NSF News

NSF Convergence Accelerator awards bring together scientists, businesses, nonprofits to benefit workers

The National Science Foundation has issued the first awards through its Convergence Accelerator pilot, leveraging multidisciplinary research teams and laying the groundwork for public-private partnerships with Fortune 500 companies to apply Big Data to science and engineering and create technologies that can enhance the lives of American workers. A total of 43 new awards totaling $39 million will support projects across the country.

The NSF Convergence Accelerator pilot started with a singular vision: to identify areas of research where investment in convergent approaches -- those bringing together people from across disciplines to solve problems that have the potential to yield high-benefit results.

The Convergence Accelerator seeks to expand and refine NSF's efforts to support fundamental scientific exploration through partnerships that include, or will include, stakeholders from industry, government, nonprofits and other sectors.

"The Convergence Accelerator is a unique new experiment for NSF," said Douglas Maughan, NSF's Convergence Accelerator office head. "For decades, traditionally the private sector has not been able to justify investment in basic research due to a lack of obvious commercial applications. With the Convergence Accelerator, we're challenging that notion, engaging with partners who can use their experience to help us support research that can change and enhance American society.

The first set of Convergence Accelerator awards has been awarded to research teams that include partners from academia, industry, government and communities that will work to enable capabilities far beyond what is currently possible in either the private or public sectors. It will evaluate how employers can use sophisticated artificial intelligence tools to connect with the workers they need. And it will seek ways to develop the future U.S. workforce with the universities that will educate people and the companies that will employ them.

This focus -- bringing together researchers with many different specialties, and partners from across the spectrum of scientific innovation and application -- will create environments where innovation can thrive.

The Convergence Accelerator pilot supports two of NSF's Big Ideas: Harnessing the Data Revolution and Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier. The Convergence Accelerator awards are focused on three areas:

  • Open Knowledge Network - Knowledge networks pool together many types of information and ideas so that they can be accessed and leveraged to create new understanding. These networks have become important tools for many large organizations that are taking advantage of the current Big Data revolution. However, these vast information networks are often unavailable to many in government, academia, small businesses and nonprofits. The Convergence Accelerator's new awards will fund the creation of a nonproprietary infrastructure for building an Open Knowledge Network. Some of the teams supported by the new awards will build tools that will identify, harvest, and incorporate datasets for the network. Others will build elements of the open knowledge network that address specific challenges, such as manufacturing, urban infrastructure, geosciences, biomedicine and much more. Yet others will provide key aspects of the technical infrastructure needed to facilitate the creation and use of such networks.
  • AI and Future Jobs - Funded projects will work to find new ways to use artificial intelligence to connect workers with the jobs of the future. The new awards will address subjects such as predictive AI tools and the educational technologies needed for adult learning.
  • National Talent Ecosystem - These projects will work to develop innovative approaches that employers need to support workers seeking the skills required for 21st century work related to AI, data science, predictive analytics, and other technologies of the future.