that were initially acquired with federal funding may not be used as a cost share for another federal grant program.
Certain grant funded activities must be conducted in the United States and its territories. While the program is not giving preference to any location within the United States, the program does recognize that having T&E capabilities in various locations across the country can be advantageous, rather than concentrated in one geographic area. Therefore, the NOFO does state that the location of T&E activities may be used as a selection factor in awards.
Not necessarily. We made a strategic policy decision to require the place of performance for our first NOFO to be in the US/US territories. The Wireless Innovation Fund team is refining our future NOFO plans and encourages stakeholders to refer to our website for the most up to date information.
Equipment acquired with federal funds must be used for the purpose intended in the grant program throughout its useful life, even after the grant period of performance has expired. For example, if a piece of equipment with a useful life of 10 years is purchased to facilitate testing and evaluation activities in accordance with the NOFO, then that equipment must continue to be used for that purpose for the full 10 years, even if the grant expired after 5 years. If the entity shuts down their testing and evaluation program at the end of 5 years, however, the entity will have to repurpose the equipment for other federally sponsored activities or request disposition instructions from NTIA. (See 2 CFR § 200.313(c)(1) and (e).) Grantees may mitigate this by only allocating a proportion of the costs to the grant. In addition, if a piece of equipment is purchased with the intention of using it for grant-related purposes and other non-grant related purposes, only the portion of the equipment used for grant purposes can be charged to the grant or used as a cost share.
Government entities are not eligible for Innovation Fund awards in this first NOFO. Eligibility is currently only for “for-profit companies, non-profit companies, institutions of higher education, industry groups, and consortia consisting of two or more such entities.” Section 2.1 of the NOFO.
The Innovation Fund NOFO is focused on companies, academic institutions, associations, consortia, and other entities utilizing their expert knowledge of open and interoperable 5G technology to improve access and availability of testing and evaluation throughout the United States, as well as research and development into new and improved 5G test methods. While the primary grantee is capped at $50,000,000 per focus area, a company can be part of multiple consortiums. All parties involved, however, (e.g., subgrantees) must be registered in SAM.
There are no minimum award thresholds, however the expected range of individual awards for T&E activities is $10,000,000 to $50,000,000, while testing methods R&D are expected to range between $250,000 and $2,000,000. Please consult NOFO sections 1.5 Award Amount and 1.6 Limitations on Grant Awards for details.
Funding and Period of Performance
The program has not set a minimum or maximum number of awards. We are looking to fund worthy projects that demonstrate the ability to add value to the ecosystem.
Construction costs are not authorized for this NOFO, so costs for prior construction will not be considered as a matching contribution. However, acquisition and installation of equipment to support testing is authorized and can be used as a matching contribution. In this case, towers, fixed outdoor cabinets, and in-ground fiber plant would be considered “construction” costs, but power supplies, power distribution units, etc. that do not serve as permanent infrastructure would be considered equipment and could be used as matching contribution. Likewise, if the equipment was paid for by another federal grant or other federal funding source, it cannot be considered for a matching contribution. Additionally, the prior costs included in the match must be directly related to the scope of work in your proposal.
DoD 5G Testbed facilities may be used as collaborators, but federal employees cannot be funded by this grant program and any contractors cannot simultaneously be funded by this grant program and another federal source to accomplish the same work (a.k.a. “double-dipping”). If a DoD Testbed facility will be collaborating with your proposal, a cognizant authority within DoD will need to approve the collaboration. The collaboration with the DoD Testbed facility cannot be used for matching contribution if the equipment or staffing was paid for by another federal agency.
The costs to federate the two testbeds would be allowable as long as 1) the Innovation Fund is not duplicating expenses with another federal funding source, 2) the federation is necessary to complete the scope of work in your proposal, and 3) the cognizant authority on the DoD side approves the interconnection activity.
Grant applicants are advised to consider 2 CFR § 200.448 Intellectual Property and 2 CFR § 200.315 Intangible Property of the Uniform Guidance when developing their proposals.
