Email Print Share

Bioeconomy & Advanced Biotechnology Research at NSF

Interdisciplinary Partnerships / Additional Resources

This website will allow you to browse a diversity of biotechnology-related topic areas supported by NSF, quickly find a program that best fits your proposal idea and get contact information for Program Directors who can help you further.

Biotechnology is the combination of research results, infrastructure, workforce capacity, and innovation that enables the discovery, utilization, and rational modulation of living organisms, their components, and their biologically related processes. Biotechnology is transforming our world by enabling nature-inspired solutions to societal and environmental challenges, ranging from lifesaving vaccines to sustainable, essential products like food and biofuels. NSF investments in biotechnology are playing a key role in accelerating scientific discovery and providing the tools and methods to use those discoveries to create goods and services that contribute to multiple sectors of the U.S economy, including agriculture, health, security, manufacturing, energy, and the environment.

Biotechnology is inherently interdisciplinary, bringing together the power and diversity of biology with insights and principles from engineering, computing, geological, mathematical, physical, social, behavioral, and economics sciences. NSF supports biotechnology research at all biological scales--from molecular to organismal, evolutionary, ecosystem, and biome--and across all scientific disciplines through its core programs across all the directorates and through integrative activities and interdisciplinary partnerships, as highlighted below.

The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO)

The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) supports fundamental research that can be translated readily into solutions that solve societal problems while advancing biotechnology and the bioeconomy. This basic research expands our fundamental understanding of living systems from the molecular and to the ecosystem and biome scale. The BIO programs support advances in genomics and genomic tool development, systems and synthetic biology, biomechanics and bioinspired design, physiological and ecological foundations of ecosystem services and food security, continental scale ecological measurement and prediction, ecology and evolution of infectious disease biology of infection, biodiversity, and human, cyber, and physical biology research infrastructure.

Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI)

The Division of Biological Infrastructure (DBI) welcomes proposals that support infrastructure for instruments, human capital, shared cyberinfrastructure, and other biological resources that serve to advance biotechnology and bioeconomy emphasis areas. Proposals submitted to these programs with emphasis on Biotech should clearly explain how the innovation or infrastructure serves to advance biotechnology and bioeconomy emphasis areas. The following topics that serve both basic research and biotechnology applications are of particular interest:

  • Development of novel instruments or research methods through improved measurement, sensing, isolation, purification, or manufacture of biological compounds (Innovation).

  • Improved analytical methods that permit novel data analyses, increased feature recognition or annotation of data from digital sources (i.e., image data, spectral data), and broader integration of disparate datatypes (Innovation).

  • Expansion of resources and infrastructure to support biotechnology and bioeconomy needs, including relevant phenotypic databases and stock centers (Capacity).

  • New and creative paradigm or models for training undergraduates that prepare them for a future in the bioeconomy, such as partnerships with industry or preparation for non-academic careers (REU-SITES).

  • Postdoctoral training with sponsors or partners in biotechnology (PRFB).

  • Creative use of networks of faculty and educators to address undergraduate biology education in bioeconomy and biotechnology (RCN-UBE).

Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)

The Division of Environmental Biology (DEB) welcomes proposals submitted to core programs in Evolutionary Processes (EP), Ecosystems (ES) and Population and Community Ecology (PCE) that advance biotechnology and the bioeconomy.

  • Microbial evolution experiments with the goal of modifying microbes to express desirable traits, such as efficient production of biofuels, breakdown of waste, and production of useful biomolecules (EP).

  • Studies with the goal of identifying the genetic changes underlying the evolution of economically important (or potentially economically important) traits of plants, animals, or microbes (EP).

  • Improved understanding of the links between functional trait variation within and across species and ecosystem services to inform management and restoration, and to predict the long-term consequences of biotechnology manipulations in natural systems (PCE).

  • Studies with the goal of advancing the understanding and forecasting of ecological services to advance the bioeconomy and consequences of ecological modifications to enhance the bioeconomy (ES).

  • Research that addresses climate change effects on the distribution and abundance of critical resources such as water, soil, and nutrients that propel earth system productivity and thereby the bioeconomy (ES).

  • Studies of drivers of global environmental change (e.g., climate, land-use change, invasive species) that impact the provision of human resources by aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems (ES).

Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS)

The Division of Integrative Organismal Systems (IOS) welcomes proposals that address integrative research on organismal structure and function to advance biotechnology, for submission to its core programs within the Behavioral Systems Cluster (BSC), the Developmental Systems Cluster (DSC) , the Neural Systems Cluster (NSC), the Physiological and Structural Systems (PSS) Cluster, the Enabling Discovery through Genomics (EDGE) Program, the Plant-Biotic Interaction (PBI) Program, and the Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP). Within these programs, the following topics are of particular interest:

  • Advances in understanding organismal resilience by elucidating the biological mechanisms that underlie homeostatic adjustments and adaptations to novel environmental challenges. These advances will inform the development of new technologies that rapidly adapt to unforeseen change. (All IOS).

  • Elucidating and exploiting the physiological and biochemical diversity of organisms for novel and beneficial metabolites and biosynthetic pathways. (PGRP, EDGE, PBI, NSC, PSS).

  • Interdisciplinary genome-wide basic research and the development of innovative functional genomics tools, technologies, and genetic resources to generate new insights into the mechanistic basis of complex traits and organismal processes, to advance food and national security and contribute to the bioeconomy. (PGRP, EDGE, PBI, BSC, NSC).

