NSF Convergence Accelerator

National-scale societal challenges cannot be solved in a single discipline. Instead, these challenges require convergence to merge ideas, approaches, and technologies from a wide range of diverse sectors, disciplines, and experts. 
               
Launched in 2019, the NSF Convergence Accelerator builds upon basic research and discovery to accelerate solutions toward societal impact. Using convergence research fundamentals and integration of innovation processes, the program brings together multiple disciplines, expertise, and cross-cutting partnerships to solve national-scale societal challenges.

End results for each solution will vary, but the overarching goal is long-lasting societal impact. Below are examples of solution transitioning to societal impact:

  • Integration into existing systems
  • Open-source tools and knowledge products
  • Expansion into new markets
  • Follow-on funding and investment

A Unique R&D Program


The Convergence Accelerator's unique program structure offers researchers and innovators the opportunity to accelerate their research toward tangible solutions that make a difference. Through an intense and hands-on journey, researchers gain skills and experiences to be used during the program and throughout one's career.

Focused Solutions for Societal Impact: Combining innovation processes, the program provides researchers and innovators the knowledge and opportunity to accelerate solutions into real-world applications.

Ignited Convergence through Cross-Cutting Partnerships: Teams comprised of diverse expertise, disciplines, sectors, and communities of practice work together to stimulate innovation and discovery.

Co-opetition Environment: In a co-opetition environment, teams supply needed skills and expertise to support solutions to advance to the next phase.

Key Characteristics of the program include:

  • Use-inspired and application oriented
  • Fed by basic research & discovery
  • Adopts a convergent approach
  • Integrated teams including industry, academics, not-for-profits, government entities, and others
  • Fixed term, with a focus on deliverables
  • Intensive education and mentorship
  • Proactively and intentionally managed

 

 

Engaging the Convergence Accelerator


There are several opportunities for researchers and innovators from academia, industry, non-profit, government, and other organizations to engage in the Convergence Accelerator. For-profit, non-profit, government, and international collaborations are welcomed, but the collaborations must follow the NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG).  

Submit an idea during the ideation process: Yearly the program releases a Dear Colleague Letter, Request for Information to gather ideas from the community-at-large.

Further an idea through a workshop: Workshops are developed and hosted to further an idea and to incorporate convergence research and various disciplines and expertise. Depending on the workshop topic, the program encourages researchers and innovators to engage in the workshop dialogue. Additionally, if your idea is chosen, the Convergence Accelerator may ask you to lead the development of the workshop. 

Form a team and apply to a convergence research solicitation: Yearly, the program releases a solicitation funding opportunity featuring several focused research topics from the ideation process. Researchers and innovators are encouraged to apply, however, the submitted research project team must include a mix of disciplines, expertise and organizations from academia, industry, non-profit, government, and other community of practice and sectors. 

Contribute to a current funded solution: Cross-cutting partnerships or NSF Catalyzed partnerships are vital to the Convergence Accelerator and the funded teams. Theses partners may provide needed expertise, represent end-users; or provide resources, services, and infrastructure to accelerate a specific funded solution. 

More about the Convergence Accelerator


Team Composition


Funded teams are comprised of researchers, innovators, and other partners working on the project. The team must be composed of personnel from a mix of disciplines, expertise, and organizations from academia, industry, non-profit, government, and other sectors; including underrepresented groups needed to accomplish the project goals of accelerated use-inspired research and transition to practice. There are no team size limits and teams are expected to evolve, adding and removing members, as the project advances.

Cross-Cutting Partnerships


Partnerships from academia, industry, non-profits, government, and other sectors are required on each funded research team. Each partnership is different and may provide needed expertise, represent end-users; or provide resources, services, and infrastructure to advance the solution forward. Not all partners need to be identified at the time of the phase one proposal submission. 

Intellectual Property


By the end of the Convergence Research phase one, funded teams are required to identify the potential intellectual property (IP). IP includes relevant partner contributions and ownership and management of the IP. Relevant IP forms such as trade secrets, copyrights, patents, and patentable information must be included.