U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
U.S. EMBASSY TBILISI
NOTICE OF FUNDING OPPORTUNITY
Funding Opportunity Title: University Research Program (University Capacity Building Program, UCBP)
Funding Opportunity Number DOS-GEO-21-007-052521
Deadline for Applications: 07/30/2021
Assistance Listing Number: 19.900 — AEECA/ESF PD Programs
Total Amount Available: $200,000
The Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, is pleased to announce an open competition for a University Capacity Building Program (UCBP). U.S. non-profit, non governmental organizations and accredited American higher education institutions may submit proposals to manage a 12-to-18-month professional development program for Georgian university administrators, development and grant officers, as well as higher education decision makers/government officials responsible for the Knowledge Exchange (KE) and university business-government triangle. The aim of the project is to better leverage and integrate the various missions – education, research and engagement – in order to increase the contribution of higher education research institutions to promote innovation and economic growth. Proposals should feature a robust professional study tour to a variety of universities and/ or other organizations in the United States that support knowledge transfer between higher education and business/government. Participants also should be exposed to the work of governmental entities such as the National Science Foundation and higher education advocacy organizations through site visits and demonstrations of successful programs.
The UCBP aims to improve the entrepreneurial capacity of Georgian higher education institutions (HEIs) by strengthening strategic skills and overall knowledge of university administrators and research development officers. In the “knowledge triangle” between government, academia, and the private sector, Georgian HEIs seem to be the weak link. Georgian universities produce graduates in academic programs that are disconnected to market demands. The UCBP will invest in HEIs to improve the university organizational environment and support effective operation of research development offices. By supporting grant programs and university grant team project management, the program will help to ensure that the research development function in universities does improve grant funding success and also helps universities achieve their research goals. The proposed study tour will assist university leaders in learning how to optimize best practices and organizational structures to cope with the pressures of external forces like limited funding and increased demand for research in the competitive higher education marketplace.
The program seeks to foster an entrepreneurial culture in academia that links practical research output to industry development, for example, by directing governmental funding to market oriented research and creating clear infrastructure and pathways to commercialize research. The successful proposal shall foster capacity building of university administrators and research development officers with the purpose to help put the “knowledge triangle” in the center of the government-business-academia relationship and establish an entrepreneurial climate among HEIs in Georgia.
The grant recipient will work closely with PAS throughout the grant period to identify appropriate Georgian participants. The project will award $200,000 to defray the costs of a two week intensive study tour to the United States for up to 12 education administrators, education decision makers, and/ or those responsible for managing grants. The project should also touch on follow up sustainability measures for the participants to apply gained knowledge at their home institutions. Micro fund that will be allocated within the award as part of sustainability measures for participants should enable program beneficiaries to produce desired outputs. The award will also sponsor reciprocal visits of American experts to Georgia to support the project implementation by providing a series of workshops on research development, grant writing, project management, etc. Applicants should include provisions for non-English speaking participants and secure international travel insurance for the duration of the study tour.
Education reform in Georgia has been recognized as an initial success story, dating back to fundamental changes undertaken since 2004. As reforms proceeded, and tangible results accumulated, new and diverse challenges and opportunities continued to emerge. At present, one widely recognized challenge is the education system’s weak linkage with the business community, despite the government’s efforts to encourage vocational education and direct reforms towards adaptation with the labor market demands.