Grant funding will be available through an automated drawdown system as costs are incurred. Supporting documentation (invoices, timesheets, etc.) for the drawdown amounts must be maintained by the grantee and is subject to audit and monitoring by the government.
For test method R&D projects, broad dissemination of research results through media such as peer-reviewed publications are highly encouraged, although not required.
There is no set expected period of sustainability, however merit reviewer’s evaluation of a sustainability plan may factor into application score. See Section 3.3.1. (n) of the NOFO for the technical proposal sustainability factor and Section 4.1.2. (a).3 for the evaluation of sustainability in the scoring criteria.
A sub-award subjects the sub-awardee to the same terms and conditions as the direct grantee and it requires the direct grantee to oversee the sub-grantees’ activities to ensure they are reasonable and allowable. A sub-award is typically used when the subaward entity will be substantially conducting or contributing to direct grant funded activities. A contract is used to purchase services and goods but does not subject the vendor to the applicable terms and conditions of the award. Awardees should document the basis of contract awards through official quotes or other similar means of demonstrating free and open competition and best value.
NTIA will make up to $140,500,000 available for federal assistance under this initial Innovation Fund NOFO. NTIA expects to make awards within the following funding range: $250,000 to $50,000,000. For this initial NOFO, two specific research focus areas have been identified and have the following estimated award sizes:
Specific Research Focus Area
Expected Range of Individual Awards
Testing and Evaluation (T&E) Activities
$10,000,000 to $50,000,000
Testing Methods Research and Development (R&D)
$250,000 to $2,000,000
If an entity receives both a grant for T&E Activities and a grant for Testing Methods R&D, a separate award will be issued for each to facilitate monitoring and reporting. This range does not reflect any mandatory minimum. However, by statute grants for a particular research focus area cannot be more than $50,000,000.
Awards made under this NOFO will not impact a recipient’s ability to apply for grants in future Innovation Fund NOFOs or to receive awards up to the statutory maximum for other future specific research focus areas.
As described in Section 3.8 of the NOFO, grant recipients may only use federal award funds and any non-federal cost share committee by the recipient to pay for allowable costs under the Innovation Fund Program. Allowable costs are determined in accordance with the cost principles identified in 2 CFR Part 200, Subpart E. In addition, costs must be reasonable, necessary, allocable, and allowable for the proposed project, and must conform to generally accepted accounting principles as defined in 2 C.F.R. Part 200, Subpart E.
Per Section 3.8of the NOFO, ineligible costs include those costs that are unallowable under the applicable federal cost principles. Please note that costs ineligible for the Innovation Fund grant program may not be paid for with non-federal cost share committed to the award.
In addition, the following costs are specifically identified as prohibited under the Innovation Fund Program:
Profit and fees
Use of grant funds to support or oppose union organizing
Equipment, supplies, and services from untrusted vendors
Support of remote access for any personnel or entities located in a covered nation as defined by 10 U.S.C. § 4872(d)(2).
Grant funds used as collateral for a loan made by any public or private lender.
Pre-application expenses, including previously incurred administrative costs or previously purchased supplies or equipment.
Certain telecommunications and video surveillance services and equipment in accordance with 2 C.F.R. § 200.216. Additionally, equipment, supplies, and services that are manufactured, sold, or otherwise provided by vendors found on any of the following lists will be ineligible costs:
As described in Section 1.3 of the NOFO, the program's period of performance (POP) may be up to five (5) years in duration. Each applicant must include the estimated POP in the milestones section of their technical proposal, as described in Section 3.3 of the NOFO.
For a project with a POP that is less than five (5) years, a grant recipient may submit a request for an extension. Requests for extensions will be granted at the sole discretion of the Assistant Secretary or their designee. See Section 1.3.1 of the NOFO for more information.
As described in Section 1.3 of the NOFO, the period of performance (POP) for grants awarded under this NOFO may be up to five (5) years in duration. Applicants must include the estimated POP in the milestone section of each of the technical proposals it is submitting, as described in Section 3.3 of the NOFO.
