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2022 UTC Competition Questions and Answers

Region 8 Re-Opened Competition Questions and Answers

Effect of Matching Funds on Rating  (7/11/2023)

Question:  Will the amount of cost share provided affect the rating of the application?
Answer:  There are a couple possible answers depending on your meaning:

  • Less than the required amount of matching funds would suggest a misunderstanding of the UTC grant’s requirements and would effectively reduce the level of effort that your application would propose to conduct, compared to other applications with effort reflecting the full match.
  • More than the required amount of matching funds is not expected and, per Federal grant regulations, cannot be used as a factor in merit review of applications.

University on Multiple Applications  (7/11/2023)

Question:  Can a university be the lead on one Region 8 UTC proposal, and a non-lead consortium member on a separate Region 8 UTC proposal?
Answer:  The Notice of Funding Opportunity places no restrictions on how many applications a university can be involved with.  Some universities’ sponsored-programs/research office have internal policies about that, however, so that university will want to check with that office.

Submitter for Letter of Intent  (6/26/2023)

Question:  Can the letter of intent be submitted by the PI, or must it be submitted by an authorized representative for the university?
Answer:  As far as US DOT is concerned, it may be submitted by either, but you should be sure to follow your university’s internal policies.  An application submitted later does need to be submitted by the university’s authorized representative.

NCHRP as Match  (6/26/2023)

Question:  Can NCHRP funds be used as part of the non-federal cost share?
Answer:  The only allowable funds with a Federal source that may be used as match on a UTC Program grant are the two that are stated on page 14 of the Notice of Funding Opportunity:

  • C.2                  Cost Sharing or Matching Funds     
    Total funding for a Center’s operation must include the US DOT funding plus non-Federal matching funds.  The matching funds may include Federal funds provided to a recipient under 23 U.S.C. § 504(b) or 505 (local technical assistance and State planning and research programs managed by the Federal Highway Administration).  No other sources of Federal funds, including from non-US DOT Departments and Agencies, may be counted toward the match requirement. 

       If you believe that the NCHRP funds you wish to use as match include either SPR or LTAP funds, then you would need to be able to document that that is in fact the source of the amount of funds you would report as match.
       Another thing you would want to consider if proposing to align some of your research with NCHRP is how you would demonstrate that your proposed UTC would add value beyond what the NCHRP projects themselves provide.

Involvement of Researchers  (6/26/2023)

Question:  If awarded, can work be done by anyone at one of the UTC partner universities or only by the specific professors that become affiliated with the UTC?
Answer:  That is generally for you to decide as you develop your proposal for how your UTC would accomplish the mission of the grant, but typically we do like to see an opportunity for new faculty or faculty at the consortium-member universities not traditionally associated with transportation projects to become involved in the transportation arena.

Matching-Fund Contributors Outside of Region 8  (6/7/2023)

Question:  Can private entities that are not part of the consortium contribute to the cost share through either cash or in-kind contributions?  If so, do those entities need to be located (or have a branch) in Region 8?
Answer:  Private entities not part of the consortium can provide matching funds, and such non-consortium entities do not need to be located in Region 8.

Definition of “Surface Transportation” for UTCs (5/31/2023)

Question:  Does the term “surface transportation” related to the UTC Program mean that buried pipelines are excluded from consideration? Additionally, for transit systems, would the focus need to be on ground or surface systems, or can we include underground transportation systems?
Answer:  “Surface transportation” as we have used it related to the UTC Program may include pipelines and the types of underground transportation systems that you mention.  The term is derived from the program’s Congressional authorization that is typically done through legislation that concerns surface transportation as opposed to air or marine modes of transportation, though UTCs may also address the nexus points between air-and-surface or marine-and-surface transportation.


Please also see the HBCU and MSI Webinar's Questions and Answers located here:  HBCU and MSI Webinar Q&A 

Project Start and End Dates on SF424 (8/19/2022)

Question:  Should the Project Start Date and End Date reflect one year or five years?
Answer:  We will accept either but prefer that applicants use the dates shown on Attachment A (Budget Plan) of the Notice of Funding Opportunity, as initially only the first year of funding will be awarded to applicants selected through this competition.