Lack of entrepreneurial spirit, training, and skills is endemic in Georgia’s still post-Soviet economy. And the education system is no exception from this pattern as Georgians have considerable opportunity for receiving education but the connection between the higher education system, private sector, and government is lacking. Ways must be found to improve these links for better economic performance. As the need increases for the economy to grow and perform better to adapt to the demands of the world economy, the educational institutions scramble to find their niche in the business environment to provide labor force to the market while bringing in resources to the university. Yet, this drive towards an entrepreneurial approach among the HEIs, especially state-funded schools, is still inadequate, and, at times, almost non-existent.1
“Though HEIs try to develop individual partnerships with various enterprises for student internships, cooperation, and further employability guarantees, the results are not homogeneous.” European Commission, Overview of the Higher Education System, February 2017, Lika Glonti, Tamar Lortkipanidze, Nino Urushadze – National Coordinators of Erasmus+ Office in Georgia Irina Darchia – HERE, Ministry of Education and Science of Georgia; Glonti et al, p. 9
Meanwhile, there is growing awareness that boosting human capital to increase productivity, innovation, and competitiveness is key to Georgia’s future development. The Government increasingly realizes the need for a qualitative leap in the economy that can only be done through increased partnership with the government and private sector. Given the premise that investment in human capital is the best investment for the faster economic growth, the Georgian Government committed to devote a much larger share of GDP to education purposes and meet practical requirements for the linkage with the economy.
This situation, which also includes lack of university and private sector collaboration, displays more need for a robust “knowledge triangle”, which is on the agenda of a number of European institutions and corresponds to the international trend towards greater and deeper synergy between research and businesses, thus helping greater economic growth as a result of greater reliance on the input of knowledge into the economy.
Georgian universities lack offices for assisting in research development and fundraising, grant writing, and project management. They also have an urgent need for internationalization so that the entire higher education sector contributes to the qualitative improvement of Georgian work force for a competitive market domestically and internationally.
Because commercialization of research is desperately needed for local economic strength and for the future economic growth, government may take the lead and develop policies that incentivize national and international entities, such as research institutions, businesses and technological start ups to partner for greater profit and productivity.
For more background information on Georgian universities and their research capacity please see:
Georgian Law “On Higher Education”
Overview of the Higher Education System, European Commission (February 2017) https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/sites/eacea-site/files/countryfiche_georgia_2017.pdf
The UCBP seeks to better leverage and integrate the various missions – education, research and engagement – in order to increase the contribution of higher education and public research institutions to innovation and economic growth and develop the commercial and entrepreneurial aspects of Georgian academia by presenting successful American models. University administrators and government representatives responsible for higher education management will learn how to raise sourcing for funding potential for institutional development and research grants and commercialize research through exposure to diverse models and best practices. They will understand the foundational infrastructure necessary for success, including university support offices, effective research development activities, successful grant writing and fundamentals of fundraising. These objectives will be realized through a study tour of U.S. universities that successfully commercialized research; and reciprocal visits by experts to Georgia to support the project implementation. The project will include a two-week intensive study tour, U.S. experts’ reciprocal visit to Georgia and follow up sustainability measures for the participants to apply gained knowledge at their home institutions. A successful proposal will demonstrate how it will help Georgia:
- Develop the triangle between government, academia and the private sector, through shared knowledge, processes and support;
- Establish sustainable collaborations between universities, industry, and business start ups;
- Encourage a university culture of industry collaboration that becomes an institutional priority, involving human and capital resources required for effective collaboration; • Sustain projects between universities and private industry.
The following are specific and tangible objectives of the project:
- Help to institutionalize research development offices in universities to liaise with local private sector entities, through various means, including online platforms. Such linkages would provide platforms for exchange of ideas, imagining of opportunities, and establishing networks;
- Establish a network of professionals from various universities, government agencies, and professional associations that work together on enhancing the university-private sector-innovation triangle;
- Help to create a common agenda for regular discussions between academics and entrepreneurs by nurturing entrepreneurial ecosystems at universities;
- Raise awareness among government officials about the connection between university research and entrepreneurship, both in industry and service sectors. This will generate greater appreciation among government officials about the potential HEIs have to enhance economic growth beyond vocational training;
- Micro fund allocated within the award would ensure sustainability of the project by allowing participants to apply gained knowledge at their home institutions and implementing various initiatives.
- Spark cultural change in universities by adopting an entrepreneurial philosophy, demonstrating commitment to the practical matters of economic growth and entrepreneurship.
