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Bullet policy · Mar 28, 2022

NSF Launches New Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships

On March 16, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the establishment of the Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships or TIP—the agency’s first new directorate in more than 30 years.

According to NSF, the new directorate “creates breakthrough technologies; meets societal and economic needs; leads to new, high-wage jobs; and empowers all Americans to participate in the U.S. research and innovation enterprise.” The directorate is charged with supporting and scaling use-inspired and translational research. NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan says TIP will “accelerate discovery and innovation to rapidly bring new technologies to market and address the most pressing societal and economic challenges of our time.”

Through TIP, NSF plans to launch a set of integrated initiatives that will advance critical and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity, microelectronics, and quantum computing; accelerate the translation of research results into real world applications; and support new education pathways to build a diverse and skilled technical workforce. Notably, the new directorate will establish regional “innovation engines” throughout the nation, which will advance use-inspired research, entrepreneurship, and workforce development to empower regional industries and economies.

A large part of NSF’s existing innovation and translation portfolio, including the NSF Convergence Accelerator, Innovation Corps (I-Corps), Partnerships for Innovation, and America’s Seed Fund programs, will be repositioned under the new TIP Directorate.

It was announced that the new directorate will be led by Dr. Erwin Gianchandani, who will serve as the inaugural NSF Assistant Director for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships. Gianchandani previously served as the Senior Advisor for Translation, Innovation and Partnerships for over a year and as the Deputy Assistant Director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering for six years. He has a background in computational systems biology and earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science and his master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering from the University of Virginia.

Congress approved the establishment of a new technology directorate at NSF when it passed FY 2022 appropriations legislation. However, the new directorate’s name and scope are still being debated in Congress as part of competing authorization measures to advance U.S. innovation and competitiveness with China. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260), which was approved by the Senate last summer, proposes that the ‘Directorate for Technology and Innovation’ should advance research in 10 “key technology focus areas,” which should be periodically reviewed and revised. The America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 4521), which was passed by the House last month, proposes that the ‘Directorate for Science and Engineering Solutions’ should broadly focus on applying research to address “societal challenges” such as climate change, STEM education, global competitiveness in critical technologies, national security, and social and economic inequality. Lawmakers hope to negotiate a final bill by this spring.

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