As described in Section 3.3.1.d of the NOFO for T&E Activities, each applicant shall provide a quarterly milestone plan of its activities. The duration of the project is at the discretion of the applicant, but the period of performance may not exceed five years. The plan, at a minimum, should show when T&E events will be conducted, including major planning and after-action activities related to the events.
As described in Section 3.3.2.f of the NOFO for Testing Methods R&D, the Work Plan should indicate what research will be done, where it will be done, and how the research will be carried out. The method(s) planned to achieve each objective or task should be discussed in detail. This shall also include steps to be taken to promote industry adoption of a successfully developed test method.
Review and Scoring Process
Cost share will be considered as a component of the relative cost effectiveness of a proposal compared with other like-focused projects.
As described in Section 4 of the NOFO, all applications will be evaluated on a competitive basis. The key steps in the Innovation Fund Grants Program review process include:
Initial Screening for eligibility, completeness, and responsiveness to the NOFO.
As described in Section 4.1 of the NOFO, during the Administrative and Eligibility Review, NTIA will ensure applicants are eligible by assessing (1) application completeness and responsiveness to this NOFO, and (2) ensuring that the Eligible Entity meets eligibility criteria. This includes a review of the Project Narrative and Budget Justification.
Applications submitted by any entity other than an eligible applicant will be eliminated from further review, as will any applications that fail to meet any of the requirements of Section 3 of this NOFO.
Per Section 4.1.1 of the NOFO, applicants that satisfy the Initial Administrative and Eligibility Review will enter Merit Review. Program staff will sort applications by like-focused project type. All T&E Activity proposals will be sorted into one list. Testing Methods R&D projects will be sorted into sub-categories according to test method focus area (interoperability, performance, and/or security) and/or specific project sub-topic, such as Xn interface operability, energy performance, data integrity, etc.
As described in Section 4.1.2 of the NOFO, during the Merit Review, reviewers will evaluate applications against the criteria described below:
For T&E Activities:
Project Purpose and Benefits (75 points)
The applicant clearly describes how their T&E activity will increase the availability and accessibility of testing and evaluation in the United States and how that will accelerate the development, deployment, and adoption of open, interoperable radio access networks. (20 pts)
The applicant demonstrates a clear understanding of how to conduct open and interoperable 5G T&E activities with a comprehensive and feasible technical approach, work plans, and milestone plans. (15 points)
The applicant demonstrates that the proposed T&E activities will lead to sustained and accessible testing resources and data that advance industry adoption and the goals of the Innovation Fund Program. (15 points)
The applicant’s plan for the analysis and safeguarding of data collected from the testing and the plan for how to share information with different audiences. (5 points)
Optional Tasks: Applications that do not propose the following optional tasks will receive a score of -0- for the optional elements.
The applicant’s approach to provide ongoing neutral T&E outside of T&E events and the resources provided to support start-ups, small and socially and economically disadvantaged individual-owned businesses (SEDI) to develop open and interoperable 5G radio access network solutions. (8 points)
The applicant’s approach to provide technical assistance and support to new and emerging industry entities in the 5G T&E ecosystems. (8 points)
Other additional activities proposed to facilitate the programs goals. (4 points)
Competence and Capability (25 points)
Applicant’s organizational capability (personnel, facilities, experience) to complete the specific project proposed. (5 points)
Reasonableness of the applicant’s proposed budget. (10 points)
Project’s fiscal sustainability beyond the award period. (10 points)
For Testing Methods R&D:
Project Purpose and Benefits (80 points)
The applicants proposed technical approach is comprehensive and feasible and demonstrates a clear understanding of the research area. (30 points)
The applicant demonstrates that the proposed research program will lead to a successful product, service, or method with a viable pathway to industry adoption. (30 points)
The principal/key investigators, supporting staff, and consultants have the qualifications and experience to accomplish the proposed research effort. In addition, reviewers will evaluate, as applicable, the extent to which the applicant has access to the facilities and equipment necessary to complete the proposed research. (20 points)
Competence, Capability, and Budget (20 points)
Applicant’s competence (skill, expertise, experience) and organizational capability (personnel, facilities, equipment) to complete the specific project proposed. (10 points)
Reasonableness of the applicant’s proposed budget. (10 points)
As described in Section 4.1.3 of the NOFO, the Innovation Fund staff will conduct a Programmatic Review to verify that proposed activities align with the NOFO objectives and that the proposed budget appears allowable, allocable, and reasonable. NTIA may ask applicants to submit additional information, as appropriate, to clarify or to further substantiate the representations made in their applications, which will be taken into consideration before completing the programmatic review. For more information on Programmatic Review, refer to Section 4.1.3 of the NOFO.
