We invite you to participate in a workshop aiming to strengthen partnerships among academic, private, and government organizations.

Supported by NSF’s Directorate of Biological Sciences (BIO), the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and the Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) this workshop will build new connections among key biological sciences communities to successfully conduct use-inspired research.

The workshop will consist of a series of events facilitated by KnowInnovation:

  • Two free virtual Pre-Workshop MicroLabs (for an unlimited number of participants)
    • Friday, April 14, 2023, from noon to 2 p.m. MST
    • Friday, May 12, 2023, from noon to 2 p.m. MST
  • In-Person Workshop held June 12-14, 2023 in Boise, Idaho (for 120 selected participants representing diverse groups and organizations; applications will open April 14, 2023)

Participants of the workshop will co-create the structures and processes that guide how diverse organizations support and value use-inspired science and will guide NSF to create use-inspired tracks within the Directorate for Biological Sciences and the Office of Integrative Activities. Participants will build connections to new funding and partnership opportunities within and associated with NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships.  Participants will gain insight from government and private organizations who want their science needs to be more broadly understood and incorporated into research priorities.

Who Should Participate?

Representatives from academic, private, and government communities across the science and engineering ecosystem are invited to attend. We especially encourage leaders and researchers from early to senior career stages — including graduate students — and original thinkers from industry to participate. 

Workshop Goals

The ultimate anticipated outcomes of the workshop are documents that will guide and facilitate use-inspired research and science-informed practices.

Those documents will be co-created by participants as they build awareness of the reciprocal benefits of strong partnerships that leverage and inspire innovations in basic and applied science; identify shared interests, community needs, and barriers to functional partnerships; and transfer knowledge.

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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 Convergence-Accelerator@nsf.gov


The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) newly established Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) has announced the NSF Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) program. This bold new initiative aims to significantly expanding our Nation’s innovation capacity by investing in key areas of national interest and economic promise, in every region of the United States. To accomplish this ambitious goal, the program will fund the development of Regional Innovation Engines that will cultivate and sustain activities in use-inspired research and development, translation of innovation to practice, entrepreneurship, partnership and stakeholder development, and workforce development to realize thriving regional innovation ecosystems. The outcomes of this program will enhance the nation’s economic and industrial competitiveness as well as national security.

The NSF Engines program provides up to ten years of funding per Engine award with a maximum budget of $160M, with up to an additional two years of funding to support development activities before creating an Engine. The program solicits proposals corresponding to three award types, as outlined below.

  • Type-1 awards are development awards that provide seed funding to enable awardees to lay the groundwork for establishing a new NSF Engine, with the goal of catalyzing a new innovation ecosystem for a specific topic area. Type-1 awards are intended to allow teams to prepare for the submission of a successful Type-2 proposal. The duration of a Type-1 award is up to 24 months, with a maximum proposed budget of $1M.
  • Type-2 awards are intended to support awardees representing a geographical region of service that are well-primed to support a regional innovation ecosystem. Type-2 awards provide funding for up to 10 years, with a total maximum budget of $160M.

Submission of a Type-1 development proposal is not required for the submission of Type-2 proposal. See the NSF Engines Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for further details on the award types and the differences between the various types.

The BAA specifies proposal deadlines for both proposal types. Prior to submission of proposals, teams are required to submit a Concept Outline, which is due June 30, 2022, for both proposal types. Approval of a Concept Outline from a cognizant NSF Program Officer is required to submit a full proposal.

For more information about the NSF Engines program including frequently asked questions and upcoming webinars, visit the NSF Engines program website. Additionally, visit the NSF Engines BAA website to view proposal deadlines and information on award types and differences.   See MCB’s Blog Post from May 10 to learn more about NSF sponsored Bioeconomy Workshops that address critical national needs relevant to Engines.