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Robotics at NSF

Robot themed icons with words Robotics@NSF Image credit: Benvenuto Cellini/Shutterstock.com, davooda/Shutterstock.com, Bestiary/Shutterstock.com.

NSF has several funding opportunities for research on robotics and related areas.



Robotics-focused programs

Foundational Research in Robotics (Robotics)
The Robotics program supports foundational research in robotics. All proposals must convincingly explain how a successful outcome will enable transformative new robot functionality or substantially enhance existing robot functionality. The proposal should clearly articulate how the intellectual contribution of the proposed work addresses fundamental gaps in robotics. Projects that only superficially invoke robotics should not be submitted to the Robotics program.

The Robotics program accepts CAREER proposals, which are subject to the CAREER solicitation deadlines and other requirements. CISE Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) proposals related to CISE topics in robotics should be submitted to the CRII program in the appropriate CISE division.

National Robotics Initiative (NRI-2.0)
The National Robotics Initiative NRI-2.0 program supports fundamental research that will accelerate the development and use of collaborative robots. The creation of the Foundational Research in Robotics program does not affect the current National Robotics Initiative NRI-2.0 solicitation (NSF 20-522). Any changes to subsequent NRI competitions will be detailed in future NSF communications and updated on this site.


Other relevant programs

Disability and Rehabilitation Engineering (ENG/CBET/DARE)
The DARE program supports fundamental engineering research that will improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities through: development of new technologies, devices, or software; advancement of knowledge regarding normal or pathological human motion; or understanding of injury mechanisms. DARE welcomes proposals where established robotic systems are used to contributed to the improved quality of life of persons with disabilities. Areas of particular interest are neuroengineering and rehabilitation robotics.

Dynamics, Control and Systems Diagnostics (ENG/CMMI/DCSD)
The DCSD program supports fundamental research in dynamics, including topics of modeling, analysis, diagnostics, and control. DCSD proposals must clearly articulate a primary intellectual contribution in at least one of these areas. DSCD may be an appropriate program if the proposed research objectives represent fundamental contributions to the field of dynamics and control, with robotics included primarily as a possible application area or validation platform.

Energy, Power, Control, and Networks (ENG/ECCS/EPCN)
The EPCN program supports innovative research in modeling, optimization, learning, adaptation, and control of networked multi-agent systems. The program invests in machine learning algorithms, stochastic control, and neuromorphic engineering. EPCN continues to support networked control systems dealing with robots but design of robots should be submitted to the Robotics program.

Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier: Core Research (FW-HTF)
The FW-HTF program supports convergent research to advance the human-technology partnership, in the context of work, workers, workplaces, education and reskilling, and the emerging socio-technological landscape. FW-HTF projects may incorporate robotics research in the context of work. However, FW-HTF projects must embody a convergent research perspective incorporating social and economic analysis, as well as study of worker perspectives and quality of life.

Human-Centered Computing (CISE/IIS/HCC)
Robotic-related proposals may be of interest to the HCC program if they focus on general contributions to human-technology interfaces rather than specifically on advances to human-robotic interaction (HRI). HCC may also be more appropriate than the Robotics program when investigators employ off-the-shelf robotic technology in order to study human behavior.

I-Corps Teams (I-Corps)
Through the I-Corps Teams program, NSF seeks to spur translation of fundamental research to the market place, to encourage collaboration between academia and industry, and to train NSF-funded and other academic researchers including faculty, students and related interested participants in innovation and entrepreneurship skills. This includes support for teams developing robotics-related technologies that wish to accelerate the development of new technologies, products and processes that arise from fundamental research.

Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers (IUCRC)
The IUCRC program accelerates the impact of basic research through close relationships between industry innovators, world-class academic teams, and government leaders. The IUCRC program spans a broad range of topics and supports a number of centers that include robotics related context.

Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (EHR/DRL/ITEST)
ITEST welcomes applied research and development proposals in which pre-K through 12th grade youth engage in innovative technology experiences, including experiences with robotics, in formal or informal settings. In ITEST projects, underrepresented or underserved youth participate in innovative technology experiences designed to ignite their interest in, and to prepare them for, the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce of the future.

Law and Science Program (SBE/SES/LS)
The LS program supports research that examines the key legal, regulatory, and ethical issues in respect to specific types of robotics and the role of governance in technological development. The program also welcomes research that examines the impact robotics will have on the law in areas such as data protection, consumer protection, and intellectual property, and the extent to which the legal system will adapt to changes brought about by robotic innovations.

Mind, Machine and Motor Nexus (ENG/CMMI/M3X)
The M3X program supports fundamental studies of bidirectional dynamic interactions between humans and intelligent machines. Interactions between humans and robots are within the scope of M3X, however the focus of an M3X project should be on emergent behavior arising from dynamic interactions, rather than on advances in robotic capabilities.

Partnerships for Innovation (ENG/IIP/PFI)
The PFI program funds robotics related projects that will transition the technology out of the lab and into the market for societal benefit. Only NSF-funded research and researchers who either have a current NSF award or completed their NSF award in the last seven years or have participated in NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) Teams program in the last four years are eligible.

Perception, Action & Cognition (SBE/BCS/PAC)
Robotic-related proposals may be of interest to the PAC program if they focus on discovering fundamental principles of human motor control and coordination, or perceptual or cognitive processes that might influence optimal design of robotic systems.

Research on Emerging Technologies for Teaching and Learning (RETTL)
The RETTL program funds exploratory research projects that advance robotics in support of learning. Areas of particular interest are social robots that engage conversationally and/or serve as an embodied partner with learners. Projects must advance both the learning sciences as well as robotics.

Robust Intelligence (CISE/IIS/RI)
The Robust Intelligence (RI) program accepts research proposals aimed at contributing deeper understanding and new insights in and across the disciplinary areas outlined in the RI program description. The RI program no longer accepts proposals whose principal research focus is on robotics. Proposals to RI may involve robots as platforms for evaluation and demonstration of the applicability and broader impacts of RI claims. Proposals that focus primarily on the embodiment of intelligent systems should now be submitted to the Robotics program. This includes most robotics research previously in scope for the RI program.

Science of Learning and Augmented Intelligence (SBE/BCS/SL)
The Science of Learning and Augmented Intelligence (SL) program supports research that develops basic theoretical insights and fundamental knowledge about principles, processes and mechanisms of learning in humans, other animals and in machines. It also supports research about augmented intelligence -- how human cognitive function can be augmented through interactions with others, contextual variations, and technology. Priorities include robotics-related projects that use insights from biological systems of learning to inspire innovation in human-technology interfaces, and technologies that have intelligent capabilities of biological systems.

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) - America's Seed Fund
America's Seed Fund powered by NSF helps startups and small businesses transform their ideas into marketable products and services, with focus on high-risk, high-impact technologies, including robotics, that show promise but whose success has not yet been validated.

Smart and Connected Health (SCH)
SCH welcomes robotics related proposals that use established robotics techniques to accelerate the development and integration of innovative computer science and engineering approaches that would support the transformation of health and medicine. SCH does not fund proposals for assistive technology that addresses a person's quality of life, but not health per se.