All applications will be rank-ordered by total of the three merit scores, within their like-focused project lists. Then, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Telecommunications and Information and NTIA Administrator will review and make award selections using the following selection factors:
The availability of funding.
Relative cost-effectiveness between like-focused applications. Factors that may be considered in determining cost-effectiveness include total project costs, amount of cost share provided, number and scope of T&E Activities to be conducted, and scope of testing to be conducted. Meritorious projects that demonstrate a match will be given priority over projects that do not include a match.
Regional diversity. For T&E Activity projects, NTIA will give preference to applications from different geographic areas of the United States, in order to support T&E availability and accessibility, Therefore, the Selecting Official may select lower merit review scoring application from a different region before selecting a second applicant within the same region.
See Section 4.1.4 of the NOFO for more information.
Application Components and Process
All forms can be downloaded directly from grants.gov: SF-424 Family | GRANTS.GOV. In addition, attached is SF-328, along with instructions.
Participants who play an “active role” are material to the project; this means either the project cannot be completed without them OR it would be difficult to replace their contribution. The purpose of the Letters of Commitment is to have some assurances that the applicant has the capability to accomplish what they have stated in their technical proposal. The applicant can either demonstrate that they have the technical capabilities with their own staff or by relying on a subgrantee or through a consortium arrangement. The Letters of Commitment show that the external partners are fully on board with the project being proposed. Contractors, especially ones already under contract, could be considered part of your “current technical capabilities” and will only be working on activities that you direct and manage. In that case, a Letter of Commitment may be less necessary.
To be clear, as a part of the application process, NTIA requires a Letter of Commitment from all participating consultants, subrecipients, or subcontractors including any entities that will have an active role in executing the activities outlined in the proposal. See NOFO 3.3.1(h) for more details.
The applicant must submit a changed/correction application to Grants.gov.
Steps to submit a changed/corrected application to Grants.gov:
Access completed application forms and make any needed corrections. Workspace users: Your Workspace AOR or Workspace Owner must Reopen the Workspace in order to edit forms.
Check the "Changed/Corrected Application" box in item #1 of the SF 424 form.
Provide the Grants.gov tracking number (e.g., GRANT12345678) in 5b. Federal Award Identifier field.
Save the changed/corrected application once you have made all of your corrections.
Submit the changed/corrected application to Grants.gov (done by Authorized Organization Representative – AOR). Note: On Sign and Submit pop-up window, applicants will be asked the question, “Is this a changed/corrected application?” and have an option to select "Yes" or "No". If an application is being re-submitted using the same workspace, the "Yes" option will be selected by default and the Grant Tracking Number from the previous submission will be listed.
Track the changed/corrected application through Grants.gov.
The Federal Entity Identifier field 5a does not apply to this program.
The Innovation Fund is not subject to EO 12372.
Yes, that is a correct interpretation.
This data element is intended to indicate the project’s place(s) of performance. If your proposal will affect other areas than the place of performance reported, then please attach a Project/Performance Site Location(s) Form available on grants.gov.
Absent formal policies from the applicant, it is allowable to detail existing standards and best practices employed by the applicant and how the applicant will employ cybersecurity and C-SCRM policies in the context of the proposed scope of work, including policies in development. Note that the government reserves the right to delay the start of work funded by a grant award until such policies are in place.
