NSF has announced the topics for this year’s Convergence Accelerator program, with the goal of accelerating use-inspired, multidisciplinary research into long-lasting, sustainable solutions for societal challenges and scientific areas of national importance. Two of the topics selected for the 2022 solicitation, expected to be published in the coming months, relate to topics of two recent NSF/UIDP Workshops on World without Waste: A Circular Bioeconomy and Feeding the Planet Sustainably, and may be of interest to the MCB community.
The Accelerator comprises three phases: topic ideation, followed by convergence-research phases 1 and 2. Once a solicitation is released and awards are made, funded teams within a given track make up a cohort. All teams within a cohort begin in Convergence Research phase 1. At the end of phase 1, the teams participate in a formal NSF pitch and proposal process, which is used in selecting teams for phase 2.
Track I: Sustainable Materials for Global Challenges
The goal of this track is to converge advances in fundamental materials science with materials design and manufacturing methods in an effort to couple the end-use and full life-cycle considerations of environmentally and economically sustainable materials and products that address global challenges. Examples of broad topics within this track may include – but are not limited to – the following:
- Materials research data-sharing principles and infrastructure (Materials Informatics)
- Critical materials and manufacturing processes, such as microelectronics and their components; solutions for sustainable polymers in areas of high unmet need such as healthcare and packaging; and commercially-viable materials for sustainable clean energy (e.g., batteries, photovoltaics, wind turbines, hydrogen) and transport.
- Full life cycle and sustainability “Systems Thinking”; Education (for and as) infrastructure, including scaling of innovative curricula and training for inclusive sustainable infrastructure design and job creation.
This convergent research track topic was based on the results of NSF-funded community workshops, such as Accelerating Translational Materials R&D for Global Challenges and Socioresilient Infrastructure: Precision Materials, Assemblages, and Systems.
Track J: Food & Nutrition Security
A goal of this track is to accelerate convergence that includes the food and nutrition sectors to address intertwined challenges of population health, climate change, and the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable among us by empowering youth, women, and disadvantaged communities. Examples of broad topics within this track include, but are not limited to:
- Assessing, modeling, and forecasting “food deserts” (geographic areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food; analyzing food deserts to devise sustainable and socially, politically, economically, and culturally acceptable solutions.
- Planning, prototyping or modeling to optimize food quality and availability while minimizing waste, including the utilization of sensors, data, and networks while also addressing policy, food labels and discard behavior.
- Combining concepts and approaches from biology, social sciences, chemistry, and engineering to develop plans and methods to promote sustainable systems and enable food security and food literacy
The convergent research track topic was chosen based on the results of NSF-funded community workshops, such as Digital and Precision Agriculture and Sustainable Systems Enabling Food Security in Extreme Environments and Food Deserts Employing a Convergence of Food, Energy, Water and Systems for Societal Impact.
More information on the DCL can be found here. Once the solicitation is published the NSF Convergence Accelerator plans to hold informational webinars.