a2 Pilot Awards

Frequently Asked Questions

Budget
Data Sharing and IP
Human Subjects Research
Eligibility
Funding and Terms
Process
Evaluation
What organizations are eligible to apply for a2 Pilot Awards?

Eligible institutions must have a Unique Entity ID (UEI) number and include colleges, universities, medical or nursing schools, health care systems or settings, and other fiscally responsible organizations, including for-profit corporations and startups, nonprofits, and eligible government entities within the United States. Non-domestic (non-U.S.) entities (foreign institutions) are not eligible to apply. Non-domestic (non-U.S.) branches of U.S. organizations are not eligible to apply.

Projects may include foreign components, as defined in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grants Policy Statement, provided they receive foreign clearance from NIH. For example, U.S.-based organizations (including U.S. branches of institutions with foreign headquarters) are eligible to apply but must receive foreign clearance for any work conducted in collaboration with or at a foreign site. Note that in the case of collaborations between U.S.-based and foreign organizations, the prime applicant must be a U.S.-based organization and any foreign organizations may be included as subcontracts. In all cases, the contact PI must be affiliated with the U.S.-based prime applicant organization; additional individuals from subcontract organizations may serve as co-PIs.

Details about any foreign components must be included in the project application. Applicants are advised to specify to the AITC the work to be conducted via foreign components as early as possible because policies on institutional review board approvals for work or data sharing conducted internationally vary across AITCs. If selected as a finalist, the NIH foreign clearance request will be initiated when the project is submitted to NIA for review (following the selection of finalists after the a2 Pilot Awards Round 2 submission period).

May I apply if I am not a U.S. citizen?

You may apply provided your visa immigration status is acceptable and you are employed by a U.S. institution.

Collaborations between primary applicant organizations based in the United States and foreign institutions are allowed, provided they receive National Institutes of Health foreign clearance. For more information on projects with foreign components, see “What organizations are eligible to apply for a2 Pilot Awards?”

What qualifications are required for the principal investigator (PI) and project team?

A PI can be any individual with the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to carry out the proposed project. Projects must identify a contact PI, who must be affiliated with the U.S.-based prime applicant organization (rather than a subcontract organization). Additional individuals from subcontract organizations may serve as co-PIs.

PIs and project teams may include individuals with varied experience in industry, academia, health care, and other settings. Applicants are encouraged to include in their project team at least one individual with previous experience with National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant application and funding processes, as well as with navigating the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process if the proposed project involves human subjects research. Applicants from populations that are underrepresented in the artificial intelligence (AI) and technology fields as well as individuals with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply for funding.

Are individuals or projects that have received prior National Institutes of Health funding eligible?

Individuals who have previously received NIH funding may be eligible if the prior funding was for work that does not share a focus with the proposed pilot project. NIH policy prohibits overlapping support for the same research. Thus, applicants who have received previous NIH funding, such as Research Project Grants (RPGs), pilot funds, and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards, are only eligible to apply to the a2 Pilot Awards for projects or technologies that do not overlap with research for which they have previously received any support from NIH or other federal sources.

Applicants who have a pending application for funding that would overlap with the proposed project if awarded are eligible to apply, but must promptly disclose any overlap that arises due to another award and either withdraw from the a2 Pilot Awards competition or resolve overlap between the relevant award and the proposed pilot project.

Are projects with existing collaborations with universities, research centers, or funding sources eligible to apply?

Existing collaborations and funding are not disqualifiers, as long as (1) the project has not received prior federal funding, (2) the portion of the research to be supported by a pilot award is not already funded by another source, and (3) all potential conflicts of interest relevant to any AITC institution that may arise from existing partnerships are reported in the application.

Do the project team and work site(s) have to be located in a particular state?

The project team and work sites may be located anywhere in the United States. Any foreign (non-U.S.) components require NIH foreign clearance. In all cases, the contact PI must be affiliated with the U.S.-based prime applicant organization; additional individuals from subcontract organizations may serve as co-PIs.

Can I apply to the a2 Pilot Awards competition more than once?

Yes. Applicants may apply to each a2 Pilot Awards competition regardless of prior application results and may submit applications for multiple unique pilot projects in a single competition. Note that simultaneous submission of overlapping pilot projects, whether to one AITC or to multiple AITCs, is not allowed. Violation of this policy will result in disqualification of one or more of the applications.

What is the target age range represented in the a2 Pilot Awards’ call for AI and technology solutions that improve care and health outcomes for older adults?