Following topics/activities (the list can be further expanded) may be supported:
- Trainings in strategic planning, grant writing, project management, capacity building, including creating or enhancing a comprehensive research development office to assist faculty in obtaining institutional and research funding through grant-writing and other means; and a robust advancement department that includes third party funding – national and international donor sources, private sector, and government;
- Presenting models for a fully functional research development office designed to increase university’s annual sponsored funding totals;
- Course management for online teaching: assessment, platforms, feedback, integrity; • Counseling on establishing joint programs and off-site activities (such as summer programs) with the entrepreneurial entities.
- Visits to government agencies in charge of fostering collaboration between business and universities;
- Presentations and resources that convey the principles of research commercialization and its impact on economic growth;
- Visits to entrepreneurial universities and science/business/tech incubators to demonstrate how they operate and can be replicated;
- Explanations of how technology transfer offices support faculty and convert intellectual property into commercialized products or services through patents and/or licensing.
Applicants may propose other activities not specifically mentioned in this solicitation if the activities reinforce the impact of the project. A detailed program timeline for the entire grant period that outlines how components unfold and complement each other must be included in the proposal.
The names of proposed Georgian participants must be reviewed and approved in advance of U.S. travel by the Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi. PAS anticipates that the majority of Georgian participants will not have working-level competency in English and high quality (preferably simultaneous) translation will need to be budgeted in the grant, as should airfare, hotel, international travel insurance, visa B1/B2 fee, meals and incidental expenses for study tour participants. For monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) purposes, PAS Grant Officer Representative (GOR) will serve as a facilitator for the study tour. GOR expenses will be covered by the U.S. Embassy.
The final outcome of the project is overall enhanced capacity of university personnel, better awareness on business-university-government collaboration, and practical decisions to strengthen capacities of university research development offices. The following are recommended projected outcomes of the program:
- Greater use of university research output by entrepreneurial entities, through targeted business-university collaboration efforts.
- Establishment of a network of Georgian university administrators/ personnel responsible for business-university-government collaboration with information and experience gained through the UCBP;
- Establishment of Research Development and fundraising offices wherever needed, or, where they already exist, their improved operation;
- Integration of new online courses and joint programs for improved use of online resources for university-business collaboration, utilizing more robust systems for online course management and project management, including assessment, monitoring, impact measurement, etc.;
- Establishment of sustainable institutionalized ties between the universities and business associations, thus contributing to Georgian universities’ more effective collaboration with potential employers in private sector and government.
Some of these results are expected to emerge in a short-term period, such as appointment of new university officers in charge of university-business collaboration or fundraising, or the establishment of the academia-business-government networks. Micro fund that will be allocated within the award as part of sustainability measures for participants should enable program beneficiaries to produce desired outputs. On the other hand, raising of the awareness of the need of research in manufacturing and service industry or improved entrepreneurial culture in universities is to take a longer period of time.
FEDERAL AWARD INFORMATION
Application Submission: June 1, 2021 – July 30, 2021
Length of performance period: up to 18 months with possibility of time/ cost extension
Award amounts: The maximum amount of a grant is $200,000
Type of Funding: FY20/21 Economic Support Funds under the Foreign Assistance Act
Anticipated program start date: September 2021
Funding Instrument Type: Cooperative Agreement
Program Performance Period: 12 – 18 months
- A) For questions relating to Grants.gov, please call the Grants.gov Contact Center at 1-800- 518-4726.
- B) On program requirements of this solicitation, contact Grants Program Coordinator at the Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia, at TbilisiGrants@state.gov
- ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION
Eligibility is limited to U.S. non-profit/non-governmental organizations, universities and educational institutions. Direct funding for non-U.S. entities is not available under this announcement.
Other Eligibility Requirements: To be eligible to receive an award, all organizations must have a unique entity identifier (Data Universal Numbering System/DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet), as well as a valid registration on www.SAM.gov. Please see Section D.4 for information on how to obtain these registrations.
Cost Sharing or Matching: This program does not require cost sharing, however in-kind financial contributions will be favorably considered.
APPLICATION AND SUBMISSION INFORMATION
Award Period: 12-28 months (with possible time/cost extension)
Award Amount: up to $200,000
Application Submission Process: Applicants must submit proposals electronically using Grants.gov.
