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The NSF Introduces a Groundbreaking Directorate, Marking a Historic Leap Forward After 30 Years



**NSF Engines Program: Promoting Innovation and Collaboration Across Regions**

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has long been an influential organization in driving scientific research and innovation in the United States. Since its establishment in 1950, the NSF has played a vital role in funding groundbreaking studies in various fields such as physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, computer science, and social sciences. Through financial support to researchers, universities, and institutions, the NSF has fostered cutting-edge investigations and pushed the boundaries of knowledge.

One of the defining characteristics of the NSF is its commitment to interdisciplinary research and collaboration. The organization recognizes that innovative approaches to scientific challenges often require expertise from multiple fields and regions. In line with this, the NSF has recently launched the Regional Innovation Engines program, aimed at expanding opportunities for innovation across different regions and technology areas.

**The Regional Innovation Engines Program: Bringing Together Diverse Sectors for Innovation**

The Regional Innovation Engines program, officially authorized by Congress as part of the Chips and Science Act legislation, aims to bring together various sectors to harness the innovation potential that exists across the country. The program focuses on creating regional cohorts, comprised of communities, states, or multiple regions that share a common interest in a particular topic. By gathering diverse backgrounds and sectors, such as academia, industry, nonprofits, government organizations, and economic development entities, the program aims to foster collaboration and advance innovation.

An example of a regional cohort could be a group of communities with a shared interest in a technology-focused topic like artificial intelligence, advanced wireless, or advanced materials and manufacturing. These communities may also face a key societal or economic challenge related to that topic, such as food and agriculture production and security. Through the Engines program, the NSF aims to connect teams from diverse backgrounds and sectors that have historically operated in the same region but have been loosely connected.

The goal of the Engines program, as emphasized by the Director of the NSF, is to create opportunities for innovation everywhere in the country. By capitalizing on the talent and resources available in different regions, the program seeks to drive technological advancements and address societal and economic challenges.

**NSF Awards for Regional Innovation: Supporting Development and Full-Fledged Engines**

Alongside the Engines program, the NSF is offering two types of awards to support regional innovation. The first type is development awards, which provide smaller-scale investments, typically around a million dollars over a couple of years. These awards help emerging teams fine-tune their vision, develop their topic space of interest, identify service regions, and form partnerships. These development awards enable teams to establish a solid foundation for their future endeavors.

The second type of award is a “full-fledged engine,” which provides support of up to $160 million over a period of up to 10 years. These larger investments by the NSF and the federal government aim to facilitate new technological outputs and workforce capabilities. Additionally, the funds support talent training at all levels. The NSF’s commitment to long-term support for these engines reflects its confidence in their potential to drive significant innovation and progress.

**Promoting Collaboration and Transparency: The NSF Engines Concept Outline Explorer**

As part of the Engines program, the NSF has introduced the NSF’s Engines Concept Outline Explorer. This online and free application serves as a platform for interested parties to submit concept outlines and connect with potential collaborators. The concept outlines, typically three to five pages in length, provide information about the teams, the topic space, and the region of service. The NSF has made the bold move of making these concept outlines publicly available on a dashboard, fostering transparency and encouraging collaboration.

The Engines Concept Outline Explorer not only facilitates team-building and collaboration but also helps showcase the work being done by these teams and the outcomes they have achieved. Developed by Grace Yuan, a Data Analytics Officer within the new TIP Directorate at the NSF, the Explorer is a valuable tool for researchers, innovators, and organizations interested in participating in the Engines program.

**The Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships: A New Era at NSF**

In addition to the Engines program, the NSF has recently established its first new directorate in over 30 years – the Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP). The establishment of this directorate marks a generational opportunity for the NSF, the nation’s scientific enterprise, and the country as a whole. The vision for this directorate originated from the Endless Frontier Act, a piece of legislation advocated by Senator Schumer and Senator Young that emphasized the importance of technological advancements and partnerships.

The TIP directorate serves three primary purposes. Firstly, it addresses the competition faced by the United States in key technology areas worldwide. To remain competitive, the U.S. must invest in areas such as artificial intelligence, wireless technologies, and biotechnology. Secondly, the directorate focuses on addressing pressing societal and economic challenges by utilizing technology as a tool for mitigation and informed decision-making. Lastly, the TIP directorate aims to engage the diverse talent that exists throughout the country. By involving individuals who represent the demography of the user base, the directorate ensures inclusivity and maximizes the benefits of technological advancements for all.

In conclusion, the NSF’s commitment to promoting and funding scientific research and innovation is unparalleled. The Regional Innovation Engines program, along with the establishment of the TIP directorate, signifies a new era of collaboration, innovation, and technological progress. By investing in diverse teams and connecting experts from various fields and regions, the NSF aims to drive innovation that addresses critical challenges and benefits society as a whole. The Engines program and the TIP directorate represent a transformative step towards fulfilling the NSF’s mission of advancing scientific knowledge and fostering progress for the nation.



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