Older adults typically include individuals aged 65 years and over. However, depending on the issue under study, use of an age range that begins younger (e.g., age 50 or 55) or is limited to the oldest old (e.g., age 80 and above), may be appropriate.

Can one individual serve as PI on multiple a2 Pilot Awards-funded projects during the same award year?

Yes, as long as no overlap exists between the projects and the PI’s overall effort across the projects and other commitments does not exceed 100 percent.

Budget
Data Sharing and IP
Human Subjects Research
Eligibility
Funding and Terms
Process
Evaluation
What are the sources of funding?

Funding is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Artificial Intelligence and Technology Collaboratories (AITC) for Aging Research program. Each AITC will be responsible for executing subawards to fund pilot projects in accordance with NIH guidelines.

How many a2 Pilot Awards are available?

We anticipate that 20-30 pilot awards will be issued in the fourth year of this 5-year program.

How much funding is available?

Each pilot project can request, with justification, up to $200,000 in direct costs to be expended within a 12-month period (typical requests are in the $50,000 to $100,000 range). Individual AITCs may impose additional restrictions on costs; applicants should consult specific AITC requests for applications for additional budgetary guidance.

Larger projects supported by multiple AITCs are possible; however, multi-AITC applications will only be considered if all AITCs from which support is requested have been consulted and provided preliminary approval prior to submission.

Does the grant award of up to $200,000 include indirect costs?

No, $200,000 is the ceiling for direct costs. Indirect costs are budgeted separately and should be included in the application budget. Your institution can request indirect costs at its federally negotiated facilities and administrative (F&A) rate. Organizations that do not have a federally negotiated rate are entitled to a de minimis 10 percent indirect rate. SBIR/STTR rates and policies do not apply to this program.

If a funded pilot project represents two (or more) organizations working together, are multiple contracts issued or does the primary applicant subcontract to the other organization(s)?

Although this may vary by project, JH AITC and PennAITech typically grant pilot awards to multi-organization projects as a single subaward to the prime applicant organization, with funds to other organizations flowing through the prime subaward. MassAITC typically grants pilot awards to multi-organization projects as individual subawards to each of the collaborating organizations. In all cases, the project's contact PI must be affiliated with the U.S.-based prime applicant organization; additional individuals from subcontract organizations may serve as co-PIs.

What type of expenses are allowable?

Consistent with NIH guidelines, pilot grant funds may be used for (1) project support of personnel, (2) use of services, including, where applicable, salary support for investigators, biostatisticians, staff or other experts, (3) project-necessary travel (including travel to the a2 National Symposium), (4) equipment, research supplies and reagents, and lab costs, (5) study participant compensation, (6) other study-related expenses with justification, and (7) publication costs.

Pilot grant funds may not be budgeted for (1) travel to scientific meetings or (2) meals (except during focus groups and other data collection/informational sessions and in accordance with NIH policy). You can view more information here.

How will funds be provided?

Funds are provided on a reimbursement basis. Project teams will invoice for expenses incurred on a schedule set by their AITC (e.g., quarterly or monthly). Funds will not be available as a lump sum disbursement and applicants selected for award should not incur costs for which they expect AITC reimbursement until a subaward agreement with the AITC’s institution has been executed.

When will funding commence for selected projects?

We expect the formal confirmation of awards in spring 2024, assuming no delays occur in receiving approvals from NIA, the Institutional Review Board (IRB), or the Data and Safety Monitoring Board, as applicable.

What is the timeline for a funded project?

The project period for a pilot award is typically 6 to 12 months. A no-cost extension of 1 additional year can be requested. If the project PI is not ready to begin the project within 4 months of an offer of funding, the AITC reserves the right to withdraw its offer. The expectation is that all subaward funds will be expended by the end of the subaward’s project period. At the end of the project period, any unexpended funds may be repurposed to support other pilot subawards.

Is the funding structured as a loan or investment?

Funding will be awarded as a grant and is non-dilutive to the company. Note that funding is provided on a reimbursement basis, in which project teams invoice for expenses incurred on a schedule set by their AITC (e.g., quarterly or monthly).

Is there an opportunity for follow-up funding or long-term partnership if a pilot project is funded?

Yes. The purpose of the AITC program is to connect applicants to resources, support pilots, and help projects come to fruition in real-world settings. Opportunities for follow-up funding and long-term partnerships beyond the pilot project may include future a2 Pilot Awards funding, SBIR/STTR grants, or other venture funding.