Application Deadline: All applications must be submitted on or before July 30, 2021, 11:59 p.m. eastern time. Applications submitted after 11:59 p.m. will not be eligible for consideration. If receipt of application is not confirmed within two days, please contact
TbilisiGrants@state.gov Telegraphic or fax applications are not authorized for this NOFO and will not be accepted. The total size of each attachment should not exceed 3 MBs. Every page of the proposal must be numbered. The application must have a table of contents. Large graphic files are discouraged. The format of any attachments must be in Microsoft Word, Excel, or PDF. Attached files should be printable on U.S. letter size paper (8½ x11”). Do NOT send .rar files. Application Content: Applicants must follow the NOFO instructions and conditions contained herein and supply all information required. Failure to furnish all information or comply with stated requirements will result in disqualification from the competition. Applicants must set forth full, accurate, and complete information as required by this NOFO. The penalty for making false statements in proposals to the USG is prescribed on 18 U.S.C.1001.
Section 1: Mandatory application forms
- SF-424 (Application for Federal Assistance – organizations)
- SF424A (Budget Information for Non-Construction programs)
- SF424B (Assurances for Non-Construction programs)
Section 2 – Executive Summary: (maximum 2 pages)
The executive summary is limited to 1000 words in length. It must provide a summary of the identified need, proposed activities, and expected results.
Section 3 – Project Goals/Implementation Plan (maximum 10 pages): The applicant must specify the goals and objectives of the project, relative to the announced project statement. The proposed activities should be described in sufficient detail to show how objectives and goals will be met. The narrative should be brief, concise, and provide a clear description of what the applicant proposes to do, where, why, when, how, and by whom. This section should include a structured monitoring and evaluation plan (Logic Model and a Theory of Change) that will demonstrate how success will be measured via performance indicators by defining objectively verifiable indicators. The matrix should also include: sources/means for verification, risks and assumptions for goals and objectives, and expected results and activities.
Section 4 – Organizational Capability (maximum 2 pages):
Applications must include a clear description of the applicant’s organizational and management structure, and previous experience with similar university partnership projects as these relate to the proposed activities. Besides information about the organization as a whole, this section must also identify the proposed management structure and staffing plan for the proposed project.
Section 5 – Appendices:
The proposal submission must include appendices listed below. Only the appendices listed below may be included as part of the application:
(a) Budget (Required) – the budget must identify the total amount of funding requested, with a breakdown of amounts to be spent in the following budget categories: personnel (salary, wages, honoraria); fringe benefits if any; international and domestic travel including international health insurance and US visa B1/B2 fees; materials; equipment, if any; supplies; office /classroom rental; Georgian participants costs (stipends, M&IE, domestic travel, etc.); other direct and indirect costs, etc.. Include a budget with an accompanying budget narrative which provides in detail the total costs for implementation of the program your organization is proposing. Detailed budget notes and supporting justification of all proposed budget line items should be included. In addition, a summary of the budget must be submitted using Standard Form SF-424A. This form can be found on-line at:
The budget may include an estimate for continuation activities, which will be considered for successful applicants to this NOFO in future fiscal years based on performance and the availability of funds. After filling out the SF-424A Budget (above), use a separate sheet of paper to describe each of the budget expenses in detail.
Applicants that have a Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement with the U.S. Government should submit the latest copy.
(b) Resume (Required) – a resume, not to exceed 2 pages in length, must be included for the proposed key staff person, such as the Project Director. If an individual for this type of position has not been identified, the applicant may submit a 1-page position description, identifying the qualifications and skills required for that position, in lieu of a resume.
(c) Letters of Intent (Required) –Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia recommends that the applicants identify in advance the local partners in the U.S. and requires including the letters of intent with the proposal. The letters must identify the type of relationship to be entered into (formal or informal), the roles and responsibilities of each partner in relation to the proposed project activities, and the expected result of the partnership. Please note that these are not letters of support, and should only be included for those organizations that will play an active role in the project, including those that receive financial support through the project budget. The individual letters cannot exceed 1 page in length, and applicants are limited to submitting up to 5 letters per proposal.