Meaning of “Staff” in Key Staff (8/18/2022)

Question:  The NOFO states key staff members who will support the Center Director in accomplishing the grant’s goals.  Does that include the associate directors, i.e., PIs from partner consortium institutions who are lead on their subawards?  Staff usually implies non-academic (i.e. non-faculty) and all associate directors are faculty members.
Answer:  On pages 16 and 29 of the Notice of Funding Opportunity, we used the word “staff” in the generic sense, and that was not intended to exclude faculty.  Across the spectrum of potential applicants, the types of positions that might be considered as Key Personnel would vary widely, so we did not try to define for applicants exactly who should be considered Key Personnel.  You should include among them whoever you consider to be the most significant to the success of the center you are proposing.

Salaries (and Other Costs) as Part of 5% Technology-Transfer Requirement (8/17/2022)

Question:  I am hoping to clarify whether or not salary and fringe benefits of a faculty or staff member may be used for technology transfer cost, as long as this person has responsibility with technology transfer at their respective institution.
Answer:  Yes, it can, for the amount of time the person spends on the grant’s technology-transfer activities. Nearly all of the budget categories in Attachment A could include technology-transfer-related costs, definitely including salaries. The key thing is that you make clear in your budget that you intend to meet the 5% requirement, so you may do that either by reporting everything that is technology-transfer-related under Technology Transfer and then breaking out those costs in the Explanatory Notes column by the other categories (salaries, equipment, etc.), or you could report (for example) the salary amount on the salary line and then note in the Explanatory Notes column how much of that amount supports Technology Transfer. An earlier question on this page has an example of a way this might be done, using Indirect Costs, in the question titled/dated Indirect Costs in Technology-Transfer Costs (6/10/2022).  

Packaging Items in  (8/16/2022)

Question:  Do we need to submit all items (Abstract, Response to Criteria, and all attachments) in one PDF document:  Or each item separately?  Or just attachments separately?
Answer:  On page 32 of the Notice of Funding Opportunity, it states that the copy of negotiated overhead and fringe benefit rates be submitted separately from the Written Response, but other than that the NOFO does not speak to the packaging of the other items that make up the application.  This means you are free to package the other items however you prefer.

In-Kind Matching Funds  (8/12/2022)

Question:  Is there a standard Federal definition of “in-kind matching funds” we can use to calculate potential partner match?
Answer:  Federal grant regulations discuss how to report in-kind contributions, but do not define them.  Commonly recognized types include office/laboratory space, equipment, supplies, employees, and students. 
      “In-kind contribution” is the value of any material, service, or labor that a) contributes to the conduct of a grant-related activity AND b) whose value can be measured or assessed.  Using examples from the National Science Foundation:
     •    office/lab space would be number of hours that such a facility is used on the grant times a per-hour value for the office/lab that someone is able to establish (perhaps how it is valued for accounting/depreciation purposes); 
     •    equipment costing $5K or under and supplies are typically considered to be expendable so full cost could be counted; 
     •    employees/students would be similar to labs – how many labor hours spent on the activity times that person’s per-hour salary rate.
The connection to an activity of the grant is critical; a UTC could not count, for example, a testing facility run by a state DOT unless the UTC actually uses the facility on a project funded by the grant.

Enrollment Information Format  (8/12/2022)

Question:  For the enrollment info for minority institutions, do you need something official from the university admin to confirm the enrollment numbers, or is a self-compiled table showing the statistics sufficient?
Answer:  Because the Notice of Funding Opportunity did not speak to this point, we would accept either.  For audit purposes, you must be able to document in your own records where you obtained the numbers you provide.

Projects in Budget  (8/10/2022)

Question:  Should the total cost of a research project funded with matching funds be reflected as a lump sum under Other Direct Costs, or should it be broken down into Salaries, Equipment, and other direct expenses and related indirect costs?  At the current proposal stage, the breakdown in expenses may be unknown.
Answer:  Break the costs out into categories as best you can estimate them, for projects paid with either Federal or matching funds.  You might be able to estimate costs based on previous projects your university has conducted; if your application is selected for funding, and it is determined that actual project costs are going to differ from the proposed budget, then a budget revision may be done.

Unrecovered F&A as Matching Funds  (8/9/2022 – this adds to a related Q&A from the HBCU and MSI Webinar questions posted here:  HBCU and MSI Webinar Q&A)

Question:  I believe unrecovered F&A costs can be included as part of the matching funds if approved on an individual basis – is that correct? If so, can you please tell me the process for approval.
Answer:  Current UTC Program grants do allow that, as is stated on page 7 of those grants’ General Provisions… document posted here: Similar language will appear in the update of that document for the new grants resulting from this competition. You may reflect this in the budget for your application but do not need to obtain approval for it as part of the application process; if your application is selected for funding, you would need at that time to get specific approval from the US DOT grant manager who will be assigned to that grant when awarded in order to fully document US DOT’s approval.