  • Advances in animal behavior that can improve existing or develop new technologies across the economy, including use inspired research such as in agriculture, pathogen and pest mitigation, as well as fundamental research with the potential to inspire breakthroughs in artificial and distributed intelligence, bridging the cognitive-to-computational divide. (BSC, NSC, PBI, PSS).

  • Advances in plant synthetic biology, leading to new strategies to develop resilient crops with enhanced performance and novel functions (yield, growth, drought resistance, increased range for cultivation, and as new sources of valuable beneficial metabolites and biosynthetic pathways, for example). (PGRP, PBI, DSC) This topic is also of interest to MCB (SSB).

  • Advances in organismal biomechanics research that lead to a mechanistic understanding of biomaterials and bioinspired design principles, that have the potential to lead to future development of new products. (PSS, NSC, BSC).

  • Advancing the mechanistic understanding of interactions among members of the microbiome, the environment, and the host (if present), to develop novel biotechnological applications (PSS, PBI, EDGE, BSC, NSC).

  • Gaining a mechanistic understanding of how organisms grow and develop yields information and tools to generate new bio-based products, supports efforts to increase regenerative capacity from injury, and leads to more resilient and sustainable crops. (DSC).

  • Understanding the evolution of development in animals and plants in changing environments uncovers principles and processes that can be used to drive innovation in biology-based industries. (DSC, NSC).

  • Understanding the interactions among hosts and pathogens to generate new biotechnological tools for monitoring, detecting, and preventing emerging infectious diseases. (PSS, BSC, NSC)

Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB)

The Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) welcomes proposals to its core programs Cellular Dynamics and Function (CDF), Genetic Mechanisms (GM), Molecular Biophysics (MB), and Systems and Synthetic Biology (SSB) that address biomolecular and cellular sciences, using interdisciplinary approaches to advance biotechnology. Within these programs, the following topics are of particular interest:

  • Research on causal relationships between genome structure, epigenomic modifications, epigenetic processes and gene expression that elucidates molecular and cellular function or dysfunction and enables technological interventions such as manipulation of the epigenetic state of a cell to control its response to a changing environment (GM).

  • Biophysical studies of dynamic interactions between biological molecules that explain specificity and recognition; and between biological molecules and inorganic surfaces that enable development of new materials and functional platforms (MB).

  • Advances in understanding how cells act and react as a dynamic machine to inform cell-based biotechnology (CDF).

  • Innovative theory and mechanism-constrained systems biology and machine learning approaches to enable analysis and/or prediction of the properties of molecular and cellular systems (SSB).

  • Novel approaches to increase the diversity of organisms and microbial communities for development of synthetic biology tools and biotechnology applications (SSB).

  • Deeper understanding of plant cell wall complexity and plasticity that enables crop plants to resist biotic and abiotic stress (CDF), and advances in plant synthetic biology, engineered plant symbionts or plant microbiomes that enhance plant performance (e.g., growth, yield, drought resistance, etc.) (SSB). This topic is also of interest to IOS (PGRP, PBI, DSC).

  • Harnessing genetic and epigenetic information to create designer nucleic acids or proteins and improving protein and/or membrane design to engineer new functionality in sub-cellular compartments, cells, or multicellular assemblies. Examples of applications include artificial genomes to improve the biosafety of synthetic organisms or for biocomputing, and macromolecular factories with novel biosynthetic capabilities (all MCB).

  • Exploring functional adaptations of biological systems to extreme conditions (e.g., pressure, pH, heat, salt, absence of light, etc.) to understand mechanisms of resilience or develop bioinspired materials and methods for bioprocessing/manufacture (all MCB).

  • Technical advances that push the limits of structure determination to improve spatiotemporal monitoring of multiple cellular processes at high resolution and enable design of supramacromolecular machines and complex pathways (all MCB).

  • High risk research aimed at breakthrough technologies. For example, exploiting quantum phenomena in biological systems to create new applications - from sensors with advanced capabilities to cells that function as biological computers (all MCB).

BIO Interdisciplinary Programs

Top of page

Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE)

The Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) supports foundational and use-inspired research on biotechnology including novel computational techniques for analyzing and modeling biological data and phenomena at all scales, from molecular to ecosystem; on the exploration of biological bases for computing and storage; on the computational understanding of brain and neural processes; and on the uses of computing technology in support of individual and public health.

Division of Computing and Communication Foundations (CCF)

The Division of Computing and Communication Foundations (CCF) advances computing and communication theory, algorithms for computer and computational sciences and architecture and the design of computers and software. CCF includes four core programs, Algorithmic Foundations (AF), Communications and Information Foundations (CIF), Foundations of Emerging Technologies (FET), and Software and Hardware Foundations (SHF).

Foundations of Emerging Technologies (FET)
The goal of the FET cluster in CCF is to germinate and foster radical innovations in computing and communication modalities, in topics spanning the various fields of research. Interdisciplinary collaboration between computer and information scientists as well as those in various other fields such as biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, and physics are highly encouraged to promote groundbreaking inventions and paradigm-shifting solutions for hardware and software platforms in computing and communication. The FET program seeks transformative research projects in any disruptive area aligned with the goals of the program as identified above. The following research areas are called out specifically at this time.

  • The Biological Systems Science and Engineering program element explores opportunities at the intersection of biology and computer science, with a specific focus on activities that advance understanding of computing and communication processes in biological systems to recreate or use them as models for, or demonstrations of, innovative computing and communication systems. Research in the Synthetic Biology area, with a focus on constructing/redesigning novel hybrid programmable biological systems capable of computing and information processing, is also in scope for the program. Some examples for research topics include but are not limited to issues in resource allocation in a designed synthetic cell/system, design tools for engineering biological systems, and advanced biomolecule-based data-storage devices.

