Funding and regions of interest

Regions of interest

The NSF Engines program emphasizes the notion of stimulating innovation-driven economic growth within a well-defined “region of service,” defined broadly as a metropolitan area (including its adjacent rural regions) to an area spanning parts of several states.

The NSF Engines program funding prioritizes U.S. geographic regions that do not have well-established innovation ecosystems. Engines in regions where prospective ecosystem members exist and innovation activities are loosely connected are of particular interest.

While participating organizations in a given Engine should mostly consist of organizations within the region of service, the Engine can also bring in partners outside the geographical area. All partners must be aligned with the goals of the Engine, and their roles in the economic development of the region of service must be justified. It is expected that Engines will leverage appropriate partnerships across the country to achieve their goals in a way that complements other ongoing efforts by NSF and other federal agencies, state governments, and private sector organizations. Further, mentoring from experienced organizations is strongly encouraged; organizations operating in existing, mature innovation ecosystems are welcome to join with proposers supporting other regions of service to provide this support.

Innovation ecosystem life cycle

There are multiple innovation ecosystem models that outline the development process to maturity. The graphic below illustrates the growth of an innovation ecosystem within the NSF Engines program using a five-phase model.

Five-phase model
NSF's five-phase model of planning and building an innovation ecosystem

 Development Phase – Initial scope is defined, and strategic plans are developed.


 Nascent Phase – Organization and partnerships are solidified, and innovation activities ramp up.



 Emergent Phase – Technological products and services and workforce capabilities are scaled, and the innovation ecosystem starts to attract sizeable external funding towards promoting innovation-based economic activity.



 Growth Phase – Innovation ecosystem grows as a national leader—attracting increasing levels of economic activity and business creation—with underlying support from state, local, and federal governments.



Mature Phase – Innovation ecosystem is well established and can sustain itself without NSF Engines funding.



Letters of intent and full proposals are currently being accepted for Type-2 awards.

Up to $160 Million and Up to 10 years

  • Type-2 awards fund Engines across three distinct phases—the Nascent, Emergent and Growth Phases.
  • Throughout the three phases, the Engine
    • Creates firm partner and stakeholder commitments
    • Seeks continuing growth of its innovation ecosystem through expansion of scientific, technical, education, and workforce development
    • Help its regional innovation ecosystems emerge as a national leader in its topic area during the Growth Phase

Eligibility information

These organizational types are encouraged to submit proposals for the NSF Engines program: 

  • U.S. accredited institutions of higher education with a campus located in the U.S.
  • U.S.-based non-profit organizations
  • U.S.-based for-profit organizations

In addition to the above, federally funded research and development centers, national laboratories, and state, local, and tribal governments (limited to agencies, offices, or divisions specifically dedicated to innovation, economic and/or workforce development) can receive NSF funds through subawards. For more information on eligibility, refer to the Funding Opportunities and Deadline page.