Font Size in Tables  (8/9/2022)

Question:  In the Written Response, can font size in tables go down to 9 or 10?
Answer:  As noted on page 18 of the Notice of Funding Opportunity, font size in tables and figures in the Written Response may go down to no smaller than 9; we do not anticipate that applicants will put tables on the Cover Sheet or in the Research Abstract, but if you do, please also go down to no smaller than 9 in tables and figures. No specific font or size is required for the three Appendices, so any font/size is acceptable for any table you may include in that section.

Page Numbers/Styling Within Margins  (8/8/2022)

Question:  May we include page numbering and/or styling (such as borders or the proposed center name or background color/photo) within the footer margin? Or should the 1” margins remain clear of any type?
Answer:  As long as the text of the Research Abstract or Written Response themselves, or the required items to be stated on the Cover Sheet, are not within the 1” margins, page numbers and identifying footers and design elements within the margins are okay.

Toll Credits Cannot Match UTC Grants  (8/4/2022)

Question:  Can a State DOT contribute toll credits to be used as match on UTC grants?
Answer:  Toll credits may not be used as match on University Transportation Centers (UTC) Program grants.  Three points about that:
     •    As implemented by FHWA, the use of toll credits as an offset applies to Federal-Aid projects, which do not include the UTC Program.
     •    By definition in Federal grant regulations, matching funds must be “necessary and reasonable for accomplishment of project or program objectives” [2 CFR 200.306(b)(3)].  Because toll credits do not add to the resources available to a UTC to accomplish the purpose of the grant, toll credits do not meet the Federal definition of matching funds so are not allowable as matching funds.  Matching funds may be either in cash or as in-kind (the value of objects or labor hours that are used on grant activities), but they must add to the resources available to the UTC to accomplish its grant.
     •    Note that state DOT use of toll credits to meet SPR program matching requirements, as authorized by 23 USC 120(j), does not affect the ability of those states to use SPR funding as UTC matching funds.

Attaching Documents in  (8/4/2022)

Question: In the UTCOPENCOMP2022 opportunity, there is no clear field to upload attachments for the main proposal and budget information. The only possible place to add an attachment would be in field 15 of the SF424 cover page, after the title – is this where we are supposed to upload the proposal and supporting documents?
Answer:  Yes, that is the correct place.

Micro-credentials in Education Program  (8/4/2022)

Question:  Are the use of educational badges allowed as part of credentialing?  Our consortium includes a community college partner who may wish to employ these micro-credentials as part of their educational plan. Badges represent a way of acknowledging achievements or skill acquisition at a more granular level than a college degree. Micro-credentials are a highly visible way to showcase expertise with peers and current or prospective employers—helping to stand out in a competitive marketplace. 
Answer:  Because the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) does not take a position on badges/micro-credentials, then there is no hard rule regarding that as far as this Opportunity. If the use of such badges/micro-credentials is something you believe would help your consortium to accomplish UTC Program objectives as those are stated in the NOFO, then you are free to reflect that in your application.

More on Minority Enrollment Documentation  (7/28/2022)

Question:  One of our consortium partners use the term “International” to report one of their enrollment ethnicity groups. I saw in the Q&As that “the UTC Program will allow applicants to include as a minority category such a multiracial category that does not specify the races/ethnicities included within it.” Would “International” be an allowable category for the designation?
Answer:  We agreed to allow a category such as “multiracial” or “two or more races,” which does not specify the races/ethnicities included within it, as a minority category because there is a high likelihood that a student in a multiracial category would satisfy at least one of the 20 U.S.C. §1067k statutory list of minorities.  We see a category termed “international” as being different from that, because the term “international” does not refer specifically to race as does the 20 U.S.C. §1067k statutory definition of minority.  For that reason, “international” may not be used as a minority category for purposes of documenting whether an institution of higher education is a minority institution.

Budget Narrative  (7/28/2022)

Question:  is it preferred/allowed to include a narrative description of the budget alongside the Center Budget Plan table?
Answer:  The Notice of Funding Opportunity doesn’t require a budget narrative, but if it would be helpful for you to do one in order to clearly explain your budget plans, then feel free to include one along with the budget plans.