  • The FET program promotes research that demonstrates how computational and engineering principles can be synergistically advanced to mimic brain-like problem solving with novel neural and cognitive architectures. In particular, the program encourages research on neuromorphic computing with hardware-friendly learning mechanisms such as spike-timing dependent plasticity (STDP), reinforcement and Q-learning. Proposals on brain-computer interfaces will be considered by the FET program if they aim at solving problems in fundamentally new ways.

Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS)

Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS) studies the interrelated roles of people, computers, and information to increase the ability to understand data, as well as mimic the hallmarks of intelligence in computational systems. IIS includes three core programs, Human-Centered Computing (HCC), Information Integration and Informatics (III), and Robust Intelligence (RI).

Information Integration and Informatics (III)
The III Program in IIS Division supports innovative research on computational methods for the full data lifecycle, from collection through archiving and knowledge discovery, to maximize the utility of information resources to science and engineering and broadly to society. III projects range from formal theoretical research to those that advance data-intensive applications of scientific, engineering, or societal importance.

  • General methods for data acquisition, exploration, analysis, and explanation

  • Advanced analytics, novel machine learning and prediction applicable to large, complex, heterogeneous data sets

  • Data management, representation, integration of a variety of data types, handling uncertainty, provenance, data archiving and reuse

  • Knowledge baes, ontologies, open knowledge networks, expert knowledge acquisition

  • Domain-specific applications, advancing III research which adapting to specific domains

CISE Interdisciplinary Programs

Top of page

The Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR)

The Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) supports research and workforce development programs that contribute to the growth of the U.S. bioeconomy. EHR invests in foundational and future-oriented STEM educational research as well as innovative educational programs that enable students to enter and pursue careers in advanced technologies such as biotechnology. EHR places priority on investments that support broadening participation and build a diverse, highly skilled U.S. STEM workforce and a STEM-literate public.

Undergraduate Education (DUE)

  • Advanced Technological Education (ATE)

EHR Interdisciplinary Programs

Top of page

The Directorate for Engineering (ENG)

The Directorate for Engineering (ENG) supports fundamental and translational engineering research that utilizes biotechnology to develop, accelerate, and support the bioeconomy. This research includes metabolic engineering, tissue engineering, mechanobiology, synthetic biology, quantitative systems biotechnology, epigenetic engineering, protein engineering. Emphasized applications include biomanufacturing, eco-manufacturing, regenerative medicine, biosensing, biophotonics, advanced biological materials, computation and information storage, disability & rehabilitation engineering, microbiome engineering, pharmaceutical technologies, agricultural engineering, environmental engineering & sustainability.

Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental & Transport Systems (CBET)

The Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) is the primary sponsor within the Engineering Directorate of biotechnology-related projects. These include programs in Biophotonics, Biosensing, Cellular and Biochemical Engineering (CBE), Disability and Rehabilitation Engineering (DARE), Engineering of Biomedical Systems (EBMS), Nanoscale Interactions (NI), Environmental Engineering, and Environmental Sustainability that span a range of biotechnology areas and applications.

  • Low cost, minimally invasive medical diagnostics and therapies. Photon activation of neurons at the interface of nanomaterials attached to cells, optogenetic manipulation of neural activity, and multiplexed, high-throughput characterization of macromolecular properties of cells Biophotonics.

  • Design of novel biorecognition elements and appropriately designed transducing systems, development of evolvable biosensing systems, synthetic biology approaches for the development of cell-free and cell-based biosensors; and combining biosensors with artificial intelligence (AI) methods to improve sensor specificity and response time. Biosensing.

  • Fundamental engineering research that advances understanding of cellular and biomolecular processes. Topics of interest include synthetic biology for biomanufacturing, synthetic metabolic components and cells, quantitative systems biotechnology, microbiome design, and protein and enzyme design. (CBE)

  • Fundamental engineering research that will improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities. This includes neuroengineering, applied synthetic biology to develop tissue-level interventions that reduce the long-term impact of trauma, and characterizing and designing gut microbiota to modulate disability in the context of rehabilitation. (DARE)

  • Integrating engineering and life sciences to solve biomedical problems. Developing validated organoids to represent healthy and pathological tissues and organs; biomanufacturing of three-dimensional tissues and organs; using an organism's microbiome to investigate fundamental physiological and pathophysiological processes; developing techniques for controlling and modulating host immune response. (EBMS).

  • Fundamental research that applies biotechnology and engineering principles to protecting human and ecological health. Biotechnology to extract and valorize resources from waste streams, transform contaminants, to understand how contaminants (including viruses) move through wastewater systems, and to characterize and design adaptive microbial communities. Environmental Engineering

Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI)

The Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) supports projects that that build on existing cyberinfrastructure to enable major advances in leveraging knowledge of biological processes and systems, including biomimicry or bio-emulation, for the design of smart materials, instrumentation, systems and infrastructure.

  • Research that advances our understanding of engineering biomechanics and/or mechanobiology across multiple scales, from sub-cellular to whole organism. Diverse living tissues as smart materials that are self-designing. Biomechanics and Mechanobiology (BMMB)

Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS)

The Division of Electrical, Communications, and Cyber Systems (ECCS) supports translational engineering utilizing biotechnology primarily focused on the Human-Technology Frontier. ECCS Programs include Communications, Circuits, and Sensing-Systems (CCSS), Electronics, Photonics and Magnetic Devices (EPMD), Energy, Power, Control, and Networks (EPCN) and Foundational Research in Robotics (Robotics).