Attachments such as the technical proposal, the budget narrative, as well as any other items listed in Section 3.2 points b.1, and e through i of the NOFO must be uploaded to Grants.gov as attachments to field 15 of the SF-424 form by clicking on “Add Attachment” button.
Since this is a competitive grant program, we are encouraging stakeholders to gain additional information about the program through the following channels:
Check the Innovation Fund website regularly for more information. We will postprogram updates and frequently asked questions there.
If you have specific questions about the Innovation Fund program or the program requirements, you can submit questions to email@example.com. We willprovide written responses and will also publicly post the questions and answers underthe Frequently Asked Questions on our website.
Subgrantees may participate in more than one project.
Letters of support/memorandums of understanding, resumes and CV, lists of citations, consortium agreement documents and other information that supports the technical proposal may be submitted in addition to the 20-page technical proposal. The supporting material will not be scored but may be used by merit reviewers to verify, validate, or support the content of a technical proposal.
An entity is not prohibited from submitting more than one T&E project. There are factors to consider:
Entity would be limited to $50M cap, no matter how many separate projects are submitted.
There is no limit on scope of a proposed T&E project – can include multiple locations and multiple partnering organizations. The NOFO allows for technical proposals with a comprehensive approach.
Other submitted applications with wider scope may have a competitive advantage over several smaller projects.
Entity would be responsible for submitting separate progress reports and would need to keep separate expenditure documentation and grant files.
There is no plan to waive SAM registration requirement. Entities are strongly advised to complete their registration as soon as possible.
As long as the radio access network equipment or solution provider does not have sole controlling stake in the operation or strategic direction of the neutral host facility, this would be allowable.
T&E and R&D projects are separate and distinct with different evaluation criteria and technical proposal components. Applicants may apply to both focus areas and if so, must submit separate applications. 20 pages is the maximum technical proposal for each R&D project.
Licensed spectrum would fall into “Other” category.
Complete applications must be received through Grant.gov no later than 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on June 2, 2023. Complete applications or portions thereof submitted by postal mail, courier, email, or by facsimile will not be accepted. All application forms and documents must be included with an applicant’s complete application packet submission through Grants.gov.
When developing the submission timeline, each applicant should keep in mind that: (a) all applicants are required to have current registrations in the electronic System for Award Management (SAM.gov); and (b) the free annual registration process in SAM.gov may take weeks. Please note that a federal assistance award cannot be issued if the designated recipient’s registration in SAM.gov is not current at the time of the award.
Applicants must submit separate applications for Interoperability, Performance, and Security T&E Activities and for Testing Methods R&D projects.
Both types of applications must include the following:
Standard Documentation such as the SF 328, SF 424, SF 424A (for years 1-4), and a second SF 424A (for 5th year of the project), CD-511, and SF-LLL (if applicable)
Budget Narrative and Justification
Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (if applicable)
Consortiums (if applicable)
As described in Section 3.3.1 of the NOFO, NTIA is requesting a Technical Proposal for T&E Activities projects with the following components:
Related Activities and Unique Aspects of the Proposal
Record Retention and Data Analysis
Partnering and Collaboration
Consultants, Contracts, Subawards
Qualification of the Applicant
Facilities and Equipment
Host Facilities for Other T&E (Optional Objective)
Technical Assistance (Optional Objective)
As described in Section 3.3.2 of the NOFO, NTIA is requesting a Technical Proposal for Testing Methods R&D projects with the following components:
Testing Methods Research Area
Identification and Significance of the Problem or Opportunity
Rationale for Need
A Work Plan
Related Research/Research & Development
Key Individuals and Bibliography of Related Work
Qualification of Applicant
Facilities and Equipment
Consultants, Contracts, and Subawards
Current and Pending Support
For full details and other requirements, applicants are encouraged to consult Section 3 of the NOFO.
Any applicant proposing more than one specific research focus area must submit a separate application for each focus area, as applications will be evaluated individually. If an entity is applying for more than one R&D project, a separate technical proposal, SF- 424A, and budget narrative and justification must be submitted for each project.