References in Written Response  (7/28/2022)

Question:  Are references (bibliography/citations of publications) included in the Written Response’s 35-page limit?
Answer:  If you wish to include those, then they would count toward the 35-page limit for the Written Response.  Please also note that, on page 30, the Notice of Funding Opportunity states that appendices beyond the three that are required will not be used by reviewers, so references, if you wish to include them, should not be included there (other than any you may wish to include in CVs that are limited to two pages per individual).

Another Point about Formatting  (7/28/2022)

Question:  Is it acceptable to have one page in landscape orientation in order to include a table that presents better that way, or do all pages need to be in portrait orientation?
Answer:  That would be acceptable.

More Information about Formatting  (7/26/2022)

Question:  In the 2016 competition, the following clarifications were made in the Q&As about some formatting details. Do these still all apply?
     1.  Margins on Budget Plans and CVs can be less than one inch
     2.  CVs can use any size/type of font
     3.  Footnotes would be considered as a type of footer, so the text of footnotes may go down to size 9 font
     4.  Font type/size in captions are considered similar to a footnote, in which case the type size for a caption may be either Arial 12 or no smaller than Arial 9
     5.  The font and spacing requirements are not minimums, so fonts larger than Arial 12 are not allowed
1 and 2.  Pages 17 and 18 of the NOFO do state (in the “Prepare the cover sheet…” paragraph, in the “Prepare the research abstract…” paragraph just above the Page Limits and Formatting text box, and in the text box itself) that the page limits and formatting noted there apply to the Cover Sheet or the Research Abstract or the Written Response as is stated in those three places.  Because we do not state that this also applies to the three Appendices (Enrollment of Minority Institutions, CVs, and Budget Plans), then no specific margins or any specific font size/type are required for those Appendices.
3 and 4.  Correct for the Written Response section; no specific font size/type is required for footnotes or captions in the three Appendices (Enrollment of Minority Institutions, CVs, or Budget Plans).  We recommend not including footnotes or items requiring captions on the Cover Sheet or Research Abstract where the NOFO requests information to be presented at a high level, but if you do include them there, please only use Arial 12.
5.  Correct for the Cover Sheet and Research Abstract and Written Response sections.  As noted in response to questions 1 and 2 above, a required margin or font size was not stated in the NOFO for the three Appendices (Enrollment Information for Minority Institution(s), CVs, or Budget Plans).

Match Not Obtained Before Application Due Date  (7/26/2022)

Question:  A matching-fund provider will not be able to provide the match before the application due date.  How does that affect review of my application?
Answer:  Some sponsors will not provide funds until a grant has actually been awarded.  The NOFO does not require that applicants have match in hand at the time of application, and it states that UTCs have the six-year life of the grant to obtain all of the required match.  There are several places in the application (for example, under Criteria One, Four, and Five) where it is appropriate for applicants to talk about where they expect to get match, what kinds of costs it will support, and how the matching funds relate to proposed activities of the grant. 

Letters of Commitment vs. Letters of Support  (7/26/2022)

Question:  The NOFO says something different from the competition Q&A webpage about Letters of Commitment/Support – are those wanted, or not?  
Answer:  We addressed the two terms you mention as meaning different things:
•    In the Notice of Funding Opportunity, the term “letters of commitment” is intended in Section C.2 Cost Sharing or Matching Funds to refer to letters from matching-fund providers stating their commitment to provide those matching funds.  That language directs that applicants should not include those letters in the application and instead to simply note any such letters in the application’s text, in order to save space for the other items that must be addressed within the application’s page-limited Written Response.  
•    In the 6/28/2022 competition Q&A about Letters of Support, the term “letters of support” is intended to refer to letters from, for example, state-agency officials or members of Congress, that US DOT typically receives during competitions and that express support for a certain applicant.  In past competitions, these letters are not included in the application but instead have been submitted by mail, which means they do not use space within the page-limited Written Response.

US Dept. of Education Eligibility Letter Does Not Document Minority Institution for UTC Competition  (7/19/2022)

Question:  Does our university meet the definition of minority institute per our Title III and Title V eligibility letter from the US Department of Education?
Answer:  Based only on that letter, it does not.  As stated in the Notice of Funding Opportunity, the UTC Program is required to use the enrollment-based definition discussed on page 30 as the sole determinant of whether an institution is a minority institution for the purposes of this UTC Program competition, and for any such institution you are required to submit enrollment data in your application that shows the institution meets that enrollment-based definition.  A letter from the US Department of Education stating your institution’s eligibility to apply for certain Higher Education Act or Higher Education Opportunity Act programs does not provide that enrollment information, so you should not rely on it to serve as the necessary documentation in your application.

