Happy New Year from TIP!
On behalf of our colleagues in NSF’s Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, or TIP, we are excited to kick off 2024 with ambitious plans to further our mission of advancing the nation’s innovation ecosystem by accelerating key technologies, addressing pressing national, societal, and geostrategic challenges, and nurturing a diverse workforce. We want to take a few minutes to preview what's to come for TIP this year, and also to reflect upon the milestones that we achieved in the last year.
In the coming months, we look forward to announcing the first-ever NSF Regional Innovation Engines, which will constitute the single largest federal investment in place-based innovation and workforce development, creating opportunities for everyone, everywhere, and many awards for several tracks of the NSF Convergence Accelerator. TIP will also finalize and publish an investment roadmap for the directorate, laying out an approach to staging investments in key technologies and national, societal, and geostrategic challenges in the years ahead. We will continue to work toward new funding opportunities authorized in the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, like Test Beds and Translation Accelerators, subject to appropriations. We will publish new Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer funding opportunities to support startups with game-changing technologies. And we will grow partnerships with other NSF directorates/offices, federal departments/agencies, and private industry to accelerate technology development and translation as well as workforce development opportunities to all Americans.
As we embark on this new year, we also want to look back at what we were able to accomplish in 2023. The TIP team made significant strides in our work to develop regional innovation ecosystems. The NSF Regional Innovation Engines program awarded the first-ever NSF Engines Development Awards in May, announced NSF Engines finalists in August, and invested in a Builder Platform in November to provide high-touch support across the NSF Engines award portfolio. In September, we made the first awards through the Enabling Partnerships to Increase Innovation Capacity (EPIIC) program to help institutions develop capacity and institutional knowledge to build new partnerships, secure future external funding and tap into their regional innovation ecosystems — potentially into an NSF Engine. Beyond the NSF Engines, in September, the NSF Convergence Accelerator selected five teams to advance to Phase 2 in Track G: Securely Operating Through 5G Infrastructure, investing $25 million to allow these teams to continue their work to develop advanced technology and communications solutions to operate securely through 5G networks. In December, the NSF Convergence Accelerator selected six multidisciplinary research teams to advance to Phase 2 in Track H: Enhancing Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities; this $30 million investment demonstrates our continuing commitment to support research solutions to address challenges faced by persons with disabilities, including the development of assistive and rehabilitative technologies to enhance their quality of life and provide greater opportunities for gainful employment. Beyond these award announcements, TIP signed a memorandum of understanding with U.S Economic Development Administration, initiated new tracks in the Convergence Accelerator, launched several pilot efforts to help foster more diverse and inclusive regional innovation ecosystems.
To nurture a diverse workforce, in September, TIP issued inaugural awards in the Experiential Learning for Emerging and Novel Technologies (ExLENT) program, enabling 27 teams to begin the work of expanding practical learning opportunities and growing talent nationwide. TIP also gathered information from the community to design future funding opportunities like ExLENT, established a partnership with the Council of Graduate Schools, and launched a pilot aimed at assessing the impact of TIP investments. The Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) Teams training program also expanded to offer new entrepreneurial training and mentoring for academic researchers.
To accelerate technology development, in December, TIP announced the first-ever Accelerating Research Translation (ART) awards to 18 teams across the nation. These teams will work with mentoring institutions of higher education to grow capacity for translational research. TIP also selected 18 teams to advance to the final round of the VITAL Prize Challenge. Launched a year ago, the VITAL Prize Challenge will advance learning technologies with a particular focus on accelerating the translation of these technologies into educational settings. TIP made 19 Phase II projects awards through the Pathways to Enable Open-Source Ecosystems (POSE) program and – together with five other U.S government agencies – invested in 18 projects through NSF’s Building the Prototype Open Knowledge Network (Proto-OKN). Finally, TIP helped build partnerships with industry for the NSF-wide Future of Semiconductors (FuSe) program to enable rapid progress in new semiconductor technologies.
While the above only scratches the surface, it nevertheless provides a strong foundation as we head into the new year. We are proud of our growing team of colleagues who are making this all possible: the success of TIP is testament to their vision and leadership. We are also deeply appreciative of all of you: your engagement in our programs and activities is essential to ensuring the U.S. remains in the vanguard of competitiveness for decades to come.
We wish you a safe, healthy, and happy new year, and we look forward to continuing to work together to create opportunities for everyone, everywhere to accelerate research to impact throughout the U.S.!
NSF Assistant Director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships
NSF Deputy Assistant Director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships