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May 2018 – Technology Project Call

We are pleased to announce our second Technology Project Call. Please note: You must be an ARM member to submit a proposal for this project call. To learn more about membership, click here.

To best protect and pursue our interests at home and abroad, the United States relies on a robust and innovative domestic manufacturing sector. Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM), a national, public-private partnership among leaders in industry, academia, and nonprofits, was established to develop, demonstrate and accelerate the early adoption of novel robotic solutions by funding technology and workforce training projects and by creating an ecosystem that advances robotics technology and education. Increased productivity gained by collaborative robotic automation will help create new jobs to build, manage, and maintain the robots, promote on-shoring by manufacturers, and replace dangerous jobs with safer jobs.

A successful plan to both energize and galvanize manufacturing ultimately comes down to identifying the key technologies that are both focused and have broad impact. The question becomes: which technologies to pursue? This raises the classic push-pull problem. On one hand, technologists have often developed technology for technology’s sake, without any regard for an application. Some may believe that this may lead to unintended uses and therefore new markets. Such a course may also lead to useless, and perhaps wasted or inefficient investment. On the other hand, using existing manufacturing needs to exclusively drive technology development will likely support a short-term need, but could limit creativity and therefore prevent high impact innovation from emerging. Our philosophy is to institute a hybrid policy where we identify technological thrust areas, identify manufacturing objectives and needs, break them down into component functions, and eventually map these components back to the technical thrust areas. The idea is that technological development occurs in a scaffold of manufacturing needs, with the hope of addressing a short-term need as well as open the possibility for a high impact unforeseen future gain. To actualize this strategy, the ARM periodically releases project calls that solicit solutions in the form of funded projects. Execution of these projects help explore and bridge between the push of technology and the pull of industry need.


ARM will post a Technology Project Call on May 15, 2017 in the ARM Member Community and on the public website.

The proposal submission process is a two-step process with the following tentative schedule:

Step 1: Concept Paper Submission: 5:00 PM Eastern Time, Jun 20, 2018
Step 2: Full Proposal Submission (by invitation only): 5:00 PM Eastern Time, Aug 29, 2018

Questions regarding this pre-solicitation notice and the actual solicitation should be emailed to [email protected]. Note that only members can participate in projects.


Proposed projects must develop within a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 4-7 and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) 4-7. Each project has a minimum of 1:1 cost sharing with deference to those with higher cost share. Projects must be industry-led and address an industry need. Projects must develop or integrate innovation. A typical award would have a budget of $500,000 in federal funding over 12 months (with 1:1 cost sharing, this means a $1,000,000 total budget). Projects of $750K will be considered at 18 months with good justification. In addition, smaller project sizes and durations will be seriously considered. Please note that the topics described below are very broad and offerors should submit a proposal focusing on specific technology areas and gaps. We do not expect projects to comprehensively solve an entire topic area, address all technology thrust areas or solve all the manufacturing objectives. Successful proposals will clearly identify project deliverables and the benefit to other ARM Institute members.

The following is an overview of the list of the eight topics to be released in the Technology Project Call on May 15, 2018. These include the same seven topics from the primary data call released in November of last year together with one new topic focused on software.

Topic 1: Identifying and Packing Objects
Focus: Develop mechanisms, algorithms and systems to organize parts for highly time-efficient use and transport.

Manufacturing and logistics workers spend significant time locating items (i.e., parts, tools, products to be shipped for a specified task) and then gathering, and organizing them into the necessary receptacles (e.g., carts, bins, boxes). This is typically done to ready those items for transport – either within the shop or to an external customer. The purpose of this topic is to develop a collaborative robot capable of assisting workers with these activities.

Topic 2: Unloading and unpacking objects
Focus: Automate the currently low-value, but necessary, time-consuming task of unloading items received and transferring to a desired location.

The act of unloading and unpacking is a major use of time for manufacturing and logistics workers. Parts, components and tools are typically made in different locations – often by suppliers. These items arrive at factories and distribution centers on trucks or in large container boxes, which must be unloaded and correctly triaged to the appropriate sections of a factory or warehouse. The goal of this topic is to develop a robotic solution that can enable workers to be more productive while executing this task.

Topic 3: Transport and Delivery through a Complex, Crowded Floor
Focus: Develop systems capability of transporting objects through cluttered spaces, both safely and efficiently, using low-cost technologies.