Transportation Pooled Fund Projects with UTCs  (7/19/2022)

Question:  Could a group of state DOTs provide matching funds to a UTC by means of a five-year Transportation Pooled Fund (TPF) project?  All the funding would be SPR, and the TPF would be state-led.  
Answer:  There are two aspects of this question that will be addressed separately:
1.  Under UTC Program requirements, any such project would need to:  
     a)    fit within the research priority area identified in the UTC’s grant application; 
     b)    be consistent with the scope of proposed research topics and the aligned US DOT Strategic Goals identified in the application; 
     c)    contribute toward supporting education/workforce and technology transfer/commercialization as well as research; and 
     d)    be peer reviewed either as part of the TPF project’s own review or separately by the UTC.
2.  Under TPF requirements:
     a)    When funds are transferred in a TPF, the full obligation authority is transferred with it, and it becomes part of the lead agency’s Federal-funded program.
     b)    The lead agency can contract with the UTC to conduct the study. 
     c)    The topic of the TPF study must be eligible to use State Planning and Research (SPR) funds.
     d)    If led by a State DOT, the TPF study must be part of the lead state’s annual work plan.
     e)    The study research will be managed and approved by the TPF study’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). 
     f)    The UTC should apply some portion of its funds to the study (amount subject to negotiation between the UTC and the lead state for the TPF project).
     g)    If the above is satisfied, the lead state may apply its TPF/SPR funds to the study as the required non-Federal match.

Excess Matching Funds  (7/15/2022)

Question:  Can the cost share exceed the 50% stated in the NOFO for a Tier 1 UTC?
Answer:  An applicant may propose to provide matching funds in excess of the 50% amount required for Tier 1s under the UTC Program’s authorizing statute.  However, under Federal grant regulations 2 CFR 200.306, voluntary excess match is not expected on Federal research proposals and may not be used as a factor during merit review of applications unless specifically stated in the Federal agency’s NOFO, which it was not in the current UTC Program NOFO.

Funding/Level of Effort To Be Reflected  (7/15/2022)

Question:  I am not clear on how much funding my application should reflect.  One year, or six years, or something else?
Answer:  There are two aspects of this question that need to be addressed separately:
•    The budget you submit in your application should be for only the first year of the grant, so for a Tier 1 UTC $2.0M plus the required $1.0M match, and reflecting the dates shown on Attachment A.  UTC grants are awarded as a single agreement with new funding added each year as a modification to the grant, plus an additional unfunded close-out year is provided, so there is a single termination date for all funds expected to be awarded under the grant.  US DOT expects that grantees will do a reasonable amount of work in each year of the grant, but the single termination date allows funds that may not have been fully expended in the year for which they are awarded to be used during the rest of the grant.
•    The narrative sections of your application should address the work you expect to do in the first year of the grant and during the following years of the grant in order that reviewers can see and evaluate your application on what you intend to accomplish during the life cycle of the grant.  Although the budget needs to reflect only the first year of funding, the narrative should more broadly reflect the work you intend to conduct and the accomplishments you hope to achieve over the life of the grant.

States Providing Matching Funds  (7/15/2022)

Question:  Are state Departments of Transportation, or other state agencies, required to participate in the UTC Program?  Are state agencies required to provide matching funds to UTCs?
Answer:  No, state DOTs and other state agencies are not required to participate as partners with universities in the UTC Program.  There is nothing in the UTC Program’s authorizing statute or in the Notice of Funding Opportunity requiring state agency participation in the UTC Program.  Proposals will not be disqualified, nor receive a lower reviewer rating, for not identifying state agency participation in the proposed UTC.
     Further, Federal law and policy does not require state agencies to provide matching funds to UTCs; we recognize that some state DOTs have policies providing matching funds to in-state UTCs.  Should states choose to provide matching or project funding to a UTC, any funding originating from state sources, whether from the state DOT or another interested state agency, is eligible as matching funds.  Funding originating from Federal sources (e.g., Federal-Aid Highway or transit funding) is not eligible for use as matching funds, with the exception of the two Federal programs mentioned in the Notice of Funding Opportunity and stated in the authorizing statute as being allowable as match on UTC grants.  The existence of this exception does not create a requirement or obligation for state DOTs to provide matching funds to UTCs.

