NSF's Spectrum Innovation Initiative

NSF has many facilities requiring access to the spectrum including the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array Spectrum and Wireless Innovation enabled by Future Technologies (SWIFT) Innovation Zones like NSF's Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) Remote sites require connectivity like NSF's Polar Programs

The electromagnetic spectrum is both a key enabling technology for modern civilization and a key to unlocking new scientific discoveries. As technology has advanced at a rapid pace, the limited spectrum resource has seen increasing demand and the need for more efficient use of the spectrum has become clear. Use of the spectrum for the provision of mobile broadband data, Internet of Things (IoT) access, mobile healthcare, intelligent transportation system, 5G and next generation systems, and scientific investigation call for innovative approaches.


The Spectrum Innovation Initiative

The National Science Foundation's Spectrum Innovation Initiative presents a suite of opportunities to address the pressing challenges arising from the growing demand for usage of the electromagnetic spectrum, including passive and active applications.

The goal of the Spectrum Innovation Initiative is to promote dynamic and agile spectrum utilization, while ensuring innovation and security for all users. Reaching this goal will require basic research, infrastructure development, new collaborations, public outreach, education and workforce development. While NSF has supported successful spectrum research activities for many years, with the Initiative NSF is enacting an increased commitment on a larger and more interdisciplinary scale. Enhancing efficient spectrum utilization and access is vital to the national interest, including the scientific enterprise and industries of the future.

NSF, through this initiative, is focused on cultivating research and innovation in spectrum usage in the following ways:

  1. National Radio Dynamic Zones (NRDZ) - establishing new pilot test ranges allowing dynamic spectrum sharing research and development for passive and active users;
  2. National Center for Spectrum Innovation and Workforce Development - connecting spectrum researchers with the nationwide challenges and growing the spectrum workforce in support of industries of the future;
  3. Spectrum Research Activities - promoting and developing the means for increased and more effective use of the spectrum for passive and active applications, especially activities of a cross-disciplinary nature;
  4. Education and Workforce Development - encouraging the development of a skilled and diverse workforce through education and training programs.

Annoucements, Current & Past Funding Opportunities, and Awards

  • On February 1, 2021, NSF entered into an agreement with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA), signing a Memorandum of Agreement for their support of NSF’s Spectrum Innovation Initiative. This agreement is intended to ensure that FCC and NTIA staff can provide their subject matter expertise to help ensure that NSF’s Spectrum Innovation Initiative investments in spectrum research, infrastructure, and workforce development are in alignment with U.S. spectrum regulatory and policy objectives, principles, and strategies.
  • MOA announcement: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-369633A1.pdf
    MOA text: https://www.ntia.doc.gov/files/ntia/blogimages/sii_moa_fcc_nsf_ntia.pdf

Funding Opportunities
  • National Radio Dynamic Zones (SII-NRDZ) NSF 22-579: The goal of the SII-NRDZ program is to advance the use of dynamic spectrum sharing. SII-NRDZ seeks to perform extended (6- to 12-month) field trials at sites where the field trials will enhance spectrum access for facilities or applications. In this solicitation, NSF announced opportunities for research on spectrum sharing solutions and risk analysis techniques; for investigation of applications and sites for radio dynamic zone field trials; and for program participation by entities interested to mature results of the research studies into robust implementations and to lead the planned field trials. Interested proposers are encouraged to check the Information section on this web page for relevant webinars and FAQs.

  • Dear Colleague Letter: NSF's Spectrum Innovation Initiative and associated Supplemental Funding Opportunities NSF 20-081: NSF announced opportunities for supplemental support to existing NSF-owned and operated facilities, NSF platforms, NSF-supported projects, and NSF educational programs directly related to spectrum innovation as well as support for conferences and workshops.

    The DCL expired on July 1, 2021.

  • Dear Colleague Letter:  Supplemental Funding Opportunity to explore feasibility of National Radio Dynamic Zones (NRDZ) NSF 20-079: NSF offered an opportunity to explore the feasibility of establishing NRDZ and to identify the underlying research and deployment challenges, through supplements to existing NSF awards.

    The DCL expired on July 1, 2021.