(d) Unique Entity Identifier and System for Award Management (SAM.gov) – copy of SAM.gov registration.
Any applicant listed on the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS) in the System for Award Management (SAM) is not eligible to apply for an assistance award in accordance with the OMB guidelines at 2 CFR 180 that implement Executive Orders 12549 (3 CFR, 1986 Comp., p. 189) and 12689 (3 CFR, 1989 Comp., p. 235), “Debarment and Suspension.” Additionally, no entity listed on the EPLS can participate in any activities under an award.
All organizations awarded the grant (except individuals) must obtain these registrations. All are free of charge:
- Unique entity identifier from Dun & Bradstreet (DUNS number)
- NCAGE/CAGE code
- www.SAM.gov registration
Step 1: Apply for a DUNS number and an NCAGE number (these can be completed simultaneously)
DUNS application: Organizations must have a Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number from Dun & Bradstreet. If your organization does not have one already, you may obtain one by calling 1-866-705-5711 or visiting http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform
Application page here:
Instructions for the NCAGE application process:
For NCAGE help from within the U.S., call 1-888-227-2423
For NCAGE help from outside the U.S., call 1-269-961-7766
Email NCAGE@dlis.dla.mil for any problems in getting an NCAGE code.
Step 2: After receiving the NCAGE Code, proceed to register in SAM.gov by logging onto: https://www.sam.gov. SAM registration must be renewed annually.
AWARD SELECTION CRITERIA
Evaluation Criteria: Applicants should note the following criteria (1) serve as a standard against which all proposals will be evaluated, and (2) serve to identify the significant matters that should be addressed in all proposals. The USG will award grants to the applicants whose offers represent the best value to the USG on the basis of technical merit and cost.
Each application will be evaluated by a peer review committee of the Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia and other experts, as deemed appropriate. The evaluation criteria have been tailored to the requirements of this NOFO.
Project Strategy, Approach and Implementation Plan (50 points):
Applicants should demonstrate:
(a) good understanding of the issue; clear definitions of the program and a vision of what will be accomplished at the end the agreement; (b) clarity of proposed objectives; (c) technical soundness of approach, including clarity in scope and focus of activities to be carried out; feasibility of achieving results and objectives; (d) detailed analysis of potential obstacles, risks and problems that could be encountered during the project implementation; (e) local partnership commitments and optimum utilization of Georgian organizations and Georgian expertise in program implementation, if applicable; (f) clarity of expected achievements/outcomes of the project, and a solid description of the proposed monitoring and evaluation plan.
The review panel will be viewing the implementation plan in terms of how well it addresses the overall relevance of the goals and objectives, feasibility of the proposed activities and their timeline for completion, and the extent to which the impact of the project will continue beyond the conclusion of the funding period.
Organizational Capability (30 points): Proposals should demonstrate the ability to develop and implement University Capacity Building Program (UCBP). Applicants must demonstrate how their resources, capabilities, and experience will enable them to achieve the stated goals and objectives. In addition, applicants should describe how they will collaborate with PAS and Georgian universities/private sector/government to meet project goals.
Appendices (20 points):
Budget: Costs shall be evaluated for realism, control practices, and efficiency. The review committee must determine that the costs paid for this award are reasonable, allowable, and allocable to the proposed project activities. This will consist of a review of the budget to determine if the overall costs are realistic for the work to be performed, if the costs reflect the applicant’s understanding of the allowable cost principles established by OMB Circular A-21 and if the costs are consistent with the program narrative.
Resume: The review panel will consider the appropriateness of the selected project director, in view of the role and responsibility that person will play in guiding the project through implementation to completion. Position descriptions submitted in lieu of the resume will be reviewed for the appropriateness of the qualifications and skills identified.
Letters of Intent: The review panel will consider the types and depth of relationships that the applicant has with local (U.S.) organizations. The panel will also review the letters to determine the willingness of local (U.S.) organizations to participate in the effort, and that all parties have an understanding of their unique roles and responsibilities in terms of the proposed project.
