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April 28, 2024 | Tom Ballard

There’s a lot of interest in the “NSF Regional Innovation Engines” next solicitation

How many Type-2 proposals will be funded is unclear and will be based on federal appropriations.

Think there was great interest in a webinar that the National Science Foundation (NSF) hosted Thursday afternoon?

Well, a good indication was the fact that more than 800 people were online when the roughly 75-minute event started. Why all of the interest? Big money, like up to $160 million over 10 years in a program designed to transform the nation’s innovation and spread it to regions that are not considered at the top of the heap in terms of technology hotspots.

As previously reported in, the topic was the next round of solicitations for the “NSF Regional Innovation Engines” program that, in the words of Erwin Gianchandani, NSF’s Assistant Director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, is designed to “enable every corner of the country to participate in the innovation economy. This is about possibilities . . . and benefits.”

The federal agency had previously announced that, unlike 2023 when NSF awarded 10 Type-2 Engines awards and 44 Type-1 Engines Development awards of $1 million each, this solicitation would be limited to just Type-2 proposals. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville received funding to lead one of the Type-1 efforts – TEAM TN which is focused on advanced tech-enabled mobility – and is part of two other Type-1 initiatives, one led by the University of Kentucky and the other is led by the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, AL.

Gianchandani also told attendees that the number of projects actually funded would depend on the federal budget outlook for NSF. He added that NSF is looking for a “coalition of the willing” in a region, a point that was later underscored by another speaker who talked about a viable, vibrant coalition.

Our takeaways were as follows:

  • NSF is planning a series of follow-up sessions. One is a roadshow from 2 to 4 p.m. May 16 for attendees from Tennessee and 10 other states. To register, click here.
  • There are three key dates or stages. Letters of intent that state an intention to submit a proposal are due June 16. From then on, it is a matter of NSF deciding if a region can go forward. The first gatekeeper would involve being invited to submit a preliminary proposal by August 6. From there, NSF would again evaluate preliminary proposals and invite organizations to submit full proposals by February 11, 2025.
  • Finally, we thought this graphic about the drivers of ecosystem change was notable.

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