Once awarded, are applicants expected to collaborate with the AITC?

Applicants are encouraged but not required to use AITC resources to augment their pilot projects, which may require an on-site collaborator and budget allocation to pay-for-use AITC resources. Applicants are strongly encouraged to reach out directly to the relevant AITC to discuss pay-for-use resources that may need to be factored into the application’s budget. However, projects that do not include an on-site collaborator or direct use of AITC resources are still eligible to receive a pilot award.

PIs of funded pilot projects are expected to engage with their AITC in ongoing mentoring and oversight activities and are encouraged to play an active role in the AITC community, such as by attending meetings, presenting on their projects, and amplifying future a2 Pilot Awards competitions. Required activities for projects awarded funds in the fourth annual a2 Pilot Awards include attending the fourth annual a2 National Symposium, to be held in spring 2026 in Washington, D.C.

What are the terms and conditions of the grant?

Chapter 15 of the NIH Grants Policy Statement includes the requirements for the recipient under consortium agreements in which the recipient collaborates with one or more other organizations in carrying out the grant-supported research. The AITCs will be the direct and primary recipient of NIH/NIA grant funds and will be accountable to NIA for the appropriate expenditure of grant funds and applicable reporting requirements, among other responsibilities, as specified in the NIHGPS. In general, the requirements that apply to the recipient, including the IP requirements in Part II Subpart A and the program income requirements of the award, also apply to consortium participant(s). Exceptions are noted in Chapter 15. The AITCs will include the applicable requirements of the NIHGPS in their agreements with collaborating organizations (see Written Agreement in Chapter 15), which are incorporated herein by reference.

Budget
Data Sharing and IP
Human Subjects Research
Eligibility
Funding and Terms
Process
Evaluation
What is the application timeline and process?

The anticipated application cycle for the fourth annual a2 Pilot Awards will be as follows:

1. Round 1 applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. ET on April 30, 2024.

2. Those who are invited to submit a Round 2 application will receive notification by June 14, 2024. Applicants who are not invited to complete a Round 2 application will also receive direct notification.

3. Invited Round 2 applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. ET on July 30, 2024.

4. AITCs will select finalists and notify all Round 2 applicants of results in mid-September 2024. With AITC guidance, finalists will then complete and submit formal grant application packets for NIA review.

5. NIA formal award notification is expected in fall 2024.

6. Projects are expected to begin in early 2025.

Is an example of the application format available?

Prospective applicants can view PDFs of the Round 1 and Round 2 applications in our Applicant Resources section. To begin a Round 1 application submission, please click the Apply button here. Round 1 applications for the fourth annual a2 Pilot Awards will be accepted from March 1, 2024, to April 30, 2024. Round 2 applications will be accepted (from invited applicants only) from June 14, 2024, to July 30, 2024. Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. ET on the stated deadline.

Does the applicant need to decide which of the three AITCs to apply to before submitting an application?

Yes. Applicants must indicate their preferred AITC as part of their application submission and are strongly encouraged to research the AITCs and their resources to help determine the best fit. If the selected AITC does not wish to advance the application for further consideration, it may release the application to other AITCs for potential funding consideration.

Are applicants expected to contact the preferred AITC prior to the application submission?

Although not required, applicants are encouraged to reach out to their AITC of choice to discuss their project and AITC resources of interest in order to assess feasibility and application readiness. AITCs can also provide support related to questions about previous a2 Pilot Awards applications, budgetary information for the use of AITC resources, and potential collaborations. Reaching out to the AITC as early as possible in the application process is strongly recommended. Prospective applicants can reach JH AITC at jhu-aitc@jh.edu, MassAITC atmassaitc@umass.edu, and PennAITech at pennaitech@nursing.upenn.edu.

Round 2 applicants who are interested in leveraging AITC research facilities or services in their projects should arrange those relationships during the application process by contacting the AITC and allocating funds in the project budget.

Are applications allowed to have multiple PIs?

Yes. The application portal requires identification of a contact PI for the project, who must be affiliated with the prime applicant organization (rather than a subcontract organization). Co-PIs can be indicated in additional key personnel profiles within the application.

Can an applicant apply to more than one AITC?

Yes. An applicant can propose multiple unique pilot projects by submitting a separate application for each project, whether to one or multiple AITCs. Simultaneous submission of overlapping (i.e., substantively similar) pilot projects in a single competition cycle, whether to one AITC or to multiple AITCs, is not permitted. Violation of this policy will result in disqualification of one or more of the applications.