Each applicant will need a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI), registration with the System for Award Management (SAM), and an account with Grants.gov.
Please note that the Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) is replacing the DUNS (Dun & Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System) number. (See Unique Entity Identifier update.)
All applicants are required to have a current registration in the electronic System for Award Management (SAM.gov). Note that the free annual registration process in SAM.gov may take weeks. A federal assistance award cannot be issued if the designated recipient’s registration in SAM.gov is not current at the time of the award.
Grants.gov applicants can apply using Workspace within Grants.gov. If you do not already have a Grants.gov account, you will need to create one on Grants.gov for free. Then, use Workspace within Grants.gov. Workspace is a shared, online environment where members of a grant team may simultaneously access and edit different webforms within an application. For each NOFO, you can create individual instances of a Workspace.
Applicants using unreliable Internet connections should be aware that the process of completing the Workspace can take some time. Therefore, applicants should allow enough time to prepare and submit the application before the package closing date.
Create a workspace: Creating a workspace allows you to complete an application online and route it through your organization before reviewing and submitting.
Complete a workspace: Add participants to the workspace to work on the application together, complete all required forms online or by downloading PDF versions, and check for errors before submission. The Workspace progress bar will display the state of your application process as you apply. As you apply using Workspace, you may click on the blue question mark icon near the upper-right corner of each page to access context-sensitive help.
Adobe Reader: If you decide not to apply by filling out webforms, you can download individual PDF forms in Workspace. The individual PDF forms can be downloaded and saved to your local device storage, network drive(s), or external drives, then accessed through Adobe Reader.
Mandatory Fields in Forms: In the forms, you will note fields marked with an asterisk and a different background color. These fields are mandatory fields that must be completed to successfully complete your application.
Complete SF-424 Fields First: These forms are designed to fill in common required fields across other forms, such as the applicant's name, address, and SAM UEI. Once it is completed, the information will be transferred to other forms.
Submit a Workspace: An application must be submitted through Workspace by clicking on the “Sign and Submit” button on the “Manage Workspace” page, under the “Forms” tab. Grants.gov recommends submitting your application package at least 24 to 48 hours prior to the close date to provide you with time to correct any potential technical issues that may disrupt the application submission.
Track a Workspace Submission: After successfully submitting a Workspace application, a Grants.gov Tracking Number (GRANTXXXXXXXX) is automatically assigned to the application. The number will be listed on the Confirmation page that is generated after submission. Using the tracking number, access the “Track My Application” page under the “Applicants” tab or the “Details” tab in the submitted workspace.
Grants.gov provides applicants 24/7 support via the toll-free number 1-800 518-4726 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions related to the specific grant opportunity, contact the number listed in the application package of the grant you are applying for.
If you are experiencing difficulties with your submission, it is best to call the Grants.gov Support Center and get a ticket number. The Support Center ticket number will assist NTIA with tracking your issue and understanding background information on the issue.
NTIA expects to make awards on a rolling basis with initial awards issued no later than August 8, 2023.
An electronic date/time stamp is generated within the system when the application is successfully received by Grants.gov. The applicant’s Authorized Official Representative (AOR), who submitted the application, will receive an acknowledgement of receipt and a tracking number (GRANTXXXXXXXX) from Grants.gov with the successful transmission of their application. The AOR will also receive the official date/time stamp and Grants.gov Tracking number in an email serving as proof of their timely submission.
When NTIA successfully retrieves the application from Grants.gov, and acknowledges the download of submissions, Grants.gov will provide an electronic acknowledgment of receipt of the application to the email address of the applicant’s AOR. Again, proof of timely submission shall be the official date and time that Grants.gov receives your application. Applications received by Grants.gov after the established due date for the program will be considered late and will not be considered for funding by NTIA.
Grants.gov will provide either an error or a successfully received submission message in the form of an email sent to the applicant’s AOR.
