Bioeconomy / Advanced Biotechnology
Read about the current activities and programs supported by NSF Directorates and Offices that advance biotechnology and the bioeconomy.
The Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO) supports basic research which expands our fundamental understanding of living systems from the molecular and ecosystem scale. The fundamental understanding enables prediction and bioinspired design at all scales of biology to solve societal problems. Programs support advances in genomics and genomic tool development, systems and synthetic biology, biological and bioinspired design, continental scale ecological measurement and prediction, ecology and evolution of infectious disease, biodiversity, and human, cyber, and physical biological infrastructure, as well as other core biological programs that advance biotechnology and the bioeconomy.
The Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) supports foundational and translational research on 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.
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.
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 materials, computation and information storage, disability & rehabilitation engineering, microbiome engineering, pharmaceutical technologies, agricultural engineering, environmental engineering & sustainability.
The Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) supports basic research that advances the frontiers of biological knowledge and drives biotechnological innovation, spanning the atmospheric, earth, ocean, and polar sciences, including many extreme environments. GEO-supported research has led to discovery and understanding of life forms which have evolved highly specialized biogeochemical and physiological adaptations that can form the basis for new biotechnologies. GEO also supports research on ecosystem dynamics, interactions and adaptations that have direct implications for human and animal health and the aquaculture and agriculture industries.
The Directorate for Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MPS) supports fundamental research in the mathematical and physical sciences that pushes the frontiers of astronomy, physics, chemistry, materials, and mathematics, advances the discovery and understanding of fundamental principles that govern processes across all scales of matter including life processes in biology, and can be applied to the study of complex systems, of which living systems are a prominent example. 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 models 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. Scientists involved in biotechnology-themed research supported by the MPS Directorate acquire skills critical for the development and transformation of the industries of the future and other sectors of the bioeconomy, from medicine to ecology to energy and agriculture.
The Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE) supports basic research on human behavior and social organizations that foThe cuses 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 employ rigorous methods to discover fundamental principles of human behavior and social organizations at levels ranging from cells to society, from neurons to neighborhoods, and across space and time. Such fundamental principles help us understand patterns of stability and change at the individual, group, organizational, and societal levels that can be applied to promote the progress of science and to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare. Fundamental research in SBE that advances biotechnology and the bioeconomy enables transition to market, commercialization and future innovation.
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.
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. Specifically, OIA carries out its mission through four sections: Integrative Activities, which 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; the Convergence Accelerator Office, which 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, which enhances research competitiveness of targeted jurisdictions (states, territories, commonwealth) by strengthening STEM capacity; and Evaluation and Assessment Capability, 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.