Can the Round 2 application modify the project details presented in the Round 1 application?

Yes. The Round 2 application can expand on or modify the material presented in the Round 1 application, including in response to AITC feedback on the Round 1 application. Applicants are encouraged to discuss any significant changes to project scope, budget, or key collaborators with the AITC during the Round 2 application process.

Whom should prospective applicants contact about a question not answered here?

For questions about the application or any resources provided on this website, please contact support@a2collective.ai. For questions about individual AITC resources, a specific project’s fit with AITC emphases, or a prior a2 Pilot Awards application, please contact the AITC of interest directly. Prospective applicants can reach JH AITC at jhu-aitc@jh.edu, MassAITC at massaitc@umass.edu, and PennAITech at pennaitech@nursing.upenn.edu.

Budget
Data Sharing and IP
Human Subjects Research
Eligibility
Funding and Terms
Process
Evaluation
How do I fill out the detailed budget form required in the Round 2 application?

The detailed budget form, an annotated detailed budget with instructions for completing the form, and a sample budget justification are all available on the a2 Pilot Awards Applicant Resources page here and linked on the Round 2 application. Additional NIH guidelines on developing your budget are available here. For applications involving multiple institutions, a separate detailed budget (Form Page 4) and budget justification should be submitted for each institution. Specific questions about project budget are best directed to the AITC.

Can budget estimates change from the Round 1 application to the Round 2 application?

Yes. The direct costs maximum is $200,000 and individual AITCs may impose additional restrictions on direct costs or request amendments to project budgets. Additional costs may be required to utilize AITC resources and must be included in the submitted budget. Applicants are strongly encouraged to reach out to the relevant AITC in advance of submitting a Round 2 application to ensure the required budget and budget justification accurately reflect the cost structure of AITC resources.

Does the NIH cap apply to personnel included in the detailed budget?

Yes. The NIH salary cap applies. To ensure the budget accurately reflects the total amount requested for the project, we recommend limiting salary to the Executive Level II cap.

Is there any limit on the amount of subcontractor funds in the required budget?

No specific restriction applies. Subcontractors should be commensurate with need.

Budget
Data Sharing and IP
Human Subjects Research
Eligibility
Funding and Terms
Process
Evaluation
Who will review the applications?

Applications will be reviewed by a multidisciplinary team of experts from each respective AITC. Once AITCs have selected finalists, NIA program officials will conduct final review and approval of awards.

Are all pilot applications subject to a common review process?

Generally, yes. Each AITC is responsible for reviewing and prioritizing the applications that it receives. All AITCs have agreed to use the same application process and apply the same broad evaluation criteria, which can be viewed in our Applicant Resources section. An AITC, at its discretion, may request supplemental materials or an interview as part of its overall evaluation.  

AITCs will assign their reviewers to score each application and provide written comments. Any potential conflicts of interest that might arise during the review process are managed in consistence with the NIH rules for peer review of all types of grants programs.

Does the proposed technology or solution need to include AI, or can it be technology based with the potential for AI involvement?

The solution can be technology based with the potential for leveraging AI in later project phases; however, projects must focus on technology or algorithm development rather than the application of existing technologies without meaningful adaptation. Applications should clearly articulate how the proposed project or technology will move the field forward.

Does the technology solution need to be fully ready for pilot funding at the time of evaluation, be at a minimum viable product stage, or include a prototype?

Minimum viable products or technology solutions with prototypes are within scope. In consultation with the AITC, pilot awardees may access AITC core facilities to conduct usability testing or lab-based assessments of solution transfer in home or care settings.

To what extent are applicants required to include a commercialization plan?

Applicants are not required to include a business plan for how the product will be commercialized. However, an indication of future commercialization potential or clear translational impact, such as development of open resources that support future AI research, is critical.

How much detail should Round 2 applicants provide in the Specific Aims and Research Strategy?

In the Specific Aims and Research Strategy submission, Round 2 applicants are encouraged to provide concrete, succinct project goals that articulate what they plan to accomplish during the award period. Further, applicants should facilitate assessment of project feasibility and scientific merit by clearly outlining their research methods.

Where do I find application feedback on the AcceleratorApp platform?

Application feedback is available on the applicant user’s account at https://aitc.a2pilotawards.ai. Once you are logged into your account, you can select the relevant application and view feedback on the “Activities” tab, which appears near the top of the page and to the left of the “Application Form” tab.

