The Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship (VBFF) program is sponsored by the Basic Research Office, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASD (R&E)).

VBFF supports innovative basic research within academia, as well as opportunities intended to develop the next

generation of scientists and engineers for the defense workforce.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) manages the VBFF program for ASD (R&E).

To accomplish this task, ONR is soliciting proposals for the VBFF program through this FOA.

This FOA seeks distinguished researchers for the purpose of conducting innovative basic research in areas of interest to the DoD and fostering long-term relationships between the VBFF Fellows and the DoD.

As defined by the DoD, basic research is “systematic study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the fundamental aspects of phenomena and of observable facts without specific applications towards processes or products in mind.

It includes all scientific study and experimentation directed toward increasing fundamental knowledge and understanding in those fields of the physical, engineering, environmental, and life sciences related to long-term national security needs.

It is farsighted high payoff research that provides the basis for technological progress.” (http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/documents/fmr/Volume_02b.pdf ) The DoD’s basic research program invests broadly in many scientific fields to ensure that it has early cognizance of new scientific knowledge.

VBFF is oriented towards bold and ambitious “blue sky” research that may lead to extraordinary outcomes such as revolutionizing entire disciplines, creating entirely new fields, or disrupting accepted theories and perspectives.

Objectives of the program are to:
• Support unclassified basic scientific and engineering research that could be the foundation for future revolutionary new capabilities for DoD • Educate and train student and post-doctoral researchers for the defense workforce • Foster long-term relationships between university researchers and the DoD • Familiarize university researchers and their students with DoD’s current and projected future challenges • Increase the number of talented technical experts that DoD can call upon.

This FOA is for single investigator grant proposals for basic research in one or more of the following technical subject categories of interest to the DoD.

1. Engineering Biology:
Engineering biology is an emerging discipline that is positioned to become a powerful technology for the potential production of DoD-relevant materials, the development of new sensing modalities, and maintaining warfighter resilience and performance.

Engineering biology applies biological principles to the engineering of living biological (natural or synthetic) or artificial systems to develop novel systems or products.

Revolutionary basic research engineering biology could lead to new capabilities for the DoD in:
Specialty Materials- The commercial sector has examples of microorganisms engineered to produce commodity chemicals such as fuels and pharmaceuticals.

However, can biological systems be engineered to produce more complex molecules or three-dimensional materials? Do biological systems have unique or more efficient capabilities to produce complex materials and chemicals? Sensing- DOD has unique sensing needs including the need for detecting unusual signatures, clandestine sensing, and sensing environmental biological molecules and chemicals.

Biological systems with their molecular interactions and precise control can have an impact in this capability.

Antibodies and RNA aptamers have been traditionally applied in this space and are a relatively mature technology.

VBFF is interested in new and unique approaches to biological sensing.

VBFF is particularly interested in innovative and fundamental approaches to understanding biological process with the eventual goal of facilitating the engineering of biological systems.

Multidisciplinary as well as theoretical, physical, biophysical, biochemical, molecular, and synthetic biology approaches are likely necessary to overcome the technical hurdles that currently prevent biology from being a scalable top-down engineering discipline.

Basic research that could employ more engineering principles to biology is relevant to VBFF.

Ground-breaking basic research that would expand the repertoire of biological engineering platforms from lab-based domesticated prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms (E.

coli, for example) to more “wild” environmental organisms, microbial consortia, as well as single and multi-cellular eukaryotic systems that can be deployed into real-world environments are also of interest.

2. Quantum Information Science:
Quantum Information Science (QIS) focuses on the creation, control, and manipulation of non-classical states of light and matter with potential for exceeding classical limits in communications, sensing, metrology, imaging, computing and simulation.

The development of QIS was precipitated by the demonstration of a "quantum advantage" in computing due to development of Shor's factoring algorithm and Grover's search algorithm in the mid-1990s, which offered quantum speedups (in the former case, what seems to be an exponential speedup).

The potential impacts of QIS on DoD capabilities may include ensuring information security, enabling novel materials design, attaining precise navigation and positioning even without GPS, improved sensing, and accomplishing significant improvements in high resolution imaging.

Developments of new algorithms that provide a "quantum advantage" are needed for quantum computing to be more than a niche application.

Beyond computing, and even beyond QIS per se, of great interest is the development of small- or medium-sized quantum systems to enable the study of exotic physics that could lead to novel future technologies.

This program seeks ambitious proposals that are expected to either advance the knowledge of QIS, or to disrupt the current research directions of QIS.

Exploration of the limitations of QIS is highly encouraged.

