The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced 34 semifinalists from across the nation last week for the first-ever NSF Regional Innovation Engines competition.

The NSF Engines program – authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act – uniquely harnesses the nation’s science and technology research and development enterprise through regional-level resources.

The program will be led by universities, nonprofits, businesses, and other organizations from across 22 different U.S. states and territories that 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 across the country,” NSF said.

The 34 semifinalists’ expertise spans 14 different science and technology categories:

  • Advanced agriculture;
  • Advanced manufacturing and building construction;
  • Advanced materials;
  • Advanced mobility;
  • Aerospace;
  • Bioeconomy;
  • Blue economy and circular economy;
  • Climate and resilience;
  • Health and wellness;
  • Logistics and supply chain;
  • Microelectronics and semiconductors;
  • Quantum;
  • Sustainable energy; and
  • Water sustainability.

Each NSF Engine winner could receive up to $160 million over 10 years. The agency said it anticipates announcing the final list of NSF Engines awards this fall, with each awardee initially receiving about $15 million for the first two years.

“Each of these NSF Engines semifinalists represents an emerging hub of innovation and lends their talents and resources to form the fabric of NSF’s vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement. “These teams will spring ideas, talent, pathways, and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation.”

The program – launched by NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) and authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act – initially received 188 concept outlines for NSF Engines. The agency narrowed it down to 34 semifinalists and will narrow it down further to complete the final application round in July.

Semifinalists not selected to receive an NSF Engine award may be considered for an NSF Engine Development Award of up to $1 million over two years, the agency said. These planning awards will help teams build their initial ecosystems, cultivate the necessary partnerships, and potentially compete for additional funding – including through future NSF Engines competitions.

Erwin Gianchandani, NSF assistant director for TIP, said in a statement on June 14 that “today’s NSF Engines semifinalists will ensure the U.S. harnesses the geography of innovation and remains in the vanguard of competitiveness well into the future.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.