  • Ultra-low power, wearable and implantable sensing and imaging systems, as well as the interface of nanoscale photonic, electronic, and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) components within cells and tissue. (CCCS), EPMD)

  • novel machine learning algorithms and analysis, adaptive dynamic programming, brain-like networked architectures performing real-time learning, and neuromorphic engineering (EPCN)

  • Biological sensing systems, neurotechnologies, and communication & sensing circuits and systems. New complex and hybrid systems ranging from nano- to macro-scale with innovative engineering principles and solutions for healthcare, medicine, environmental and biological monitoring, including personalized health monitoring (CCCS)

Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities (EFMA)

The Office of Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities (EFMA) strategically supports projects in important emerging areas, including those involving biotechnology. Through its Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation program (EFRI), EFMA has supported research topics such as Flexible Bioelectronics Systems, Chromatin and Epigenetic Engineering, Engineered Living Systems, and Brain-Inspired Dynamics for Engineering Energy-Efficient Circuits and Artificial Intelligence.

ENG Interdisciplinary Programs

Top of page

The Directorate for Geosciences (GEO)

The Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) supports research that advances our understanding of the Earth system in terms of the geosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, and hydrosphere and addresses the impacts of environmental change on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem dynamics, health, and productivity. GEO supports research that leads to the discovery of organisms with highly specialized biogeochemical and physiological adaptations that form the basis for new drugs and biotechnologies. The coupling between the Earth system and the biosphere is essential for a systems understanding of biotechnology innovation and the derived bioeconomy. The non-living components of Earth control and determine the unique characteristics and evolution of organisms (single-celled and multicellular) that are the lifeblood of biotechnology via biomimetics, bio-inspired design of tools and devices, and sustainable agricultural and aquacultural productivity. Any comprehensive, holistic model or planning of a productive and sustainable bioeconomy requires intimate knowledge and integration of geoscience and biology.

Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS)

The Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences (AGS) welcomes proposals submitted to the disciplinary programs: Atmospheric Chemistry (ATC), Climate and Large Scale Dynamics (CLD), and Physical and Dynamic Meteorology (PDM), all of which have the potential to advance biotechnology and the bioeconomy. Of particular interest are proposals employing multidisciplinary approaches. Of particular interest are interdisciplinary proposals that employ multidisciplinary approaches and crossovers between GEO programs and those in other directorates. Within AGS biotechnology-related programs, the following topics are of particular interest, although others related to biotechnology and the bioeconomy are also strongly encouraged:

  • Research on processes that govern climate, climate change and variability, and predictive climate models necessary to inform infrastructure and bioeconomy for a sustainable planet (CLD).

  • Studies at the intersection of the atmospheric sciences, human health, and biotechnology with a focus on improved understanding of chemical reactions among atmospheric species, sources and sinks of trace gases, as well as aerosols relevant to environmental and human health and the bioeconomy (ATC).

  • Research on processes driving severe and hazardous weather, as well as investigations of climate-driven extreme events that are relevant to agricultural health and ecosystem function and services that help drive the bioeconomy (PDM).

  • Student and postdoctoral funding opportunities and training in atmospheric science topics relevant to biotechnology and the bioeconomy, as well as internships for atmospheric science graduate students interested in working on a project with a company in the bioeconomy or biotechnology sectors (ATC, CLD, PDM)

Earth Sciences (EAR)

The Earth Sciences (EAR) welcomes proposals submitted to the disciplinary programs: Geobiology and Low-temperature Geochemistry (GG), Hydrologic Sciences (HS), Geomorphology and Land-use Dynamics (GLD), Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology (SGP), Petrology and Geochemistry (CH), Tectonics (TE), and EAR Education and Human Resources (EH) all of which have the potential to advance biotechnology and the bioeconomy. Of particular interest are proposals employing multidisciplinary approaches. Of particular interest are interdisciplinary proposals that employ multidisciplinary approaches and crossovers between GEO programs and those in other directorates. Within EAR biotechnology-related programs, the following topics are of particular interest, although others related to biotechnology and the bioeconomy are also strongly encouraged:

  • Mineral-microbe interactions and characterization of microbial consortia and biofilms that control the dissolution and transformation of minerals, in particular oxides and sulfides, to better understanding microbially mediated release of toxic elements into the soil or water to form the basis of biotechnological advances focused on minimizing or mitigating the release and/or impact (GG).

  • Studies at the intersection of earth materials and human health, with a focus on characteristics and impacts of chemical reactions in the soil and critical zone as well as transport of toxins and pollutants via surface and groundwater affecting human health (GG, HS, SGP).

  • Advances in our understanding of climate change on the loss of biodiversity and the concomitant deterioration of landscapes and natural resources that enable earth system productivity and thus the bioeconomy including impacts due to land-use change, erosion, nutrient and topsoil loss, saline intrusion, etc., all of which can also severely impact the agricultural aspects of the bioeconomy (GG, GLD, HS, SGP).

  • Improvements in knowledge of the deposition of organic and inorganic resources locked in rock sequences relevant to bioeconomy and essential for the development of new biotechnological innovations and devices (CH, GLD, SGP, TE).

  • Studies of the coupling of hydrological processes with ecosystems, geochemical cycles, food and energy systems, and/or socio-ecological systems, with implications in agriculture, watershed management, and the bioeconomy (GG, HS).

