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NSF launches Regional Innovation Engines program developed to stimulate regional economic growth and innovation

May 05, 2022
By: Emily Chesser

To expand the innovation capacity in the nation, the United States needs to leverage resources, creativity, and ingenuity from across all geographic regions. The National Science Foundation this week announced a new program in support of these efforts: the NSF Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines program. This program encourages the creation of regional coalitions of industry, academia, government, nonprofits, civil society, and communities of practice to form partnerships that boost scientific and technological innovation and benefit the economy in a geographic region. Specifically, the NSF Engines program targets geographic areas in the U.S. that lack well-established innovation ecosystems. Awards of up to $160 million for up to 10 years ultimately will be provided. At SSTI’s Annual Conference this week, attendees learned more about this program from NSF representatives.

The NSF Engines program describes the growth of an innovation ecosystem with a five-phase model:

  • Development Phase
  • Nascent Phase
  • Emergent Phase
  • Growth Phase
  • Mature Phase

The first type of award, Type-1, will focus on the Development Phase. This award can provide up to $1 million for up to two years and will support organizations as they lay the groundwork for establishing an NSF Engine in their region. Type-1 awards begin and end in the development phase, allowing participating organizations to develop the structure and scope of their NSF Engine. At the end of this award period, organizations are expected to move into the Nascent phase with solid partnerships and goals. NSF is currently accepting full proposals for Type-1 awards.

Type-2 awards will follow a project through the Nascent, Emergent, and Growth Phases. This award could provide up to $160 million for up to 10 years. It will support a project as it creates firm partnerships, seeks growth through expanding scientific, education, and workforce development, and emerges as a national leader in its topic area. NSF expects to begin accepting full proposals for Type-2 awards by FY 2023.

Typically, NSF programs target universities; however, the NSF Engines program will provide funding to non-university entities. While higher education institutions are welcome to apply, the program also encourages proposals from U.S.-based nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

Launched by the NSF Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, or TIP, the NSF Engines program offers a unique opportunity to spur economic growth in regions that have not fully participated in the technology boom of the past few decades.

The NSF Engines program is published as a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). The program handout provides key dates and details. Additionally, a webinar introducing the NSF Engines program will take place on May 17 from 1-3 p.m. EDT with five additional virtual roadshow events planned for more regionally-focused discussions that will include interactive breakout rooms to facilitate collaboration with others from your region.

nsf, economic development, innovation, funding