The NSF Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines, program was authorized in the "CHIPS and Science Act of 2022" (Section 10388).
The Administration and Congress recognized the value of advancing transdisciplinary, collaborative, use-inspired and translation research and technology development in key technology focus areas.
What are the goals of the NSF Engines program?
Boost innovation capacity
Increase the level of commercial investment in research and development (R&D) activities across distinct geographic regions, particularly regions that have not fully participated in the technology boom of the past few decades.
Develop global leaders in use-inspired research in topic areas of national importance.
Embed a culture of innovation and inclusion within participating organizations.
Create sustainable innovation ecosystems
Form trusted partnership networks across industry, academia, government, nonprofits, civil society, and communities of practice to foster scientific innovation.
Transition technological and educational innovations to address national and societal challenges.
Implement pathways for sustained growth of regional innovation ecosystems.
Demonstrate inclusive economic growth
Harness the nation’s geography of innovation by engaging all those interested in science and engineering research and innovation, regardless of their backgrounds, organizational affiliations, or geographic locations.
Deliver economic and societal impacts informed by regional stakeholder needs.
Train and educate diverse technicians, researchers, practitioners and entrepreneurs based on regional workforce needs.
Create thriving companies focused on emerging technologies.
Why are NSF Engines important and how are they different?
The NSF Engines program embeds a culture of innovation and forms coalitions of diverse sectors and organizational types such as small businesses, two-year colleges, and minority-serving institutions. The program is unique in its approach to
speed and scale innovation and translation in emerging and critical technologies;
address societal and economic challenges;
engage a diverse workforce;
drive economic growth in regions that have not fully participated in the technology boom of the past few decades; and
build a new model for driving breakthrough, cross-sector research.
What is a “region of service”?
The NSF Engines program emphasizes the notion of stimulating innovation-driven economic growth within a well-defined “region of service,” defined broadly as a metropolitan area (including its adjacent rural regions) to an area spanning parts of several states.
The NSF Engines program funding prioritizes U.S. geographic regions that do not have well-established innovation ecosystems. NSF Engines in regions where prospective ecosystem members exist and innovation activities are loosely connected are of particular interest.
While participating organizations in an NSF Engine should mostly consist of organizations within the region of service, the NSF Engine can also bring in partners outside the geographical area. All partners must be aligned with the goals of the NSF Engine, and their roles in the economic development of the region of service must be justified. It is expected that NSF Engines will leverage appropriate partnerships across the country to achieve their goals in a way that complements other ongoing efforts by NSF and other federal agencies; state, local, and tribal governments and private sector organizations. Further, mentoring from experienced organizations is strongly encouraged; organizations operating in existing, mature innovation ecosystems are welcome to join with proposers supporting other regions of service to provide this support.
I missed this first round of applications, but I’m interested in future opportunities. Will there be another chance for my region to apply?
The NSF Engines funding opportunity is currently closed. The NSF Engines program anticipates making NSF Engines Developmental Awards, or Type-1 awards, in Spring 2023 and Type-2 awards in Fall 2023.
NSF anticipates future calls for proposals, pending availability of funds. To stay in the loop about future funding calls and opportunities to engage, sign up for our newsletter.
Type-1 vs. Type-2
Type-1 Awards or NSF Engines Development Awards
Up to $1 Million and Up to Two Years
Type-1 awards enable awardees to lay the groundwork for establishing a new NSF Engine in their region for a given topic area.
The Type-1 award begins and ends in the Development Phase, where the NSF Engine develops its structure and scope and begins to establish partnerships.
At the end of the Type-1 award period, awardees are expected to be well-prepared to set up an NSF Engine in the Nascent phase.
Type-2 Awards or NSF Engines Awards
Up to $160 Million and Up to 10 Years
Type-2 awards fund NSF Engines across three distinct phases – the Nascent, Emergent and Growth Phases.
Throughout the three phases, the NSF Engine:
Creates firm partner and stakeholder commitments;
Seeks continuing growth of its innovation ecosystem through expansion of scientific, technical, education, and workforce development; and
Helps its regional innovation ecosystem emerge as a national leader in its topic area during the Growth Phase.
Collectively, the Engines have three core functions
Use-inspired research and development
Translation of innovation results to society
Workforce development to grow and sustain regional innovation
Innovation ecosystem life cycle
There are multiple innovation ecosystem models that outline the development process to maturity. The graphic below illustrates the growth of an innovation ecosystem within the NSF Engines program using a five-phase model.
Development Phase – Initial scope is defined, and strategic plans are developed.
Nascent Phase – Organization and partnerships are solidified, and innovation activities ramp up.
Emergent Phase – Technological products and services and workforce capabilities are scaled, and the innovation ecosystem starts to attract sizeable external funding towards promoting innovation-based economic activity.
Growth Phase – Innovation ecosystem grows as a national leader—attracting increasing levels of economic activity and business creation—with underlying support from state, local, and federal governments.
Mature Phase – Innovation ecosystem is well established and can sustain itself without NSF funding.