Manufacturing and logistics workers spend a substantial amount of time transporting items such as tools, materials, and pallets around factories, warehouses and distribution centers. This may be done either on foot (e.g., pushing a dolly) or using a vehicle (e.g., driving a forklift). The goal of this topic is to automate these transportation and delivery related activities, freeing up workers’ time to focus on higher value-added tasks.

Topic 4: Inspection of Non-standard Materials
Focus: Provide tools that assist or automate the inspection of soft, malleable, non-rigid objects to lower cost and improve product quality.

Human inspectors are highly efficient at recognizing minor imperfections and/or pattern variations, even when conditions are not standardized. As such, human inspection remains the industry practice for non-standard materials (e.g., fabrics, composites). The goal of this topic is to design a robotic inspection system for non-standard materials that augments and increases the efficiency of a human inspector.

Topic 5: Tracking and Traceability of Components
Focus: Using robotics and vision systems, reduce the cost to automate the tracking of components in inventory and in the supply chain.

Developing and maintaining a clear view of the supply chain and inventory is a business mandate in all sectors of manufacturing and logistics. Additionally, in sectors such as aircraft and automotive manufacturing, traceability of individual parts can also be a legal requirement with laws dictating that manufacturers must maintain precise records detailing parts and components that go into each finished product. Currently, substantial human time and effort is spent on the ongoing collection of these data. Available technology aimed at streamlining the process is either costly (e.g., RFID) or does not entirely eliminate the human element (e.g., bar codes, direct part marking). The goal of this topic is to design a robotic vision system that reduces the time and effort American workers spend on this activity, enabling companies to develop a clearer view of their supply chain with reduced employee effort.

Topic 6: Surface Treatments
Focus: Advance robotics to significantly reduce the systems cost of manual surface treatment processes such as sanding and polishing of components.

The current manual nature of many surface treatment processes in manufacturing operations results in ergonomic issues due to repetitive motion; health concerns stemming from dust or chemical exposure; high levels of scrap, rework and repair because of inconsistencies in surface preparation; and significant variability in cycle time due to differences in the human element. The aim of this topic is to develop a collaborative surface treatment robot to assist the worker by eliminating some of these drawbacks while enhancing consistency and increasing efficiency in one or more of these manufacturing processes. Projects addressing this topic should focus on a specific surface treatment application and end in a demonstration, however the developed technology should be easily reconfigurable to perform other surface treatment processes.

Topic 7: Manipulating Compliant Materials
Focus: Advance robotics to meet product quality and demand for compliant components to address shortages of skilled labor and increasingly high labor demands.

Fabrication of parts consisting of a composite, textile or wire is a key process to realize components in many transportation applications like automobiles and airplanes as well as many defense applications such as body armors, ground vehicles and UAVs. Currently, composite, textile and wire harness fabrication in these applications require a significant degree of manual labor. The availability of skilled workers often imposes constraints on the consistency of part quality and on production lead-time. In addition, the ever-increasing size of composite components places additional demands on workers and on the quality of the product.

New Topic Area
In addition to the same topics identified in the primary call, this supplemental call introduces a new topic centered on software enablers. Projects in this area are primarily focused on software tools, packages, processes, architectures, simulation and visualization environments that develop and enhance the foundations of a health robotic ecosystem and enable development across a wide set of manufacturing functional areas.

Topic 8: Software Interoperability
Focus: Enable interoperability among a variety of different robotic software frameworks and hardware interfaces.

Interoperability has the benefit of reducing costs while advancing functionality and improving performance. Interoperability is not limited to common protocols, but rather captures high level interfaces that enable “plug and play” capabilities across hardware and software. This project seeks to obtain interoperability by demonstrating key quality attributes such as: modularity, granularity, and reuse. Example demonstrations of these attributes include, but are not limited to, demonstration on varied hardware/software platforms, ease and efficiency of development and deployment under different use cases, and software analysis metrics for complexity and structure.

Questions and More Information

Members should submit any project questions into the ARM Member Community. Non-members with questions are welcome to email [email protected].

Project Call FAQ

  • If one of the members listed in our proposal is unable to become a member by the full proposal submission deadline, is the project disqualified or executed on a smaller scale?

ARM will recognize the integrity and validity of proposer team arrangements provided that the lead proposer (PI) on the project proposal submission is a current Platinum, Gold, Silver or University/Non-Profit Core ARM member. Other organizations participating as project team members on the project proposal submission must be current ARM members by the Step 2: full proposal submission deadline (August 29, 2018). If the other participants cannot become members by that date, the PI should find a suitable replacement and inform ARM of this replacement prior to August 29.