Parts of SP&R as Match  (7/13/2022)

Question:  Section C.2 Cost Sharing or Matching Funds of the Notice of Funding Opportunity states that 23 U.S.C. § 505 State Planning and Research funds are eligible as match.  Does that include SP&R Part II funds? 
Answer:  Yes, both Parts I and II of SP&R are eligible as match on UTC Program grants.

Time Period for Reporting Graduate Assistantships  (7/12/2022)

Question:  The first bullet under the Education and workforce Development criterion on page 25 of the NOFO asks for “the number of graduate assistantships in each consortium program.”  Should the data be for a certain time period?  Also, graduate assistantships at our university are supported by either university funding or external grants; should both be included? 
Answer:  We suggest using the same “during the past five years” period stated for degrees conferred in the earlier part of that bulleted item on page 25 of the NOFO if that data is available; if it is not available, then as the statement does not separately state a time period for assistantships, whatever time period you are able to report will be acceptable.  The language does not make a distinction among possible types of funding support for assistantships, so you should report the total number of assistantships for which you have data, in this case including both types that you mention.

Choosing Between Multiple Meritorious Applications  (7/7/2022)

Question:  We understand that an institution may submit multiple applications but can only be awarded one.  If a single institution has two applications that are rated highly by reviewers, how is the decision made about which application gets selected – does the applicant institution get to choose? 
Answer:  As stated on page 15 of the Notice of Funding Opportunity:  “An institution applying for more than one grant may not submit preferences as to which grant it would prefer to receive; the US DOT will make the selections.”  On page 35 of the NOFO, there is discussion of the balanced portfolio across all selected Centers that US DOT strives to achieve through the competition:
     “The US DOT seeks to select a balanced portfolio across all selected Centers that as a group support the seven statutory research priority areas, include different types and/or sizes of universities including whether the lead or any consortium member is a minority institution (see Section D. above), provide geographic diversity, and are collectively multimodal in focus.”
     This means that, in the scenario you describe where more than one application from a single institution is being considered for selection, the decision of which of those applications, if any, to fund will be made as part of the program-wide array of selections so will be determined to a large degree by the characteristics of the collective set of highly recommended applications across all seven research priority areas.

Effect of 5% Technology Transfer Requirement on Matching Funds  (6/30/2022)

Question:  Does the 5% minimum requirement for tech transfer also apply to the match budget? 
Answer:  The NOFO states that 5% of the “total (Federal and non-Federal) budget” must be spent on technology transfer and commercialization.  This means, for example for a Tier 1 UTC with a total $3M budget, that 5% of that total budget amount, or $150,000, is what is required to be spent on those activities; that amount could come all from the Federal funds, or all from the matching funds, or from a combination of those two sources of funds.

SF-424 and SF-424B Only from Lead Institution  (6/30/2022)

Question:  Do we need the SF-424 and SF-424B for the non-lead collaborators as well?  Or simply the lead organization?
Answer:  Only for the lead/applicant institution of higher education. 

Federal Match Source Not Listed in NOFO  (6/30/2022)

Question:  Does CFDA 20.205 (Highway Planning and Construction) qualify as match? 
Answer:  No.  Only the two Federal programs mentioned in the Notice of Funding Opportunity are stated in the UTC Program’s authorizing statute as being allowable as match on UTC grants; without such statutory authority as exists for those two programs, other Federal funds may not be used as match on a Federal grant such as for a UTC.

Including Other Ethnic Subgroups in Minority Enrollment  (6/30/2022)

Question:  If my institution provides student data on a subgroup of the Asian ethnic group that is not among those listed as a minority but that we believe as a subgroup is underrepresented in STEM fields, can that data be used to support minority institution status?
Answer:  The UTC Program is not in a position, given the time and resources available, to review and make an official determination about certain subgroups within a broad ethnic group that itself is not included among the 20 U.S.C. §1067k statutory list of minorities.  For this reason, we cannot accept the kind of data you describe in your question as documentation of minority institution status.

More about Reporting Minority Enrollment  (6/30/2022)

Question:  Should universities consider undergrad and graduate school students when computing minority enrollment?  Should they be reported separately or in a combined total?  Should the overall university enrollment be reported, or should it be limited to just those departments pursuing the UTC?  
Answer:  The language in 20 U.S.C. § 1067k does not break down the enrollment requirement by undergraduate and graduate, so for that reason total enrollment of all students is what should be reported; reporting either separately or combined is acceptable, though combined is preferred.  Similarly, the language in 20 U.S.C. § 1067k uses the term institution, not departments, so the institution’s total enrollment is what should be reported.

