NSF released two new Dear Colleague Letters (DCLs) focused on bio-inspired design and prioritizing interdisciplinary collaborations: 

BioDesign DCL 
Through the new BioDesign DCL, the MCB Core Programs aim to facilitate the translation of knowledge generated through research in the biological and engineering sciences to solutions and prototypes needed for societal and economic impacts.  

Specifically, the DCL seeks to:  

  • Encourage early-stage, transdisciplinary collaboration of two or more investigators doing research in biological and engineering sciences with the potential for bioinspired design applications; and 
  • Accelerate the translation of research findings into projects with potential societal and economic impacts that could be ready for commercialization. 

Both full proposals and supplemental funding requests will be accepted. All submissions should test hypotheses about the functioning of living things that are of interest to biologists and engineers; create an iterative process between foundational and use-inspired research to create a design that solves a practical problem; and develop prototypes based on these activities as part of a process of exploring pathways to larger societal and economic benefits. 

Additional participating programs in the BIO, ENG, and TIP Directorates are listed at the end of the DCL. Investigators are strongly encouraged to speak to a participating program director (listed with email contacts in the BioDesign DCL) before submitting a proposal or supplemental funding request. 

Convergence Accelerator Track M 

This DCL alerts the community to an upcoming solicitation from NSF’s Convergence Accelerator with three tracks, including Track M: Bio-Inspired Design Innovations (the other tracks are also BIO-relevant so check them out). Track M aims to bring together cross-sector teams to develop concepts, approaches, and technologies that capitalize on millions of years of evolution to find novel solutions to major societal and economic challenges. The track was chosen based on the results of an NSF-funded community workshop on Bio-Inspired Design. Broad topics within this track may include – but are not limited to – the following: 

  • Development of materials with features such as programmable self-assembly, multi-modal sensing, computation, memory, adaptation, and healing and regenerative capabilities. 
  • Novel manufacturing capabilities that harness advances in synthetic biology, bioengineering, nanofabrication, and 3D printing. 
  • Engineering complex systems with novel properties based on principles of synthetic biology, bioengineering, and robotics or organismal biology (e.g., organoids, microbial consortia, collective swarms). 
  • Computational modeling and theory-enabled methods and tools for bio-inspired designs. 
  • Applications in areas including, but not limited to, environmental monitoring, bioremediation and preservation, sustainable materials, biological manufacturing, personalized healthcare, resilient infrastructure, and agriculture and food production. 

For more information on the Convergence Accelerator program, check out the previous 2022 solicitation and the Convergence Accelerator program page. The 2022 solicitation can provide guidance on review criteria and other topics until the 2023 solicitation is published.  

Should you have questions about this DCL, please contact the Convergence Accelerator program at

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