What if I applied to a previous a2 Pilot Awards competition and have more than one application on AcceleratorApp?

Clicking “Applications” on the vertical bar on the left side of the screen will load a list of your applications and the status associated with each. If you are viewing an individual application and wish to return to the full list, you can click "Applications" again or click the "Show my other applications" option that appears near the top right of the window.

Whom should applicants contact to discuss questions about application feedback?

Contact the AITC you applied to. Links to websites for each AITC are listed here.

Budget
Data Sharing and IP
Human Subjects Research
Eligibility
Funding and Terms
Process
Evaluation
How is involvement of human subjects handled?

To protect the rights and welfare of human subjects, all projects involving human subjects research will require additional documentation and safety measures, which may include Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, human subjects protection plan, data and safety monitoring plan, Federal Wide Assurance, and certification of human subjects research training prior to release of project funds. Although IRB approval is not required at time of submission, the application must include human subjects research and exemptions information. NIH offers a decision tool that provides additional guidance on how to answer application questions on human subjects research.

Applicants proposing projects involving human subjects research are encouraged to include at least one team member or collaborating institution with experience navigating the IRB process.

Are clinical trials allowed?

Projects including any component that constitutes a clinical trial as defined by NIH are not eligible for funding in the fourth annual (2024) a2 Pilot Awards competition. NIH defines a clinical trial as any research study in which one or more human subjects are prospectively assigned to one or more interventions (which may include placebo or other control) to evaluate the effects of those interventions on health-related biomedical or behavioral outcomes.

Note that under this definition, it does not matter if your study includes only one intervention that all participants undergo—if you plan to evaluate the effect of any intervention (e.g., interaction with software, use of a device, completion of training) on a health-related biomedical or behavioral outcome in one or more human subjects, then your study is considered a clinical trial and is not eligible for funding in the fourth annual (2024) a2 Pilot Awards competition. Feasibility studies that evaluate how usable, acceptable, or scalable a product is in order to inform technology development but do not evaluate its effect on a health-related biomedical or behavioral outcome are eligible for funding. Additional guidance on how NIH defines clinical trials can be found here.

This restriction applies solely to the work proposed to be completed during the a2 Pilot Awards project period. Pilot projects that perform technology development and feasibility testing in preparation for deploying the technology in a future, separately funded clinical trial are within scope. Applicants interested in performing technology validation studies are encouraged to discuss their proposed projects with the AITCs to determine which approaches are within scope.

What is the process for Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval?

IRB review is not required until finalists are selected following Round 2 of the application process. If the pilot project does not include an institution with its own IRB, the AITC will direct the pilot project to either utilize a commercial IRB or work with the AITC’s IRB (in which case an AITC team member will serve as the Investigator of Record and work with the pilot project PI to submit the IRB application).

Applicants proposing projects involving human subjects research are encouraged to include at least one team member or collaborating institution with experience navigating the IRB process.

What is the timeline for IRB approval?

The IRB preparation process can begin as soon as finalist notifications are delivered. Finalists whose projects require IRB review are strongly encouraged to begin the IRB process at this stage as IRB submission or approval may be required prior to the execution of a subaward agreement with the AITC and before project work or invoicing can begin. No-cost extensions of projects are allowable, should IRB review and approval delays occur.

Budget
Data Sharing and IP
Human Subjects Research
Eligibility
Funding and Terms
Process
Evaluation
What data sharing expectations apply to pilot awardees?

As a federally funded initiative, the AITC program encourages sharing of nonproprietary resources and data in order to increase scientific knowledge, as permitted by confidentiality and consent requirements. a2 Pilot Awards applicants will be asked to review and agree to follow the a2 Collective Data and Resource Sharing Plan, which is available in our Applicant Resources section.

Who owns the intellectual property (IP) developed using AITC funds?

The AITC university may claim partial IP rights of material generated through substantial collaboration with university labs and personnel, including PIs, employees, and students. Prior to entering into a collaboration, the awardee should contact the university’s technology transfer office to discuss the potential division of IP rights.

In addition, applicants proposing projects involving multiple institutions in collaboration should begin IP negotiations among those institutions as early as possible and resolve them prior to confirmation of award to avoid project delays.

How much detail on proprietary methods should be included in applications?

Although the AITCs expect a substantial description of the project’s approach, relevance, and aims, applicants should not include any IP in their applications that would normally be protected by a non-disclosure agreement.

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