Letters of Support  (6/28/2022)

Question:  Are letters of support to the Department from external parties and partners encouraged or discouraged?
Answer:   As with any discretionary grant competition, the Department is glad to receive letters of support on behalf of potential applicants.  However, applicants should be aware that:
     1.  The technical evaluation panels will not be made aware of letters of support when rating UTC proposals.  Reviewers will base their evaluations solely on the criteria identified in Section D. of the NOFO, “Response to Evaluation Criteria”.  (See also Section E.2.2., “Merit Review”).
     2.  Applicants should not include letters of support in the application.  If copies of such letters are included, they will count toward the application’s page limit.
     3.  If external parties wish to submit a letter of support for an applicant, please address them to the Selection Official, Secretary Pete Buttigieg, at:
         Secretary Pete Buttigieg
         Attn: UTC Competition
         U.S. Department of Transportation
         1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
         Washington, DC  20590
         United States

Minority Enrollment Documentation  (UPDATED 6/27/2022 from 6/22/2022)

Question: (6/22/2022):  Some of the partners in our consortium report student enrollments in ways that include “two or more races.”  For purposes of establishing whether 50% or more of student enrollment is in the minority categories, how do we allocate a “two or more races” category? Also, we are interpreting the requirement to be 50% or more of the entire institution’s student enrollment – is that correct?
Additional Question: (6/27/2022):  Another university uses a “multiracial” category that does not specify certain races/ethnicities but simply allows for a student to identify with more than one category.
Updated Answer: (6/27/2022):  The use of multiracial categories by universities without identifying specific races/ethnicities is not something the UTC Program was aware of when writing the NOFO.  Because there is a high likelihood that a student in a multiracial category would satisfy at least one of the 20 U.S.C. §1067k statutory list of minorities, the UTC Program will allow applicants to include as a minority category such a multiracial category that does not specify the races/ethnicities included within it.

Separate Institutions Within a University System  (6/22/2022)

Question:  Our university system has several campuses, each with its own DUNs number and other unique entity identifiers.  Are the different campuses considered to be multiple institutions or just one?
Answer:  When a university system has established separate DUNS/UEI numbers for its different campuses as is the case here, then we consider the campuses to be separate institutions.  

Letters of Intent for Consortium Institutions  (6/22/2022)

Question:  Is it necessary for the lead University to identify its partner consortium universities before submitting the Letter of Intent?  Does each consortium university submit a separate Letter of Intent or just one joint Letter for the entire consortium?
Answer:  The NOFO does not ask that consortium members be named in the Letter of Intent, though you may do so if you wish.  For each application you intend to submit, only one Letter of Intent, submitted by the institution that will be the lead, is needed.

Community College as Lead of Consortium  (6/22/2022)

Question:  I see clearly in the NOFO that community colleges meeting the requirements of 20 U.S.C. § 1001(a) are eligible applicants, but I wanted to please confirm that community colleges are eligible to be the lead applicants. 
Answer:  That is correct.

Peer Review of Projects Discussed in Application  (6/17/2022)

Question:  If individual research projects are included in the proposal as noted on page 20 of the NOFO, does US DOT assume that they have been peer reviewed before their inclusion?  Or is the assumption that if the UTC is selected for funding that the UTC would conduct the peer review process then (knowing that every project stated in the proposal may then not actually be implemented)?  Or if the UTC lists projects in the proposal (and not peer reviewed beforehand), can they assume the grant proposal review process is the peer review process, and all the projects listed should be automatically funded?
 Answer:  The paragraph [“The 35-page limit…intended outcomes and desired impacts."] on page 20 of the NOFO was included because in past competitions some applicants included information about specific projects in such a high level of detail that it seemed to us to result in other important sections of the application not being given sufficient attention within the page limit.  US DOT does not anticipate that applicants would have necessarily had time to solicit possible projects from potential researchers and to conduct peer review on those projects in the time allowed for writing applications under this NOFO.  If indeed peer review has not been done prior to submitting the application, then, if the application is selected for funding, the UTC would need to conduct peer review before projects are undertaken.  Selection by US DOT of an application containing information about proposed projects does not constitute peer review of those projects.