  • National Center for Wireless Spectrum Research (SII-Center): NSF issued this solicitation to catalyze the development and establishment of a successful national center called the Spectrum Innovation Initiative National Center for Wireless Research (SII-Center) to conduct foundational spectrum research. The spectrum research SII-Center will serve as a focal point for sustained research and development in the most challenging areas that are expected to create advanced wireless technologies and systems that benefit society, of which 5G cellular networks are an example. The SII-Center is also expected to educate and develop an agile workforce needed to support industries of the future which will rely heavily on wireless technologies and will require new advanced and automated spectrum management techniques. The proposal deadline has passed.NSF has already awarded Planning Grants in fiscal year 2020.

  • Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Enabled by Future Technologies (SWIFT): This program has a focus on effective spectrum utilization and/or coexistence techniques, especially with passive uses, which have received less attention from researchers. Breakthrough innovations are sought on both the wireless communication hardware and the algorithmic/protocol fronts through synergistic teamwork. The goal of these research projects may be the creation of new technology or significant enhancements to existing wireless infrastructure, with an aim to benefit society by improving spectrum utilization, beyond mere spectrum efficiency. The SWIFT program seeks to fund collaborative team research that transcends the traditional boundaries of individual disciplines.

  • NSF/Intel Partnership on Machine Learning for Wireless Networking Systems (MLWiNS): This program seeks to accelerate fundamental, broad-based research on wireless-specific machine learning (ML) techniques, towards a new wireless system and architecture design, which can dynamically access shared spectrum, efficiently operate with limited radio and network resources, and scale to address the diverse and stringent quality-of-service requirements of future wireless applications. In parallel, this program also targets research on reliable distributed ML by addressing the challenge of computation over wireless edge networks to enable ML for wireless and future applications.


Information: Workshops, Webinars and FAQs

NRDZ Solicitation (NSF 22-579) Information

  • Solicitation page
    • Update (April 1, 2022): Deadline has been extended by one day to June 21, 2022
  • Program Officer Presentation on SII-NRDZ Solicitation

  • Live Question and Answer Session
    • Update (April 1, 2022): New date is April 18, 2022; 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
    • Register in advance for this webinar

    • Questions may be submitted during the session verbally or using the webinar chat box
    • Questions may also be submitted in advance by email to SII@nsf.gov

  • Additional Question and Answer Sessions may be scheduled and will be posted here
  • FAQs may be released and will be posted here

NRDZ Project Updates: NSF published a supplemental funding opportunity in 2020 (Dear Colleague Letter 20-079) to explore the feasibility of National Radio Dynamic Zones. In two webinars, Principal Investigators supported under this opportunity gave updates on NRDZ project results to date and on their vision for NRDZ.

  • Webinar agendas

  • March 16, 2022   1:00 PM to 4:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
    Project updates: National Radio Dynamic Zones (NRDZ) advanced wireless investigations
    Video Recording
  • March 23, 2022   2:00 PM to 5:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
    Project updates: National Radio Dynamic Zones (NRDZ) radio astronomy investigations
    Video Recording

Participating NSF Directorates

Contact Information

Spectrum Innovation Initiative program team:

Email for contacting the Spectrum Innovation Initiative Program Team: SII@nsf.gov
Alexander Sprintson (CISE/CNS) (703) 292-2170
Mohammod Ali (ENG/ECCS) (703) 292-4632
Lisa Winter (GEO/AGS) (703) 292-8519
David Morris (MPS/AST) (703) 292-4478
Jonathan Williams (MPS/AST) (703) 292-2455
John Chapin (MPS/AST) (703) 292-8222
Nancy A. Lutz (SBE) (703) 292-7280
Li Yang (EHR) (703) 292-2677

SII-CENTER program team:
Email for inquiries regarding the SII-CENTER solicitation: SII-Center@nsf.gov

Alexander Sprintson (CISE/CNS) (703) 292-2170
Mohammod Ali (ENG/ECCS) (703) 292-4632
Lisa Winter (GEO/AGS) (703) 292-8519
David Morris (MPS/AST) (703) 292-4478
Jonathan Williams (MPS/AST) (703) 292-2455