3. Cognitive Neuroscience:
Maintaining human cognitive effectiveness and emotional resilience are important capabilities for the DOD since the physical, emotional stress and cognitive demands of warfighters is constantly increasing with the growing volume of data presented by today's technologies.

Loss of neural function due to warfighter brain injury is also of concern.

Understanding neural activity for motor and cognitive functions in humans is of interest to support development of neural interfaces for warfighters that lose capability due to brain injury.

DOD has several research and development thrusts in the development of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) to allow the control of prosthetics to restore warfighter capability after injury.

Additionally, the identification of cognitive neuroscience principles of the mind that can be emulated for sensing, pattern recognition and control and as neuromorphic electronic designs are of interest to DOD.

Recent advancements in neuroscience have shown that neuronal activity is organized at the molecular, neuron, neural circuit, and brain structural levels.

In particular, computational neuroscience work is making strides to use empirical data to model functional activities at each of these brain structural levels.

Fundamental neuroscience studies of the molecular and cellular processes that contribute to the cognitive activities are also making great strides to understand the human mind.

The VBFF Program is interested in forward-thinking and hypothesis-driven theoretical, computational, neuronal, and molecular basic neuroscience research to study the mechanisms of human cognitive skills.

Research on large-scale models of cortical systems and neural-based cognitive architectures capable of addressing human cognitive skills such as attention, memory, spatial cognition, complex motor skills and language processing are also encouraged.

4. Novel Engineered Materials:
Engineered materials exhibit behaviors that are not observed in naturally occurring materials, but rather originate from careful designs of the structure.

One example is meta-materials with negative index of refraction that can direct and focus light in ways that natural crystals cannot.

Other engineered materials include superlattices, quantum dots, and ordered arrays of nanoholes which can form photonics waveguides.

Recent demonstrations of structural meta-materials promise unique combinations of physical properties.

Understanding and controlling evolution of material behaviors is an area of interest.

Conventional modeling and experimental techniques do not take far-from-equilibrium phenomena into account.

Understanding and controlling irreversible material phenomena under extreme environments, e.g.

high temperatures, high strain rates, radioactivity, etc., may lead to significant advances in materials design capabilities and in manufacturing process development.

This program seeks curiosity-driven research with the focus on discovery of new materials that enable transformative functionalities and performance under extreme conditions.

5. Applied Mathematics (theory and experiments) and Statistics:
Many crucial DoD capabilities of the future will rely on mathematical breakthroughs made today.

Basic research in applied mathematics can have broad-ranging impacts, by laying the basic foundations for progress in multiple areas.

Examples of important areas that will require such foundations include, but are not limited to:
generalized machine learning; mathematical foundations of deep learning network; common sense enabled artificial intelligence; the analysis and exploitation of very large data sets; the fundamental understanding of the behavior of sociotechnical networks; the understanding of systemic risk in complex endeavors; formal foundations for cybersecurity; new mathematics for encryption and authentication; and, theoretical foundations for compressive sensing.

These are only some of the many areas that can benefit from new and innovative research in mathematics, and in turn enable important DoD capabilities in the longer-term future.

There is also a continuing need for fundamental mathematical advances that will increase the efficiency and efficacy of computational modeling of physical phenomena, both to understand those phenomena and, ultimately, to inform the engineering design process.

Relevant areas of computational modeling include, but are not limited to, continuum mechanics of fluids and solids, computational electromagnetics, and many others." 6. Manufacturing Science:
DoD is interested in innovative research in the broad area of manufacturing science, which is defined as increasing knowledge, understanding, and manipulative capability associated with materials and materials systems with a focus on the practical control of useful physical, chemical, or mechanical properties.

Research may include efforts at all length scales that deal with materials synthesis, processing, fabrication, or design of materials systems; modeling and simulation of the manipulation of structures and properties; or tools and instrumentation for characterization of manipulation and its effects.

The product of the research should lead to enhanced understanding, knowledge, model materials/structures, or other outcomes that can enhance current fabrication or manufacturing processes or establish a foundation for new processes or fabricable products.

Research in materials has entered a new realm in which new functionalities are obtained through controlled processing and assembly of traditional materials, such as metals, alloys, ceramics, polymers, and composites by designing and assembling materials systems with precision.

For example, metamaterials, which represent novel architectures of dissimilar materials, enable unprecedented manipulation of light, sound, and heat in ways that are not possible with natural homogenous materials.

In many critical cases these architectures can only be achieved through precise and repeatable placement of dissimilar materials via processes that require discovery or new knowledge and understanding.

