SIAM News Blog

Funding Opportunity: NSF Announces New Solicitation to Support National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research Institutes

The following announcement was shared by Lewis-Burke Associates LLC.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced a solicitation to support new Artificial Intelligence (AI) Institutes. This solicitation is a joint activity with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The AI Institutescale activities aim to support longer, larger awards for multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder teamsto advance AI research and education and to address societal grand challenges.

The solicitation invites proposals in two tracks:
• The Institute Track: awards up to $20 million over five years, which must focus on one or more of the                         themes below:
o Trustworthy AI;
            o Foundations of Machine Learning;
  o AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System;
o AI-Augmented Learning;
o AI for Accelerating Molecular Synthesis and Manufacturing; and
o AI for Discovery in Physics
   NOTE: additional information on each of the six themes is included in the full solicitation.

• The Planning Track: awards up to $500,000 over two years, “in any areas of foundational and use-inspired               research appropriate to NSF and its partner organizations.”

The solicitation seeks proposals that both advance foundational AI research to develop theories and methods that can be applied across any domain or application, and leverage use-inspired research. The solicitation purposefully differentiates between use-inspired and applied research to emphasize its goal to “support work that goes beyond merely applying known techniques and adds new knowledge and understanding in both foundational AI and use-inspired domains.” In addition to these goals, proposals are encouraged to “drive new and innovative education and development;” support “multidisciplinary groups of scientists, engineers and educators;” and “promote organizational collaborations and linkages within and between campuses, schools, and the world beyond, broadening participation in research, education, and knowledge transfer activities through a network of partners and affiliates.” 

The overarching vision for this program is to advance AI to address societal issues such as “personalized healthcare; enhanced national security; improved transportation; and more effective education.” As set out in the 2019 update to the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan, future advances in AI require long-term investment. Sustained investment through these new AI Institutes “holds the potential for further economic impact and quality-of-life improvements.” While this solicitation focuses on six themes for the Institutes track, future solicitations may include additional themes, open tracks, or both. 

Total Funding and Award Size: NSF plans to make between one to six Institute awards and up to eight Planning Grants. Institutes will be funded between $16 million for four-year Institutes or up to $20 million for five-year Institutes. Planning Grants will be funded up to $500,000 for up to two years. Total funding of $24 million to $124 million is available for this program. 

Deadlines: Full proposals are due January 28, 2020; planning proposals are due January 30, 2020. 

Eligibility: Eligible applicants under this opportunity include institutes of higher education, non-profits, and research labs. There is no limit on the number of proposals per organization; however, individuals may only be designated as “senior personnel,” including PI or Co-PI, on two proposals. Additionally, proposals that request funding through NIFA are only open to agricultural experiment stations; colleges and universities; university research foundations; other research institutions and organizations; national laboratories; federal agencies; private organizations or corporations; or individual US citizens, nationals or permanent residents. Foreign or International organizations are not eligible for funding through NIFA.

Sources and Additional Information:
Program details can be found here.
Full solicitation available here.
The 2019 update to the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan
   is available here.

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