National Science Foundation Awards $1M To First-Ever NSF Regional Innovation Engines

The National Science Foundation will provide the award to 44 unique teams spanning universities, nonprofits, businesses, and others towards creating local innovation ecosystems.

The U.S. National Science Foundation has announced the first-ever NSF Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines, program awards to 44 unique teams spanning universities, nonprofits, businesses, and other organizations across the U.S. states and territories. Each awardee team will receive up to $1 million for two years. The NSF Engines program is anticipated to be transformational for the nation, ensuring the U.S. remains in the vanguard of competitiveness for decades to come.

The awardees span a broad range of states and regions, reaching geographic regions that have not fully benefited from the technology boom of the past decades. These NSF Engines development awards will help organizations create connections and develop their local innovation ecosystem within two years to prepare a strong proposal for becoming a future NSF Engine, where they will have the opportunity to receive up to $160 million.

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Map showing location of the 44 recipients of the NSF Engine Development Awards, May 11, 2023 (Source: U.S. National Science Foundation)

The NSF Engines program has two types of awards. Featured here are the NSF Engines Development Awards, or Type-1 awards, including those just announced, provide up to $1 million for up to two years. Anticipated for Fall 2023, the Type-2 awards will provide up to $160 million for up to 10 years. The first round of Type-2 awards will fund NSF Engines across three distinct phases — the nascent, emergent and growth phases.

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Each NSF Engines Development Award announced this week is aligned with one of the above topics. (Source: U.S. National Science Foundation)

Teams From Mississippi, Nevada, New York, Wisconsin, And Across U.S. Receive Initial Awards

Jackson State University, in partnership with The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), received a $1 million NSF toward “advancing food security and climate resilience.” The vision of the award, referred to as the Sustainable Innovation Ecosystem (SIE) Food Industry Engine Development Award, is to develop an innovative ecosystem that: improves health and nutrition, reduces poverty, creates a diverse talent pool of skilled technical workers, and improves economic diversity and resilience across the targeted service region.

University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) was one of 44 teams to receive the first-ever NSF Engines Development Awards. When in 2002, NSF established a new directorate for the first time in more than 30 years focusing on Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) that included the focus on establishing regional “innovation engines” throughout the U.S., the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) saw an opportunity to partner and support UNR in order to strengthen the agency’s efforts of turning Nevada into the “Lithium Capital of North America”.

The University of Rochester in New York has received a $1 million Regional Innovation Engines Development Award grant toward the development of next-generation lasers. The advancement of laser technologies in the Rochester region is expected to foster the connection of a variety of institutional, industrial, and business partners toward establishing an innovation and economic hub built around the Science, Technology and Engineering of Lasers and Laser Applications Research (STELLAR).

In Milwaukee, WI, the The Water Council and its partners received the $1 million award to plan a Regional Innovation Engine in eastern Wisconsin addressing water and energy resilience for manufacturers and utilities. The Water Council submitted the proposal with its lead partners MKE Tech Hub Coalition, Wisconsin Technology Council, Marquette University, Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity, and Madison Region Economic Partnership. At the end of the two-year Development Award period, the Engine team will apply for a Launch Award of up to $160 million awarded over 10 years.

Revving The “Innovation” Engines

“These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF’s vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation. Through these planning awards, NSF is seeding the future for in-place innovation in communities and to grow their regional economies through research and partnerships. This will unleash ideas, talent, pathways and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation.”

Launched by NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships and authorized by the “CHIPS and Science Act of 2022,” the NSF Engines program uniquely harnesses the nation’s science and technology research and development enterprise and regional-level resources. NSF Engines aspire to catalyze robust partnerships to positively impact the economy within a geographic region, address societal challenges, advance national competitiveness and create local, high-wage jobs.

More information is available at the NSF Engines program website.