  • Do I need to have my full proposal team finalized by the concept paper submission date?

No, you may make changes to your proposal team between the time of the concept paper submission and full proposal submission. Note however, that if the evaluators invited a full proposal partially on the strength of the team offered in the concept paper, a different team in the full proposal may not be scored as highly.

  • What category does a small business fall under or can they not submit a proposal?

An organization must be at one of these membership levels to be the LEAD (PI) on a proposal – Platinum, Gold, Silver or University/Non-Profit Core ARM member. Please see the Project Call Document, found on the ARM Member Community or the Project section of the ARM website ( for more information. It is important for lower tier members to know they may, and are expected to, team with upper tier members. Members should log into the ARM Community and use the Members tab to search our directory. Also on this page, you can download a list of Stakeholder contacts for each member organization. Please note that this information is confidential and should not be shared with non-members.

  • Can quick start project teams propose on this project call?

Yes, our quick start project teams are welcome to submit proposals for our current project calls.

  • I submitted a proposal for the last round that was not accepted. Since you are using primarily the same topic areas for this proposal round, can I submit my proposal again?

You are welcome to submit again, taking the opportunity to improve your proposal to increase the likelihood that it will be consider.

  • Is there a template for the concept paper?

There is no downloadable template for the concept paper, but there are guidelines regarding formatting and page limits detailed in our project call document. There is, however, a template for your budget worksheet, which can be downloaded on the ARM Member Community.

  • Is there a page limit or size for the initial proposals?

Yes. The Technical concept papers must include 1 page for the Cover Page, a maximum of 7 pages for the Technical Volume, and 1 page for the Cost and Cost Share Estimate, for a total maximum count of 9 pages.

  • Who will be reviewing/scoring the concept papers?

Concept papers determined eligible and complete will proceed for a full evaluation by evaluators who are subject matter experts and independent of all teams submitting concept papers.

  • When will the invitation for full proposal be issued?

The expected date for selection notifications is July 18, 2018.

  • The project call required proposal team must contain at least one industry organization. Is this industry organization also required to be an ARM member?


  • How can the federal money be spent? (i.e., program administration, equipment and supplies?)

The federal money must be spent on tasks aligned to execution of the proposed project and must be spent according to the guidelines prescribed by the federal government.

For-Profit Members are to comply with the cost principles in 48 CFR Parts 31 and 231 as defined here –

Institutes of Higher Education or Nonprofit Members are to comply with the cost principles in

Subpart E of 2 CFR Part 200 as defined here –

  • What metrics are you looking for in a successful project?

Appropriate metrics depend on the details of the statement of work and deliverables for each proposed project. We provide some suggestions in each of the project calls, but the proposer team should prescribe their metrics, justify them, and show how one is working toward them.

  • If an ARM member has a unique tech partner or is aware of one, must they be a member to participate if the member manages and funds their activity in the project call?

Yes, they must be an ARM member by the full proposal date.

  • Once we submit the concept paper, is it possible to add other industry partners for the full proposals? Or are we bound to only have the partners mentioned in the concept papers?

Yes, you may make changes to your proposal team between the time of the concept paper submission and full proposal submission. Note however, that if the evaluators invited a full proposal partially on the strength of the team offered in the concept paper, a different team in the full proposal may not be scored as highly.

  • Do I need to use the supplied budget template for the concept paper submission?

Best estimates of your budget are to be entered into the Excel budget spreadsheet and submitted as part of your concept paper package. If your organization requires financial office sign-off on entries in the template (such as indirect costs), and such sign-offs cannot be obtained within the timeframe of the June 20, 2018, deadline, then submit the estimated costs in an alternative form with sufficient category detail for cost review.

  • Can travel be included in the budget?

As indicated in the supplied cost template spreadsheet, travel costs required for the project must be included in the budget. Travel to ARM project review meetings, estimated at twice per year, should be budgeted. This travel may be included in the budget as cost share.

  • Is a third-party integrator permitted in the proposal as a service provider?

If the third party is truly providing a service (or supplying a product or a part), then they do not have to be a member. However, if they are collaborating with the team in any way to respond to the proposal, then they must be a member. Additionally, any IP that is created under the project by the third party must come under the ownership of the project team and therefore available to ARM members according to the Membership Policies.

  • Where can I find a list of ARM Institute members that I can team with for my project call proposal?

