NSF announces a bold new initiative to expand the nation’s innovation capacity
The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) newly established Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) has announced a bold new initiative to significantly expand the country’s innovation capacity by investing in key areas of national interest and economic promise in every region of the U.S.
As described in this “Dear Colleague” email, the the “NSF Regional Innovation Engines” program will fund the development of regional efforts, both sub-state and multi-state, that will cultivate and sustain activities in:
- Use-inspired research and development;
- Translation of the resulting innovations to practice through entrepreneurship, stakeholder development, and meaningful partnerships; and
- Workforce development at all levels including experiential learning leading to researchers, practitioners, technicians, innovators, entrepreneurs, and others.
“Each NSF Engine’s technical and innovation focus must be clearly rooted in its region of service – a geographical location within the U.S. that can range from a metropolitan area (including its adjacent rural regions) to an area spanning parts of several states,” NSF writes in the email. “Additionally, each NSF Engine will be driven by a coalition of regional partners, comprising academic institutions, non-profits, for-profit companies, and government entities, among others. Each coalition will develop and implement a comprehensive strategic plan designed to produce a culture of innovation and diversity within the entire innovation ecosystem and will be required to demonstrate this through its leadership team, funding distribution among partners, and its activities. An NSF Engine’s coalition of partners is expected to include a diversity of organizations and stakeholders that will enable the Engine to provide value to its entire region of service. For example, in the context of academic institutions, NSF Engines must engage the range of institution types in its region including those dedicated to communities under-served in STEM such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and Tribal Colleges and Universities, as well as two-year colleges, community colleges, vocational and technical colleges, and others. NSF recognizes the need for capacity building and technical assistance for certain organizations to fully engage and encourages proposals to incorporate such needs within their budgets and activities.”
The NSF Engines program provides up to 10 years of funding per Engine award with a maximum budget of $160 million, with the opportunity to receive up to two years of funding to support development activities prior to NSF Engine creation. The program solicits proposals corresponding to two award types. They are:
- Type-1, described as development awards that provide seed funding to enable awardees to lay the groundwork for establishing a new NSF Engine, with the goal of catalyzing an innovation ecosystem for a specific topic area. Type-1 awards are intended to allow teams to prepare for the submission of a successful Type-2 proposal. The duration of a Type-1 award is up to 24 months, with a maximum proposed budget of $1 million.
- Type-2 which are intended to support awardees representing a geographical region of service that are primed to stand up a regional innovation ecosystem. Type-2 awards provide funding for up to 10 years, with a total maximum budget of $160 million.
Those that are eligible to submit proposals in response to the NSF Engines program are: (1) U.S.-based non-profit, non-academic organizations; (2) U.S.-based for-profit organizations; and (3) institutions of higher education accredited in and having a campus located in the U.S. Prior to submission of proposals, teams are required to submit a Concept Outline, which is due June 30 for both proposal types. Approval of a Concept Outline from a cognizant NSF Program Officer is required to submit a full proposal. Other program deadlines are noted in the NSF Broad Agency Agreement.
NSF has also scheduled a two-hour webinar about the NSF Engines initiative. Registration details can be found here.