Indirect Costs in Technology-Transfer Costs   (6/10/2022)

Question:  For the technology transfer budget line, can you please confirm whether F&A (Indirect) Costs should be rolled into this T2 line item?  If F&A is rolled up, it captures the full cost associated with T2 but it creates an accounting discrepancy between the F&A budget line and the true calculated F&A rate on Total Direct Costs.  If F&A is kept separate, it will result in lower/underreporting of the total cost associated with T2 but the accounting would be more straightforward since Total Direct Costs won’t include any of the T2 F&A. 
Answer:  For audit purposes it is more important that all F&A be reported on its line, so please report all F&A (Indirect) costs on the F&A (Indirect) budget line including those that may be related to Technology Transfer.  If you wish, on the Budget Plan you may note in the Explanatory Notes blocks for the Technology Transfer and F&A lines that a stated amount of the F&A reported on the F&A (Indirect) budget line supports Technology Transfer (example below), and that will be included in assessing your compliance with the 5% requirement.

CATEGORY Amount From
Federal Share
Amount from Matching Funds Explanatory Notes
Technology Transfer $[Amount] $[Amount] See also additional amount noted below under F&A (Indirect) Costs
_______________  ___________________  ___________________  _____________________________________ 
F&A (Indirect) Costs  $[Amount]   $[Amount]   $[amount] of F&A is for Technology Transfer 

Enrollment of a Minority Not Listed   (6/10/2022)

Question:  The most recently available data on enrollment shows 52% of our institution’s total population is comprised of minority students. However, this figure includes Asian students, who are not on the list of minorities on page 30 of the NOFO. May we include our Asian students in the count of minority students? 
Answer:  USDOT must comply with the language of 20 U.S.C. § 1067k as cited in the NOFO.  “Asian” is not included in the groupings of individuals in 20 U.S.C. § 1067k(2) as being “underrepresented in science and engineering.”  Therefore, such students should not be counted for this purpose.

Minority Institution Designation    (6/8/2022)

Question:  My university was designated as an MI for the 2016 competition.  Does that carry over?
Answer:  No.  Identification of an institution as a minority institution for purposes of this competition is determined only if enrollment for the most recent semester/term at the institution of a single minority or a combination of minorities exceeds 50% of total enrollment, so any identification made earlier than that most recent semester/term has no bearing on this competition.

Items Other than SF424/SF424B in   (6/8/2022)

Question:  The file only shows the SF424 and SF424B; do I only submit the rest of the application in the required hard copies but not in
Answer:  No.  As stated on page 16 of the Notice of Funding Opportunity, the application consists of several items that must all be submitted through  Only the two items that use forms are shown under the “Package” tab of Opportunity UTCOPENCOMP2022, but the other items stated in the NOFO must also be part of your submission.

Collaboration with Commercial Entities   (6/3/2022)

Question:  It looks as though a for-profit organization (i.e., commercial) can form a collaborative relationship with the UTC. Does that mean that a for-profit organization can be a part of the UTC team on the proposal?
Answer:  Collaboration with the private sector is something we encourage in the interest of technology transfer and commercialization.  The distinction, however, is that only institutions of higher education can be members of the center’s consortium as that term is used in the NOFO, and only that consortium may benefit from the Federal grant funds (please see Section C.1 of the NOFO, especially the second full paragraph on page 13).  So, no, an outside organization could not be part of the consortium team.
     An outside organization could still be actively involved with a UTC in other ways.  Our expectation is that collaboration with outside parties would bring additional resources to the Center, sometimes in the form of matching funds and sometimes as a user of research results, and that Federal funds would not pass to an entity outside the consortium except to purchase a product or service necessary to the conduct of a grant activity. Universities also have restrictions on partnering with outside organizations with which any faculty member involved in the project has a conflict of interest.

Ideas Not Listed in Challenges (Non-Exclusive Candidate Topic Areas)   (6/2/2022)

Question:  A topic I wish to pursue in my application is not among those listed on pages 21-22.  May I pursue it, and if so which of the statutory research priorities should I use?
Answer:  As noted on page 20 of the NOFO, the listed topics are for consideration, but “US DOT is looking for, and encouraging applicants to propose, new breakthrough ideas. Innovations, and transformative research topics…”.  Not all possible topics were listed in the NOFO, purposefully because innovative, transformative thinking is encouraged throughout the document.  As for where/how within the NOFO guidelines to reflect your ideas, we are not able to advise you on how to structure your individual application – you should take the approach that you believe best equips you to discuss and defend how your topic aligns with one of the broadly stated statutory research priority areas and with the US DOT Strategic Goals and with the UTC Program’s mission.

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