AWARD ADMINISTRATION INFORMATION
Award Notices: The grant award or co-operative agreement shall be written, signed, awarded, and administered by the Grants Officer. The Grants Officer is the Government official delegated the authority by the U.S. Department of State Procurement Executive to write, award, and administer grants and cooperative agreements. The assistance award agreement is the authorizing document and it will be provided to the Recipient through either mail or facsimile transmission. Organizations whose applications will not be funded will also be notified in writing.
Anticipated Time to Award: Applicants should expect to be notified of the selected proposal within 90 days after the submission deadline. Following this the Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia staff will provide information at the point of notification about the requirements for the final grant agreement, which may include revisions to the activities. The final agreement must incorporate any suggested changes made by the Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Applicants should be aware that there may be a delay between the time that applications are submitted and awards are made. Successful applicants can expect to receive their first tranche of grant funds no later than October, 2021. This delay is primarily due to the extensive clearance process that must be undertaken prior to grant awards being made.
Issuance of this NOFO does not constitute an award commitment on the part of the U.S. government, nor does it commit the U.S. government to pay for costs incurred in the preparation and submission of proposals. Further, the U.S. government reserves the right to reject any or all proposals received. Reporting Requirements: Grantees are required to submit quarterly program progress and financial reports throughout the project period. Progress and financial reports are due 30 days after the reporting period. Final programmatic and financial reports are due 90 days after the close of the project period. Progress reports at a minimum should be submitted via electronic mail to an address to be provided in the award.
Recipients will be required to submit financial reports and program reports. The award document will specify how often these reports must be submitted. All recipients must submit a formal report to the Grants Officer upon completion of the project. The report should discuss what was done, whether the project was successful from the applicant’s perspective and how it might be improved in the future. Copies of video materials, CDs, and other video and audio aids generated during the implementation of the project attesting to the success of the grant activities are welcome.
If a proposal is selected for funding, the Department of State has no obligation to provide any additional future funding in connection with the award. Renewal of an award to extend the period of performance is at the total discretion of the Department of State. The Department of State reserves the right to award more or less than the funding indicated as is deemed in the best interest of the U.S. Government.
Guidelines for Budget Justification
Personnel and Fringe Benefits: Describe the wages, salaries, and benefits of temporary or permanent staff who will be working directly for the applicant on the program, and the percentage of their time that will be spent on the program.
Travel: Estimate the costs of travel and per diem for this program, for program staff, consultants or speakers, and participants/beneficiaries. If the program involves international travel, include a brief statement of justification for that travel.
Equipment: Describe any machinery, furniture, or other personal property that is required for the program, which has a useful life of more than one year (or a life longer than the duration of the program), and costs at least $5,000 per unit.
Supplies: List and describe all the items and materials, including any computer devices, that are needed for the program. If an item costs more than $5,000 per unit, then put it in the budget under Equipment.
Contractual: Describe goods and services that the applicant plans to acquire through a contract with a vendor. Also describe any sub-awards to non-profit partners that will help carry out the program activities.
Other Direct Costs: Describe other costs directly associated with the program, which do not fit in the other categories. For example, shipping costs for materials and equipment or applicable taxes. All “Other” or “Miscellaneous” expenses must be itemized and explained.
Indirect Costs: These are costs that cannot be linked directly to the program activities, such as overhead costs needed to help keep the organization operating. If your organization has a Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate (NICRA) and includes NICRA charges in the budget, attach a copy of your latest NICRA. Organizations that have never had a NICRA may request indirect costs of 10% of the modified total direct costs as defined in 2 CFR 200.68.
“Cost Sharing” refers to contributions from the organization or other entities other than the U.S. Embassy. It also includes in-kind contributions such as volunteers’ time and donated venues. Alcoholic Beverages: Please note that award funds cannot be used for alcoholic beverages.
FEDERAL AWARDING AGENCY CONTACTS
If you have any questions about the grant application process, please contact: TbilisiGrants@state.gov