Concept papers for the NSF Regional Innovation Engines, the first step of a three-step process for proposal submission, were due in late June. Best of luck to all who submitted.
Here is what you need to know about the NSF Regional Innovation Engine’s mandatory evaluation protocol and why you need an independent external evaluator to fulfill the requirements.
Per NSF, both Type 1 and Type 2 proposals must design an Evaluation Plan and “describe the process by which the Evaluation Plan will be used by the Engine team throughout the Engine’s duration.”
Evaluation should focus on outcomes that demonstrate achievement of the Engine’s goals and should further provide indicators that capture the quality, depth, and impact rather than simply raw numbers.
Engines are expected to continuously monitor and assess their performance against established goals and associated indicators. Such assessments are expected to involve active participation and input from all stakeholders engaged in or impacted by the Engine’s activities. NSF will include the Engine’s own parameters for measuring performance in determining eligibility for continued funding.NSF Regional Innovation Engines BAA
Since the process of evaluation is used to measure the success of a funded project, it would be a conflict of interest for an Engine to complete its own internal evaluation. This is where an external independent evaluator can help.
So how do you choose the right evaluator for the project, and what should an effective evaluator do for you? In general, your evaluator should set up a plan to measure and report on key growth indicators and outcomes of your project. Specifically regarding NSF Regional Innovation engines, your evaluator should assess:
- The “added value” of being funded as an Engine (rather than a set of individually-funded projects) – i.e., creating opportunities that take advantage of the scope, scale, synergy, multi-disciplinarity, duration, equipment, and facilities that an Engine award can uniquely provide;
- Effective partnerships with diverse stakeholders to advance technology and solutions addressing the societal and economic challenge(s), and to facilitate knowledge transfer among the participants;
- Achievement of strategic goals shared by the lead and partnering organizations;
- Integration of meaningful diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility practices across all aspects of the Engine, including the leadership team, core functions, ecosystem, and operations;
- Effective implementation of a wide range of educational and workforce training opportunities, including internships, co-ops, vocational training, joint appointments, and other experiential learning opportunities, for technicians, researchers, practitioners, community members, and entrepreneurs at all levels of the workforce needed within the Engine;
- Successfully attracting, leveraging, and effectively utilizing complementary funding from other sources beyond NSF; and
- Links and synergistic collaborations with existing innovation ecosystems and other hubs and assets within the region, including federally-funded R&D centers.
Additional information on the key growth indicators for this program can be found on page 38 of the BAA in Section VIII within the appendices Section A. Characteristics of Various Phases of Innovation Ecosystems.
The evaluator you select should
- Be an experienced evaluator or evaluation firm (FYI – we are);
- Be committed to creating regional-scale, technology-driven innovation ecosystems throughout every region of the United States, accelerating emerging technologies, driving economic growth, addressing key societal challenges, and maintaining national competitiveness (FYI – we do) ;
- Have a working knowledge of all (not just the Innovation Engine program) NSF guidelines, protocols, processes, and evaluation requirements (FYI – we totally do).
Got questions on how to find an External Evaluator? We have you covered. Check out this post from August of 2020. https://www.ebhoward.com/choosing-the-right-external-evaluator/
Want to know a little bit more about our Evaluation Services? We have you covered. See more here. https://www.ebhoward.com/evaluation-4/
Want to talk with us about how we serve as your External Evaluator for the NSF Regional Innovations Engines proposal? Schedule a consult call today. https://calendly.com/ebhoward/15min
We work with high-growth startups and organizations that support the startup and innovation ecosystem. We build highly specific non-dilutive funding menus, provide proposal preparation services, and measure outcomes of funding through evaluation. Schedule a consult call with us HERE.