ARM members can find other members by logging into the ARM Member Community and clicking on the Members tab. There is also a PDF of ARM Member Stakeholder contacts available for download on the Members page in the ARM Community. Please note that this information is confidential and should not be shared with non-members.

  • How do ARM start-up members connect/apply to be involved in projects?

Start-up members can participate in projects by building a team with a lead proposer (PI) who is at one of the following membership levels – Platinum, Gold, Silver or University/Non-Profit Core ARM member. Please log into the ARM Member Community to access our directory and a list of members.

  • Can government national labs and FFRDCs be included as team members on a proposed project?

Proposed relationships or interactions with federal government entities can be included in a concept paper or full proposal. However, no budget for these entities should be included in the ARM funding, and federal funds cannot count toward cost share. Any approved projected costs for government national labs or FFRDCs would most likely be funded separately through the government under a CRADA or similar instrument.

  • What is the anticipated number of awards per topic?

The number of project awards and federal funding amount allocated to this Project Call will be determined based on the quality and quantity of proposals received. It is not pre-determined per topic. ARM reserves the right to select all, some, one, or none of the submitted full proposals for award negotiations.

  • What is the total funding available for the proposals?

ARM may award up to $10M to fund multiple projects for the Technical Project Call. The exact amount will be based upon the quantity and quality of proposals.

  • Can money from the state or another grant be counted towards our cost matching?

Yes, and please include these expected amounts and sources in your concept paper as it will aid in the determination of awardees. Federal grants and other federal awards are not allowable as cost match; however; such awards may be listed as leverage in the proposal.

  • Will you award funding for each of the project call topics?

Not necessarily, as it depends upon the quality of the proposals. ARM reserves the right to select all, some, one or none of the submitted full proposals for award negotiations. It is not based on a predetermined number per topic, but on the quality and quantity of proposals received.

  • Are there any limitations about how many topics we can submit for concept papers for same group?

There is no limitation on any organization; you can submit as many concept papers as you wish.

  • How will these technical project calls be industry focused such that industry can implement in their factories quickly and efficiently?

The topic areas for this project call represent the top priorities from ARM’s technology roadmapping process, which integrates the input of members with a strategic view on the future of manufacturing. As noted in the Project Call, the most attractive submissions will frame the project with appropriate constraints, so that the project meets the requirement of TRL/MRL 4-7. The requirement of TRL/MRL 4-7 helps ensure project outcomes can then be implemented by manufacturers quickly and efficiently.

As part of this framing of TRL/MRL 4-7, proposers should strive to explain in their concept papers how their proposed project is industry focused such that industry can implement technology arising from the project in their factories quickly and efficiently. (TRL/MRL 4-7 spans the developmental phases from the capability component validation or producing the technology in a laboratory environment through system prototype demonstration or producing systems, subsystems, or components in a production representative environment.)

  • Where does fluid power fit in the ARM technology roadmap and project calls?

Fluid power will fit under the mechanism design technology thrust area. In our initial roadmapping process that occurred over the course of 2017, we did not hear a high demand for the need for fluid power. However, the roadmapping process is constantly evolving with member input.

  • What is the state of the art for Technology Topic 3 – navigating a crowded workspace? There seems to be commercial solutions that meet this project call. What is different with the commercial products from the outcome desired for this topic?

Our focus in this project is the development or advancement of solutions that work well in the presence of people walking around. Commercial solutions tend to isolate people from the robots.

  • Will a proposal be given preference if it has a higher cost share ratio?

Cost and cost share are not scored but will be considered as part of the overall value proposition of the proposal. The higher the cost share ratio, the higher the overall value proposition of the proposal.

  • Do cost matching funds need to be unique? That is, can you count the same dollars as cost share for membership and for a project?

Yes, the cost share for a project can cover the cost share required by the membership. For example, if your organization was given a $500K project award, the minimum cost share would be $500K. This could also be used to cover the required cost share for the membership level.

  • Are stipends during training an allowed cost?

They are allowable, but not recommended. Initial funding should help create the program. Ongoing expenses such as wages need to have their own funding stream to maintain a sustainable and potentially scalable project. Such stipends may be counted as cost share, if they follow the ARM cost share guidelines.

  • We would like to offer one of our manufacturing facilities as the testbed for an ARM project, which includes setting up the project there, performing the experiments, and the final demonstration. Does this contribution of providing the facility counts towards the cost share?

