DARPA has released its FY18 Young Faculty Award (YFA) program

The program is soliciting applications that would be of interest to any of DARPA’s six technical offices, supporting up to $500k over two years per award.

Slides from DARPA Proposers’ Day webcast August 29, 2017

Webcast Notes

Host/Moderator: D. Tyler McQuade

  • Acting Director of DSO
  • What’s DARPA all about – structure of agency:
    • Breakthrough technologies for nt’l security
    • NASA for instance has research labs – DARPA builds nothing, but programs, people seeking to help execute objectives.  Ex’s include core tech for smart phones, mats sci, UAVs, GPS, automation, IT
    • Focus: Space, new technology for nano-sat networks to service comms on earth
      • Air / ground / maritime / undersea
      • and, basic science research 6.1 v. 6.2; 6.1 portfolio will go social sci – particle physics, vs. 6.2 which is then prototype
      • Defense Sciences Office is 6.1 or fundamental research
    • Several technical offices; Biological Tech / Defense Sciences / Information Innovation / Microsystems / Strategic Tech / Tactical Tech
      • DSO specifically looks at complexity, applied math and design, social systems, fundamental limits, new foundations
      • Two others were carved out of DSO – MTO is closer to tech transfer.  I2O (information innovation) focus on human within Info Eco sys
      • STO and TTO are closer to big defense contractors or smaller companies in the DoD space.  Some academic support here, but more often at the subcontract flow-through level.
      • YFA program allows for requests across the offices with PO support
    • Unique culture – different in how they think.  Pitching a set of ideas to Managment will be framed in this context (Hellmeyer catecysm)
      • what are you trying to do? (no jargon)
      • How does this get done today?
        • state of the art discussion
      • What is new about the approach?
      • If you suceed, what difference do you think it will make?
        • lots of vague responses in this area – get a DOD person to help with response?
      • How long do you think it will take?
      • Can your work transition to DOD, others?
        • NSF I-corp has spent a lot of time on commercial needs – can you answer both academic and agency potential as well as commercial?
      • How much will it cost?
    • Program Managers must create programs and they must relate to natl’ sec
      • Draw in outstanding people, roughtly 1:100 applicants are PM
      • YFA program is all about future of sci community that will allow for BAA
  • Details of YFA program
    • looking to build long term relationships with quality talent.
      • YFA engage rising stars similar in scope to DOE / DOD – folks come from all manner of institutions in the US.  last year was first blind review process.
        • emphasis on those without prior DARPA funding
        • Want tutoring in all aspects of DOD needs and how to continue to be a performer in the future b/c means you’re good at solving DARPA’s problems
      • POs are there to support and open lots of doors to broader reacher communities.
        • How to gain transition dollars to from YFA to broader DOD streams
        • OFTEN TIMES FOLLOW-ON STREAMS of funding.
    • Engagement:
      • Program Manager Mentors: each YFA awardee has a mentor closely aligned research interests
      • Annual YFA kick-off / PI Meeting: annual meeting provides networking opps and presentations from DARPA tech offices
      • Participation in Program Reviews: YFA Awardees are invited to present their work at Program Review meetings providing networking opps with PMs and other performers.  GREAT NETWORKING OPP – INCUBATOR FOR INTER- MULTI- DISCIPLINARY PROJECTS
      • Military Visits: YFA Awardees have the opp to visit DOD-labs / tech officers
      • Director’s prize for super high achievers
    • Timeline: 24 mo. period of performance – lots of money to eat with a small group in a short time
      • Base awards are funded at $250k / 500k max
      • option – 12 month Director’s fellowship  / 500k max also
    • Eligibility: some changes to last year
      • Tenure track assistant /associate professors
      • current tenure faculty within 3 years of tenure
      • at equi. non-profit research institution within 12 years of the receipt of PhD (Salk, Brode institutions eg)
      • All proposers must be at US institutions
      • previous YFA winners ineligible
      • former DARPA PMs ineligible
      • Researchers at FFRDCs and DOD or other gov labs ineligible
  • Kristen Fuller – Assistant Director, Program Management – DSO
    • The Business of DARPA’S yfa
    • Include cost information for Directors Fellowship Option, max of 500k.  if not included they may not add later.
    • Equipment must be well justified and well tailored to need.
    • YFA is a single PI proposal – no co-PI’s allowed, but if really strongly justified, could bring in a co_PI.
    • Can team with Gov. Labs or FFRDC, but no more than 40% budget goes outbound
    • Must be in a tenure track position
    • High-risk, high reward agency – take advantage of executive summary approach.  low cost idea to feel out DARPA PMs

 DARPA YFA Program Information

The specific topic areas announced are:

  1. Designing Ungameably Complex Games
  2. Topological Photonics
  3. Artificial Intelligence for Materials Discovery
  4. Transformative Radiation Sensing
  5. Engineered Interactions with the Energy of the Vacuum
  6. Novel Methods for Nonsurgical Brain Interfaces
  7. Self-forming Chronic Central Nervous System (CNS) Neural Interfaces
  8. The Minimal Plant: Engineering Plants for Easy Biosynthetic Pathway Design with High Modularity
  9. Antifouling Solutions for Large, Nonplanar Optical Surfaces
  10. Replicating Cell-Cell Information Transfer
  11. Programmable DNA Repair for Improved Genome Editing Outcomes
  12. Efficient Integrated Nanophotonics
  13. Adversarial Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  14. Developing Intelligent Sensors for Fentanyl and Related Toxins
  15.  High Quality Atomic Traps and Waveguides
  16. Wideband Efficiency in Millimeter Wave Power Amplifiers
  17.  Materials and Actuator Innovation for Small Scale Mobility and Manipulation
  18. Reducing Software Attack Surface through Compiler-Rewriter Cooperation
  19. Computational Models of the Spread of False or Misleading Information
  20. Big Data Summarization
  21. Decentralized Control of Networked Unmanned Autonomous Systems
  22. REsilience through COmposable Logistics (RECOiL)
  23. Wide Area Sensing Using the Internet of Things
  24. Tactical Terrain Analysis
  25. Thermostructural Sensitivity to Uncertainties
  26. Swarm Intent Understanding

Full TA descriptions may be found in the program announcement. As you can see, the interest list is quite broad and germane to many areas of UNC Research.

Frequently Asked Questions (as of 9/8/2107)

Finally, we would encourage said colleagues to contact ORD to the extent that we can point to additional guidance and insight about this program, and the sponsor agency.


Defense Research Workshop Follow-up

Over 120 faculty from across campus convened for the DoD Defense Research Workshop hosted by the Office of Research Development. The workshop speakers, Dr. Bill Berry and Dr. Kathie L. Olsen, discussed how to better partner with the DoD and align with its research priorities. 

Presentation slides can be found here, and the video from the event can be found here.


Department of Defense and related branches-
General Funding Opportunities


Defense-related Specific Funding Opportunities

Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives (MURI) Program

Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP)

Young Investigator Program / Young Faculty Award

Faculty Awards/Scholarships

Graduate Students/Postdocs