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NSF leverages the power of collaboration in Convergence Accelerator

Anthony BoccanfusoBy Anthony Boccanfuso

The National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator announced its pilot award recipients Sept. 10, granting $39 million to support 43 projects across the country. There are many ways UIDP members can become involved in this multi-year initiative.

Winning pilot award abstracts reveal much about the types of projects the Accelerator funds, and can be accessed under the two NSF Big Idea categories the pilot is exploring: Harnessing the Data Revolution and Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier. The program is designed to leverage multi-disciplinary, integrated teams (industry, university, not-for-profit, government, and others) to accelerate the transition of use-inspired research into practical application.

We’re keenly interested in the Accelerator’s work because we believe it’s an opportunity for all types of U-I stakeholders to engage in collaborative development of new products and services. UIDP’s Future of Work series is a program recipient of a Future Topics award, with the goal to help NSF refine one or more research topics that could be appropriate for a future NSF Convergence Accelerator funding track.

Douglas Maughan, who leads the program for NSF, presented at UIDP29 to flesh out the goals and characteristics of the NSF Convergence Accelerator.

We asked Doug three questions relevant to UIDP members.

UIDP: What is NSF trying to achieve with its Convergence Accelerator?

Maughan: The Convergence paradigm intentionally brings together intellectually diverse researchers to develop effective ways of communicating across disciplines by adopting common frameworks and a common language. This then allows those involved to develop novel ways of framing research questions and open new research areas. The NSF Convergence Accelerator is intended to accelerate such convergence research. The goal is to accelerate scientific discovery and innovation, especially in areas of use-inspired research, as well as to transition to practice the important research results.

UIDP: What makes it different from other NSF grant programs?

Maughan: The NSF Convergence Accelerator is different from other programs for several reasons. First, it is team-focused and not a single-PI approach. Second, the teams must consist of multiple types of institutions from academic, industry, non-profit, and government communities. Also, they must be from multiple disciplines. It is focused on deliverables that can be used and not just reports. In addition, NSF is planning to bring other interested parties to work with the teams.

UIDP: Why is this program especially attractive for industry partners?

Maughan: There are four specific reasons that make the NSF Convergence Accelerator attractive to industry and other partners. First, this gives industry early access to research coming from the team. Second, it allows their researchers to participate as part of the team. Third, it gives companies and foundations an opportunity to work collaboratively with NSF towards technology that will be used for the common good. Finally, the Convergence Accelerator gives industry and other an opportunity to have input into topics for the future so that we can all work towards solutions of national importance.