Use of facilities, including use of space, equipment and associated resources directly on the project can be counted as cost share, in accordance with the ARM cost share guidelines and that meet the requirements of 32 CFR §37.530. Likewise, facilities and administration costs that are embedded within the proposer’s indirect costs or fees can count towards cost share. If embedded F&A costs are counted as cost share, those costs then cannot be double-counted also as direct costs.

  • Can federal dollars be budgeted to purchase equipment?

Federal dollars for projects through ARM cannot be used to purchase equipment.

  • Do we need a commitment letter from the industry partners for the cost match at this stage? The RFP requires the letters for the proposal, but there is no mention for the concept papers.

Commitment letters from team partners are not required at the concept paper stage. However, the cost and cost share estimate should be based on a clear commitment from the team partners to be positioned for a full proposal.

  • If a member overshoots their total cost share commitment in a given year, would that overage be able to be used to defray the following year’s obligation?

Yes, you can roll your accrued cost share forward once your commitment is met in a given year if you do not double count the cost share.

  • What are the indirect cost percentages for ARM proposals? Do indirect costs apply to the ARM budget?

Yes, federally approved indirect costs apply to project budgets submitted to ARM. Indirect rates of the specific organization is doing the work apply, regardless of whether they are a lead or a subcontractor on the project team. You should contact your organization’s business manager to obtain the correct indirect rate. For some organizations, such as universities, the federally approved rates depend on the source of funding. Since the source of funding of ARM is through the U.S. Department of Defense, the appropriate indirect cost rate will be a federal DoD-funded project rate.

  • Will there be additional project calls throughout the year? Any information on when the next round can be expected?

We anticipate several calls per year and will inform members prior to these calls.

  • Are the proposal deadlines going to be similar for next year?

Yes, we expect next year’s proposal deadlines will be similar, but we have not yet announced the dates for the next project call.

  • Is there a way to formally request ARM Community logins for PIs who don’t currently have access? 
  • Yes, please email [email protected] with your request. 
  • Is there a role for the Regional Collaboratives (RCCs) in the project call process?

Absolutely! The Regional Collaboratives are encouraged to help share information about our project call process with interested teams in their regions, and help members form teams to respond to the project call. All the information needed to share our project call can be found at

  • How can an 18-month project cycle speed automation to industry implementation?

The 12 or 18-month project should be viewed as seed investment for work that will eventually be implemented in a commercial or defense setting. Project teams should have a technology transition path in mind to hone their goals.

By utilizing open-source software and open-source tools, how will ARM be able to keep the knowledge focused and centered around USA manufacturing and not world manufacturing?

Open source could help accelerate development of robotics manufacturing technology that will on the whole benefit U.S. manufacturing. However, the development of open source software is not a requirement. For example, software that is application-specific may be chosen to not be designated as open source. On the other hand, more general robotics operating system software, tools and algorithms may fit well as open source. A proposed project may include a blend of open source software and proprietary software.

  • Is a goal to produce research or papers from the grant, or is it most important to develop novel, replicable business practices that can be used by others?

Technology projects will perform TRL/MRL 4-7 research and development through a sub-award agreement, which is not a grant. The primary goal is not to produce papers; however, publications from the project may be one natural output as a consequence of success.

The primary goal of projects funded through the current Technology Project Call is to solve specific technology thrusts and gaps in a particular area that provide a benefit to ARM industry members through successful technology transition. One way to help meet that goal is to create replicable technology solutions that can be used by others.

  • We cannot do much in one year. What is the expectation in terms of the accomplishment level for technology projects?

One should do a “years’ worth” of work in one year, with a goal of meeting expectations for the deliverables that are of benefit to ARM members. Teams should neither over-promise nor under-promise deliverables, as realism of effort will be assessed. A funded team may apply in a following Project Call for an extension of the project scope, assuming the project topic being addressed persists as a priority for ARM members.

  • What does CDIP stand for?

CDIP stands for Consortium-Developed IP. See the question below for more information about CDIP.

  • Could you talk more about IP, especially software. What rights does a member company have to software created for a project call? What rights do other members have? Does a member company have to release source code to other members?

The IP rights are explained in detail in the ARM Membership Policies document that you received upon membership and whose terms are agreed to by all ARM member organizations. Please refer to Section 3. Consortium-Developed IP which includes source code developed within an ARM-funded project. For cases such as background IP involved in an ARM-funded project, then the sub-award may include an IP management plan, negotiated between the team and ARM.