  • Field and laboratory studies of the relationship between the geological elements of extreme environments and associated microbial assemblages with unique properties that can lead to the discovery of novel enzymes, metabolites, and biosynthetic pathways to enable the development of new, powerful pharmaceutical products and feedstocks, and can lead to advances in understanding and utilizing biomineralization, biomining, and the bioremediation of hazardous materials (GG, CH).

  • Student and postdoctoral funding opportunities and training in geological aspects related to biotechnology and the bioeconomy; and internships for graduate students interested in working on a project with a company in the bioeconomy or biotechnology sectors (CH, EH, GG, GLD, HS, SGP, TE).

Ocean Sciences (OCE)

The Ocean Sciences (OCE) welcomes proposals submitted to the disciplinary programs: Biological Oceanography (BO), Chemical Oceanography (CO), Marine Geology and Geophysics (MGG), Physical Oceanography (PO), Ocean Technology and Interdisciplinary Coordination (OTIC), and OCE Education (OCE Education), all of which have the potential to advance biotechnology and the bioeconomy. Of particular interest are interdisciplinary proposals that employ multidisciplinary approaches and crossovers between GEO programs and those in other directorates. Contact the appropriate OCE programs if you are considering proposals that address fundamental oceanographic and ecological topics with the potential to inform and support biotechnology applications and the bioeconomy, such as:

  • Development of novel instruments and methodologies to improve measurement, characterization, and sensing of physical properties of the ocean, marine life, and biological and chemical compounds (OTIC).

  • Research on biogeochemical cycling in the oceans and chemical exchanges between the ocean and the atmosphere, which may inform biotechnology and bioengineering applications of carbon sequestration through their Broader Impacts (BO, CO).

  • Studies that advance understanding and forecasting of the effects of climate change on the coupling of ocean hydrological processes with marine ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles and that generate new insights that can inform water, food, and energy security and contribute to a sustainable bioeconomy (BO, CO, PO).

  • Projects aimed at understanding resilience (at the level of populations, communities, and ecosystems) and functional biodiversity in the ocean under current and predicted future climate scenarios. Such fundamental understanding across microbial, plant, and animal species and their interactions with each other and the environment is critical to understanding ecosystem services and informing management and restoration of marine resources (BO, CO, PO).

  • Exploration of the deep-sea to advance discoveries about novel metabolites and biosynthetic pathways, the adaption of life to high pressure or temperature, and energy flow. These discoveries may inform the development of novel technologies and applications and help predict long-term consequences of human manipulation of the environment, for example, through deep-sea mining (BO, MGG).

  • Improved knowledge of the deposition and sequestration of organic and inorganic resources in the deep-sea and marine sediments (BO, MGG).

  • Student and postdoc funding opportunities and training in ocean science aspects related to biotechnology and the bioeconomy (BO, CO, MGG, PO, OTIC, OCE Education).

  • Creative use of faculty and educators to address undergraduate ocean science education in the areas of ocean and seafloor-related bioeconomy and biotechnology (OCE Education).

Polar Programs (OPP)

The Polar Programs (OPP) welcomes proposals submitted to programs in the Sections of Antarctic Research (ANT), and Arctic Research (ANT, ARC), both of which have elements with the potential to advance biotechnology and the bioeconomy. Potential investigators are encouraged to reach out to a program officer prior to proposal submission. Of particular interest are proposals employing multidisciplinary or NSF cross-directorate approaches. Of particular interest are interdisciplinary proposals that employ multidisciplinary approaches and crossovers between GEO programs and those in other directorates. Within OPP biotechnology-related programs, the following research or education topics are of particular interest, although others related to biotechnology and the bioeconomy are also strongly encouraged:

  • Research on processes and/or systems of the Arctic's rapidly changing natural environment, including changes in marine and terrestrial food webs, thawing of permafrost and impacts on social and cultural systems to improve our capacity to project future change in Arctic regions that will impact both the Arctic and global bioeconomy (ANT, ARC).

  • Research that increases our use of biotechnology with Polar organisms that are adapted to harsh, cold conditions to explore functional biodiversity, adaptation and leads to the discovery of novel enzymes, metabolites, and biosynthetic pathways. These discoveries have the potential to lead to significant broader societal value ranging from advances in medicine to agriculture or in other areas (ANT, ANT, ARC).

  • Studies of the coupling of Arctic hydrologic and geomorphic processes with ecosystems, geochemical cycles, food and energy systems, and/or socio-ecological systems, with implications in agriculture, wild land ecosystems, watershed management in relation to the bioeconomy (ANT, ARC).

  • Studies at the intersection of polar systems and human health, with a focus on characteristics and impacts of chemical reactions in the ocean, soil and critical zone as well as transport of toxins and pollutants via surface and groundwater on human health (ANT, ARC).

  • Training opportunities for Postdoctoral Fellows and graduate students for those in the polar sciences related to biotechnology and the bioeconomy. OPP also cooperates with the supplemental funding opportunities for non-academic research internships for graduate students (INTERN: NSF 21-013) interested in working on a project with a company in the bioeconomy or biotechnology sectors (ANT, ARC).

Geoscience Education and Diversity (GEO ED)

The Geoscience Education and Diversity (GEO ED) is a centralized unit within the Office of the Assistant Director of the Directorate for Geosciences that leads the Directorate in matters related to education, workforce development, and broadening participation. The GEO ED welcomes proposals in biotechnology and the bioeconomy that have a strong geoscience component for consideration as part of the GEOPAths program. Within GEO ED, the following topic is of particular interest, although others related to biotechnology and the bioeconomy are also strongly encouraged:

  • Creative engagement of students in the areas of geoscience related bioeconomy and biotechnology (GEOPAths).

