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News Release 18-070

Got an idea for science and engineering research? Send it to the NSF 2026 Idea Machine

NSF opens 8-week competition starting Aug. 31

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The NSF 2026 Idea Machine will accept entries from Aug. 31, 2018 through Oct. 26, 2018.

August 30, 2018

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

If you've ever had an idea about how the National Science Foundation (NSF) could transform fundamental research, a huge window of opportunity is about to open. From Aug. 31, 2018 through Oct. 26, 2018, the foundation will open the entry window for its first-ever NSF 2026 Idea Machine, a competition that gives entrants a chance to help inform the agenda for basic research, through the Nation's 250th anniversary in 2026 and beyond.

NSF is looking for fresh ideas -- large in scope and different from what the foundation already does. These ideas should address compelling challenges in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). On Aug. 31, the NSF 2026 Idea Machine website will be updated with full rules and guidelines, and a portal for submitting entries. NSF 2026 is one of the agency's 10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments.

How big can your proposed idea be? NSF wants ideas for broad areas of research that would require a long-term commitment -- 10 years or more -- and potentially transform a research area through new explorations and creative inquiry.

A submission to the Idea Machine should be ambitious. It should be an idea that contributes to NSF's mission to support basic research in a way that ultimately fuels the nation's economy, enhances its security and sustains U.S. global leadership in science and engineering. Progress toward addressing research in that area should have a significant impact on science and society.

"Scientific creativity and innovation have no bounds. Everyone in the scientific community, from middle schoolers to emeriti professors, as well as anyone who loves science in the general public have ideas about the future and what might be possible," said Suzi Iacono, head of NSF's Office of Integrative Activities. "We want to harness those rich imaginations through an approach that's totally new for NSF, but also in keeping with our tradition of reaching out into the community to find fresh, new ideas that have the potential to benefit science and society."

NSF's goal is to select two to four winning entries from the Idea Machine. Winning entries will receive $26,000 and their authors will be honored at an event in Washington, D.C. But the real prize is the opportunity to promote the progress of science and engineering by helping NSF identify a new area of research. NSF could use winning entries from the Idea Machine to help shape programs, or research agendas -- perhaps becoming the next Big Idea in need of long-term investment by the foundation.

For 70 years, NSF has kept an eye on the future, envisioning new research directions. The Idea Machine is yet another example of NSF looking for innovative ideas wherever they might exist. The Idea Machine also reflects NSF's goal of broadening participation in STEM -- the idea that bringing in new people and viewpoints benefits the entire scientific ecosystem. Once the window for entries closes on Oct. 26, NSF staff will screen and judge entries. For the most promising entries, NSF will invite submitters to provide video pitches, posting them online for public comment in early 2019. NSF will convene a blue-ribbon panel of judges to conduct interviews with finalists and will plan to announce winners and award prizes in the summer of 2019.

See the NSF 2026 Idea Machine website, where the details, rules and eligibility requirements will be posted Aug. 31, 2018.


Media Contacts
Rob Margetta, NSF, (703) 292-2663, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2022 budget of $8.8 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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