The emergence of new material assemblies and structures promises unprecedented capabilities for DoD related applications but poses great challenges to existing manufacturing paradigms.

Despite the advancements in the 3D printing/additive process and polymeric self-assembly, it remains costly and time-consuming to manufacture complicated hierarchical and topological structures with dissimilar materials such as metals and oxides, or inorganics and organics.

Basic research in processing to produce precision-engineered assemblies of functional organic and inorganic materials is desired to advance the state-of-the-art in this area.

Advances in the science base are needed to enable the development of automated prototyping and other manufacturing techniques that robustly manipulate the next generation of designed materials with desired surface, interfacial, and bulk properties.

Basic research in processing and modeling for scalable manufacturing techniques is required to permit meter-scale assembly and bulk structure with micro-scale or even nano-scale surface resolution.

DoD is also seeking basic research proposals on disruptive and flexible processing and processes potentially applicable to the manufacture of organic and inorganic materials and structures and on the fundamental limitations of scalability, ultimate length scale, and efficiency of manufacturing techniques.

7. Other fields of research with high potential:
The list of subjects provided above is by no means a comprehensive list of topics for which white papers and proposals may be accepted.

Proposed research in areas of relevance to DoD will be considered (e.g., fluid dynamics, propulsion, etc.) as long as there is a transformative science problem to be investigated and whose solution may open new ways of thinking about the phenomena that are being studied.

All applicants should ensure that they propose to conduct basic research as previously defined in this section.

Proposed research should focus on developing a deep understanding of fundamental phenomena.

Device development or equipment construction or integration is not a suitable end goal in itself; if proposed, it must be integral to research that will advance scientific knowledge.

Risk-taking is encouraged; however, all proposals must demonstrate solid judgment and rationale.

All awardees will receive a research grant and the title of VBFF Fellow.

VBFF Fellows and their students are provided with opportunities that are designed to enhance their understanding of DoD’s critical research needs and interact with DoD senior Science and Technology (S&T) program leaders.

Fellows and their students are expected to attend VBFF activities scheduled throughout the year.

These activities may include an orientation meeting, site visits to DoD labs, technical workshops, and an annual meeting to report the progress of VBFF–sponsored research.

VBFF Fellows may also be encouraged to serve as members of DoD advisory boards, panels, or groups.

For a list of current VBFF Fellows, refer to:
Related Programs

Basic and Applied Scientific Research

Department Of Defense

Agency: Office of Naval Research


Estimated Funding: $1

Who's Eligible

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Additional Information of Eligibility:
Eligible Institutions: Accredited U. S. institutions of higher education (universities) with doctoral degree-granting programs are eligible to apply.

DoD institutions are not eligible to apply.

All responsible sources from academia and industry may submit proposals under this FOA.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Institutions (MIs) are encouraged to submit proposals and join others in submitting proposals.

However, no portion of this FOA will be set aside for HBCU and MI participation, due to the impracticality of reserving discrete or severable items of this research for exclusive competition among such entities.

Non-profit and for-profit organizations may collaborate on proposed research and may receive VBFF funds via subaward or subcontract.

However, the VBFF program is oriented towards funding research at universities.

Universities must perform the majority of the proposed work and receive the majority of funds.

Government agencies, DoD laboratories and universities, and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) may collaborate on proposed research but may not receive VBFF funds, Page 11 of 31 N00014-17-S-F015 directly or via subaward.

Grants to a university may be terminated if the principal investigator (PI) severs connections with the university or is unable to continue active participation in the research.

Grants to a university may also be terminated if the university severs connections with the PI.

Eligible Individuals: Faculty with tenure and full-time research staff with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to conduct the proposed research as the principal investigator (PI) are invited to submit an application.

Applicants should have a record of substantial scientific contributions.

The PI must be a U. S. citizen or permanent resident.

Other Eligibility Criteria: Number of Applications: The PI may submit only one (1) application in response to this FOA.

There is no limit to the number of applications that an institution may submit.

Number of PIs: Only one (1) PI may be designated on the application.

While collaborations are encouraged, co- PIs are not permitted.

The lead investigator must direct the work.

Collaboration may be achieved at the PI’s institution or via a subaward.

If there is such collaboration envisioned, the PI must explain how the proposed team fits the single PI structure.

Resubmissions: Applicants invited to submit full proposals who have submitted Recommendation Letters for the VBFF program in a prior year must obtain and submit new letters.

Previously submitted letters will not be retrieved.

Documents dated prior to the posting date of this FOA will not be accepted.

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