Geoscience Innovation Hub (GEO iHub)

The Geoscience Innovation Hub (GEO iHub) is a centralized unit within the Office of the Assistant Director of the Directorate for Geosciences that links geoscientist and GEO to public-private partnership, technology development, customer discovery, and prototype enabling programs in the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnership (ITE, TI). It also serves as a liaison to the Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC) program in the Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) in the Directorate for Engineering. The GEO iHub welcomes proposals in biotechnology and the bioeconomy that have a strong geoscience component for consideration as part of the GEO portfolio of IUCRCs. It also provides guidance to geoscientists wishing to know more about the NSF portfolio of public-private partnership and innovation funding opportunities. Links to these opportunities are listed below:

  • Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers Program (IUCRC) - Program designed to assist in the development of public-private collaborative partnerships between universities and industry to carry out fundamental, use-inspired research to help a targeted sector of the economy overcome hurdles that are holding back further sector advancement or development.

  • Innovation Corps (I-Corps) - Program designed to train potential entrepreneurs in customer discovery and the market potential of their idea or invention allowing accelerated translation of research outcomes to market and society.

  • Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) - Program to support prototype refining/hardening of results of NSF-funded research projects to help accelerate their readiness for investment and transition to commercialization.

  • Convergence Accelerator - Program to support convergent multi-stakeholder attack, with a strong private sector component on a multifaceted problem of major societal concern with the delivery of high impact results to society and the economy within 2 to 3 years.

GEO Interdisciplinary Programs

Top of page

The Directorate for Math and Physical Sciences (MPS)

The Directorate for Math and Physical Sciences (MPS) supports fundamental research uncovering the frontiers in astronomy, chemistry, materials, mathematics, and physics in terms of new understanding of general principles, new materials, and new experimental/theoretical techniques. Biotechnology-related research in MPS spans a broad range of scientific endeavors encompassing, for example; the discovery, design, synthesis and study of new bioactive molecules, molecular systems, biomaterials and novel forms of soft condensed matter; the elaboration of theoretical methods and mathematical models of the biological systems from the molecule to the ecosystem, and the development of experimental techniques that allow one to peer into biological systems at the cellular, molecular and atomic levels, all of which are leveraged in studies of living systems and life processes across a wide range of temporal, spatial, and complexity scales. These endeavors support biotechnology in the current economy and lay the intellectual foundations for biotechnology-grounded industries of the future. MPS communities involved in biotechnology-themed research supported by the MPS Directorate, provide critical support sectors of the bioeconomy, from medicine to ecology to energy and agriculture.

Chemistry (CHE)

The Division of Chemistry (CHE) welcomes proposals to the Molecular Foundations for Biotechnology (MFB) Program Solicitation, particularly in areas of collaborative research that address high risk/high payoff endeavors outlined in the Solicitation. CHE also welcomes applications to its core programs, Chemistry of Life Processes (CLP), Chemical Measurement and Imaging (CMI), Chemical Synthesis (SYN), Chemical Catalysis (CAT), Chemical Structure Dynamics and Mechanism-A,B (CSDM-A,CSDM-B), Chemical Theory, Models and Computational Methods (CTMC), Macromolecular, Supramolecular and Nanochemistry (MSN), Environmental Chemical Sciences (ECS), and to the Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI) Program and the Chemical Instrumentation and Facilities that introduce chemical tools/approaches to open up potential new avenues in modern biotechnology. Within these programs, proposals that have the potential to open new avenues in modern biotechnology are of particular interest. Examples of topics include but are not limited to the following:

  • Research on chemical and spectroscopic probes, and on biomacromolecular structure and function that advances the molecular level understanding and modulation of biological processes. (CLP)

  • Development of new measurement tools, sensors, and methods for the study of biological processes and systems (CMI).

  • New synthetic strategies of molecules, including biologically-active molecules and their congeners and biomimetic molecules, that have potential applications in biotechnology (SYN).

  • Organic and/or inorganic as well as biomimetic or bioinspired catalysis that have implications for biotechnology (CAT).

  • New approaches for the study of the structure and dynamics of biomolecules and of the mechanism of chemical reactions that have implications for biotechnology (CSDM-A).

  • Design, synthesis, and evaluation of new chromophores and/or molecular systems with potential use in, or application for the study of, complex biological systems (CSDM-B).

  • Computational and theoretical chemistry algorithms and methods, including those that exploit artificial intelligence, for the study of biological systems and processes (CTMC).

  • The synthesis and chemistry of macromolecular, supramolecular and nano systems that are biomimetic or bio-inspired and on supramolecular interactions and assembly that underlie the structure and properties of biological molecules (MSN).

  • Chemical studies of environmental problems of relevance to biotechnology (ECS).

  • Development of chemical tools to elucidate and read biological codes, including those related to the temporal and spatial expression of RNA and proteins (all CHE, with particular emphasis in CLP, CMI and CSDM-B).

  • New quantum sensing approaches with potential for deployment in biological systems (mostly CSDM-A, CSDM-B and CMI).

  • The Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCI) and the Chemical Instrumentation and Facilities (CRIF) programs are also interested in the research topics listed above.