An applicant will be notified in writing by the NIST Grants Officer if its application is selected for an award. If the application is selected for funding, the NIST Grants Officer will issue the grant award (Form CD-450), which is the authorizing financial assistance award document. By signing the Form CD-450, the recipient agrees to comply with all award provisions, terms, and conditions.
Unsuccessful applicants will be notified in writing by e-mail and will have the opportunity to receive a debriefing after the final award decisions have been announced. Applicants must make a request within ten (10) business days of the email notification to receive a debrief from NTIA. NTIA will then work with the unsuccessful applicant in arranging a date and time for the debrief. (See Sections 4.3 and 4.4 of the NOFO for more information.)
The focus of this first NOFO is on finding creative ways to: (1) expand industry-accepted testing and evaluation to effectively facilitate and assess the interoperability, performance, and/or security of open and interoperable, standards-based 5G radio access networks; and (2) develop new and/or materially improve existing testing methodologies to test, evaluate, and validate the interoperability, performance, and/or security of these networks, including their component parts, in order to address needs not currently met by industry-accepted tests and best practices. Please see NOFO section 2.4: Funding Opportunity Detailed Description for details. The primary objective of grant proposals needs to be aligned with these two goals. While product development that is incidental to the development of new testing methods or as a result of T&E activities is allowable, the primary goal of the program is not to develop commercial products to be used in a T&E environment. Also, please note that the expected range of individual awards for T&E activities is $10,000,000 to $50,000,000, while testing methods R&D are expected to range between $250,000 and $2,000,000. Please consult NOFO sections 1.5 Award Amount and 1.6 Limitation on Grant Awards for details.
T&E is foundational to the ultimate success of open and interoperable wireless networks and will help build confidence in the viability of Open RAN solutions and remove barriers to adoption. In fact, 76% of RFC respondents cited the need to prioritize testing through the PWSCIF. There is also an equity issue with some of the existing T&E programs: some require you to be a member of a specific industry organization, some are invite-only, and most do not share any information publicly. Having T&E activities that are equitably accessible and provide anonymized, aggregated data can help industry move forward in a meaningful way.
The team is in the process of developing strategies for designated interest areas to include in future NOFOs. Currently, there is no timeline or estimate for the next NOFO release. We recommend you monitor NTIA.gov and the innovation fund website for future announcements.
If the submission aligns to meet the technical focus area 2 of the NOFO we would welcome your submissions. Future NOFOs will be announced at a later date. We currently do not have a timeline or technical details on what future NOFOs will include.
We are seeking projects that expand the availability of neutral testing and evaluation capabilities of interoperable open 5G equipment and software and research into testing methods to fill existing gaps or to improve existing testing methods.
The T&E Activities must also support testing of the interoperability, performance, and/or security, of the Radio Unit (RU), Central Unit (CU), and/or Distributed Unit (DU) solutions of the 5G NR Radio Access Network. The performance of ancillary components (e.g., accelerator cards) shall only be tested as a part of a complete RU, CU, or DU solution. Testing of systems not unique to 5G radio access networks (e.g., general purpose computing equipment) is not an eligible project under this first NOFO, except as required for testing a complete RU, CU, or DU solution.
All applications for grants advancing this specific research focus area must include industry-accepted T&E Activities to allow open and interoperable network suppliers to test equipment and software interoperability, performance, and/or security against industry-accepted test cases and best practices for 5G systems (e.g., 3GPP specifications, O-RAN Alliance specifications, and/or other relevant industry-accepted test cases).
More generally, examples of Testing Methods R&D include, but are not limited to:
Developing new and emerging performance indicators such as for energy and spectrum efficiency of 5G radio access networks;
Developing enhanced methods for existing 5G radio access network test criteria, where the goal is to make material improvement on current methods;
Developing new means of cybersecurity testing in 5G radio access networks;
Developing innovative testing solutions not contemplated by (a), (b), or (c) above. An example of such a solution might be a virtualized testing environment that allows open and interoperable, standards-based 5G RAN products to be tested individually or in a stack at a more iterative pace than is permitted by “in real life” testing events.