NSF Awards Nearly $16 million in MRI Grants for HPC in 2018

Posted on October 15, 2018

Advanced Clustering Technologies tracks awards made by the National Science Foundation every year because some of the Major Research Instrumentation grants are awarded to customers for the acquisition of high performance computing hardware. This year, the company noted, has been an unusual year for MRI grants for HPC.

“We have seen an increase in allocations for HPC from the NSF, not just in terms of the number of MRI grants but also in terms of the overall amount being awarded to the institutions,” said Wade Sisson, marketing director for Advanced Clustering Technologies. “Nearly $16 million has been awarded to 19 institutions specifically for HPC equipment purchases. Compare that with 2017, when we saw 17 institutions awarded $10.9 million.”

The MRI grant is one way that universities find funding for large-scale HPC systems. Proposals for the grant are due in January and the award decisions usually are announced in August, September and October.

“This year the MRI award announcements came earlier than we’ve seen in recent years,” Sisson said. “Typically ,we see the bulk of these grant award announcements in September and October. Last year the vast majority of awards were announced in October, but for 2018 more than half of the awards were announced in August.”

MRI Grant Proposals for 2019 are due January 22

MRI grants have helped a number of universities acquire campus-wide HPC clusters through the years. The deadline for next year’s program is Jan. 22, 2019. Read the solicitation here.

Advanced Clustering Technologies has been assisting customers in their pursuit of MRI grant funding for more than 17 years.

“For many years our support came primarily from consultations and detailed equipment quotes, but by 2015 we realized that we had heard do’s and don’ts from enough customers that it might be time to write a white paper about the grant writing process.”

White Papers Offer Best Practices for Writing Your Grant Proposal and RFP

Based on interviews with customers who have won MRI grants in the past, Advanced Clustering’s grant writing white paper offers tips for all phases of the grant application process.

“There are commonalities to successful grant applications, and we felt it was important to share those best practice approaches with future grant applicants,” Sisson said.

You can download Advanced Clustering’s grant writing white paper here.

“Last year we realized that getting the grant funding is only half the battle,” Sisson said. “Many of our customers said the process of writing a Request for Proposal (RFP) is as challenging, if not more so, than winning the grant funding in the first place.”

Most university purchasing departments do not have much experience with the complexities of HPC equipment purchases.

“It’s not like you’re buying a TV,” Sisson said. “You’re buying a system that can include an endless stream of components, and each system is different. We have found that most grant winners are essentially starting from scratch. There often is no template or sense of where to begin.”

The RFP writing white paper from Advanced Clustering also is based on interviews with customers who have successfully completed the RFP process in order to spend their grant award on HPC equipment. You can download the RFP writing white paper here.

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