Materials Research (DMR)

The Division of Materials Research (DMR) welcomes proposals to its core programs of Biomaterials (BMAT), Condensed Matter Physics (CMP), Condensed Matter and Materials Theory (CMMT), and Electronic and Photonic Materials (EPM) that addresses fundamental science questions of biomaterials, soft-matter, and biological interfaces with hard matter, using interdisciplinary approaches across experiment, theory, and computation to advance biotechnology and support bioeconomy development. Within these programs, the following topics are of particular interest:

  • Bio-sourced or bio-inspired polymers having competitive or superior properties to state-of-the-art synthetic polymers and aimed at addressing the global plastics waste problem (BMAT, POL).

  • Fundamental materials research related to biological materials, biomimetic, bioinspired, and bio-enabled materials, synthetic materials intended for applications in contact with biological systems, and the processes through which nature produces biological materials (BMAT).

  • Research that involves interdisciplinary collaborations and crosses length scales from the nanoscopic to the bulk and time scales from micro-seconds to frozen systems in equilibrium and far-from-equilibrium systems in biology and soft-matter (all DMR)

  • Research that involves characterization, design, preparation, and modification; studies of structure-property relationships and interfacial behavior; and combinations of experiment, theory, and/or simulation of biomaterials or bio-inspired materials (all DMR).

  • Materials realized through synthetic biology; fueled biomaterials; stimuli-responsive biomaterials; antimicrobial or antiviral biomaterials; biodegradable, renewable, and sustainable materials; and plant- or fungal- based biomaterials are also encouraged (BMAT, CMP).

  • Research that advances conceptual understanding of hard and soft materials, and materials-related phenomena; polymeric materials and soft condensed matter, biologically inspired materials, and research at the interface with biology (CMMT).

  • The development of associated analytical, computational, and data-centric techniques; and predictive materials-specific theory, simulation, modeling for materials research; and advances of new paradigms in materials research, including emerging data-centric approaches utilizing data-analytics or machine learning. (CMMT).

  • Experimentally explore the physics of soft matter: partially ordered fluids, liquid crystals, gels, foams and emulsions, granular and colloid physics, rheology and jamming (CMP).

  • Research into mesoscale systems and macromolecular assemblies: self-organization and active matter, physics of biological materials, intrinsically heterogeneous materials, and complex interactions across different length scales (CMP).

  • Understanding and developing advanced materials and their integration with biological systems that may offer new paradigms in computing, communication and sensing components, or enable advanced electronics, optoelectronics, photonics and plasmonics (BMAT, EPM).

Mathematical Sciences (DMS)

The Division of Mathematical Sciences (DMS) welcomes proposals to its core and interdisciplinary programs of Computational Mathematics, Mathematical Biology (including MODULUS), Statistics, and the Joint DMS/NIGMS Program to Support Research in Biological and Mathematical Sciences that develop novel mathematical, statistical, and/or computational approaches and theory to address science questions to advance biotechnology. Within these programs, the following topics are of particular interest:

  • Mathematical research in biotechnological areas where computation plays a central and essential role, including analysis, development, and implementation of theoretically justified and efficient algorithms (Computational Mathematics ).

  • Research in areas of applied, foundational, and computational mathematics that addresses challenging problems of interest to members of the biological and biotechnological community, including the development of new mathematical concepts and tools that are capable of advancing biotechnologies (Mathematical Biology).

  • Interdisciplinary research that enables novel mathematical and computational approaches that capture and explore the full range of mechanisms and biological variability needed to better understand complex and nonlinear behavior across multiple biological systems and scales (MODULUS).

  • Research in statistical theory and methods, including research in statistical methods for applications to science and engineering problems relevant to biotechnology (Statistics).

MPS Interdisciplinary Programs

Top of page

The Office of Integrative Activities (OIA)

The Office of Integrative Activities (OIA) works across disciplinary boundaries to lead and coordinate strategic programs and opportunities across NSF that: Advance research excellence and innovation, develop human and infrastructure capacity critical to the U.S. science and engineering enterprise, and promote the engagement of scientists and engineers at all career stages.

Integrative Activities

  • Integrative Activities administers NSF-wide programs such as Science and Technology Centers, Major Research Instrumentation, Mid-scale Research Infrastructure - Track 1, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities - Excellence in Research

Convergence Accelerator Office

  • The Convergence Accelerator Office accelerates use-inspired convergence research by integrating multidisciplinary research and innovation processes through partnerships among a variety of stakeholders to speed basic research toward impactful solutions.

Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)

Evaluation and Assessment Capability (EAC)

  • The Evaluation and Assessment Capability (EAC) Section, which provides centralized support and resources for data collection, analytics, and the design of evaluation studies and surveys. These activities enable NSF to more consistently evaluate the impacts of its investments, to make more data-driven decisions, and to establish a culture of evidence-based planning and policymaking.

OIA Interdisciplinary Programs

Top of page

Interdisciplinary Partnerships

The Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) supports international research and research-related activities for U.S. science and engineering students through its International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) program and strategic linkages between U.S. and international groups through its Accelerating Research through International Network-to-Network Collaborations (AccelNet) program. These networks leverage research and educational resources to tackle grand research challenges that require significant coordinated international efforts and contribute the needed collaborations and are essential to advancing and expanding the bioeconomy.

  • NSF plans to launch Global Centers, an international center-level activity that will enable interdisciplinary and international teams to address grand societal challenges through use-inspired research. NSF anticipates releasing a funding opportunity in FY 2022 on topics related to climate change and clean energy and is developing Global Center-related partnerships with international counterpart funding agencies.

  • Partnerships in International Research Experiences (PIRE) funds international research collaborations between U.S.-based investigators and researchers in foreign countries. The current solicitation is for Use Inspired Climate Change and Clean Energy Research Challenges.

  • Accelerating Research through International Networks (AccelNet) is a large research coordination program that links research networks in the United States with foreign networks to develop research collaborations around scientific topics.

Top of page

The Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE)

The Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) supports basic research on human behavior and social organizations that focuses on how social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental forces affect the lives of people from birth to old age and how people in turn shape those forces. SBE scientists study fundamental principles of human behavior and social organizations at levels ranging from cells to society, from neurons to neighborhoods, and across space and time. Biotechnology related research in SBE illustrates the ethical, social, behavioral, and cultural dynamics that are shaping, defining, and informing the bioeconomy. Fully understanding the opportunities and challenges of developing a bioeconomy ecosystem will require understanding the local-regional aspects, and historical perspectives on technological change, spatial, economic, social, and behavioral factors, and the impact industrial clustering has on innovation. The implications of the developments in the bioeconomy for underrepresented groups and the promotion of diversity, equity and inclusion are critical to broadening participation and socio-economic wellbeing.

Office of Multidisciplinary Activities (SMA)

The Office of Multidisciplinary Activities (SMA) provides a focal point for programmatic activities that cut across NSF and SBE boundaries and includes programs that support Ethical and Responsible Research (ER2), SBE postdoctoral research fellowships (SPRF), programs to research, training and infrastructure at minority-serving institutions (Build and Broaden 3.0 (B2 3.0) and SBE research experiences for undergraduates. SMA programs fund multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research activities for the bioeconomy ecosystem and related biotechnology activities for postdoctoral fellows and undergraduate researchers. In addition, SMA funds research to support the ethical and responsible research within the bioeconomy ecosystem that includes biotechnology.

  • Multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research activities for the bioeconomy ecosystem and related biotechnology activities for postdoctoral fellows and undergraduate researchers. (SPRF)

  • Ethical and responsible research within the bioeconomy ecosystem that includes biotechnology (ER2)

  • Research on diversity, equity, and inclusion aspects of the bioeconomy (B2 3.0)

Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)

The Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) advances fundamental understanding of human behavior and cognition, supporting activities focusing on how human behavioral patterns develop and change across time and space. Programs in the division include Cognitive Neuroscience (CogNeuro), Cultural Anthropology (CA), Human-Environmental and Geographical Sciences (HEGS), Human Network and Data Sciences (HNDS), Perception, Action and Cognition (PAC) and Strengthening American Infrastructure (SAI), and seek to advance scientific knowledge and methods addressing perception, thought processes, language, learning, and social behavior across neural, individual, family, and group levels.

  • Research on fundamental understanding of ways in which human reasoning and behavior, together with their geographic, environmental, and cultural context, can impact emerging and expanding biotechnology and bioeconomy. (CA , HEGS, SAI, HNDS)

  • Research that enhances our understanding of the ways in which human behavior and cognition change in response to advances in the biotechnology and bioeconomy sector. (PAC, CogNeuro)

  • Research to predict and address how people respond to life's changes, including those that emerge as a consequence of biotechnology and bioeconomy. (CA , SAI, HNDS)

Social and Economic Sciences (SES)

The Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES) advances fundamental understanding of how people live, work, and cooperate with one another. SES programs include Accountable Institutions and Behavior (AIB), Decision, Risk and Management Sciences (DRMS), Economics (Econ), Law and Science (LS), Science of Organizations (SoO), Science of Science: Discovery, Communication, and Impact (SoS:DCI), Science and Technology Studies (STS), Security and Preparedness (SAP), Sociology (Soc). Biotechnology and Bioeconomy research in the SES sciences helps to improve quality of life, institutional effectiveness, and economic prosperity.

  • Research designed to improve the understanding of the processes and institutions of the U.S. economy and of the world system, including biotechnology and bioeconomy ecosystems. (Econ, SoO, SAP)

  • Research that addresses designing, implementing, adopting and using biotechnology within a bioeconomy ecosystem to benefit society. (Econ, SoO, SAP, DRMS, STS, Soc, SoS:DCI)

  • Research directed at increasing the understanding and effectiveness of decision making in the Biotechnology and Bioeconomy fields by individuals, groups, organizations, and society. (DRMS, SoO)

  • Interdisciplinary studies of ethics, equity, governance, and policy issues that are closely related to biotechnology and bioeconomy development and innovation. (SAP, AIB, SoS:DCI, LS)

  • Research that advances knowledge and understanding of issues related to global and national security, including human security, conflict processes, and international and comparative political economy. (SAP, Econ, SoS:DCI,)

SBE Interdisciplinary Programs

Top of page

The Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP)

The Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships ( TIP) harnesses the nation's vast and diverse talent pool to advance critical and emerging technologies, address pressing societal and economic challenges and accelerate the translation of research results from lab to market and society. TIP improves U.S. competitiveness by growing the U.S. economy and training a diverse workforce for future, high-wage jobs.

TIP programs, Convergence Accelerator and Regional Innovation Engines and Partnerships Enabling Open Source Ecosystems foster innovation and technology ecosystems. Programs that are part of the Lab to Market platform, Partnerships for Innovation, I-Corps, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), establish translation pathways. All programs support biotechnology applications that serve to build a vibrant and inclusive U.S. bioeconomy.

Top of page

Interdisciplinary Partnerships

Within NSF there are a wide range of interdisciplinary programs that relate to biotechnology and the bioeconomy and involve multiple Directorates. NSF is also working with other federal agencies, domestic and international partners to support initiatives that advance biotechnology and the bioeconomy. All these programs are also cross-listed under the units that are involved in each.

Interdisciplinary Programs

Top of page

Top of page