SIAM News Blog

Funding Opportunity: NSF Releases Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes (QLCI)

On February 19, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a solicitation for its new program, Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes (QLCI). The goal of the QLCI program is to fund large-scale multidisciplinary centers for quantum research and education research projects that advance the national understanding of quantum science and engineering, primarily in the focus areas of “quantum computation, quantum communication, quantum simulation, and/or quantum sensing”. The creation of quantum centers was directed in the National Quantum Initiative Act (H.R. 6227) signed into law December of 2018. QLCI funds will be used to award both Conceptualization Grants (CG) which support teams envisioning future Institute proposals and Challenge Institute (CI) awards to establish and operate Institutes.

The QLCI competition will offer two rounds with Round 1 occurring in 2019 and Round 2 taking place in 2020. Teams can submit either a CI or a CG proposal to Round 2, while Round 2 will only be for CI proposals.

This solicitation falls under the "Quantum Leap: Leading the Next Quantum Revolution" Big Idea, which aims to develop next-generation technologies for sensing, computing, modeling, and communicating. To support this mission, QCLI is intended to engage a diverse academic community while developing collaborative, interdisciplinary approaches to national research challenges and enabling the preparation of a well-trained, cross-disciplinary workforce. NSF has previously released several solicitations through Quantum Leap, including those related to interdisciplinary research, materials foundries, faculty hiring, a topological quantum computer, quantum communications platforms, quantum logic, and quantum chemistry. Additional opportunities are expected this year and beyond.

Institutes will carry out their mission through major activities across four identified focus areas:

  1. Cross-Disciplinary Research, which may but do not have to be in an identified subarea:
    1. Quantum Networks for Secure Long-Range Communication
    2. Software Stacks for Quantum Computers
    3. Algorithms, Architectures, and Platforms for Quantum Simulation
    4. Quantum Sensing
  2. Education and Workforce Development,
  3. Research Coordination, and
  4. Synergistic Partnerships and Infrastructure Development
In carrying out their mission, Competitive CI proposals will demonstrate a:
  • “Long term, clearly defined Challenge Research Theme and Cross-Disciplinary Vision”;
  • Clear and compelling science-, algorithm- and engineering-driven goals, with “specific target milestones over the period of performance”;
  • Innovative and substantive workforce development activities to “enhance outreach and education, cross-disciplinary training, curriculum development and mentoring for a quantum-smart workforce”;
  • Collaboration and development of shared infrastructure with other universities and colleges, national laboratories, private sector research laboratories, industrial partners, non-profit organizations, state and local government laboratories, and international partners; and
  • Justification showing how the “collective effort of researchers from different disciplines will enable transformative advances in quantum information science”

CG proposals should outline a clear strategy to support the formation of a convergent and interdisciplinary team and the development of a research vision for the intended CI proposal. Competitive CG proposals will demonstrate:

  • “Stakeholder and community engagement for brainstorming of ideas for research, community building, infrastructure development, and workforce development.
  • Plans to attract and engage research talent across different disciplines through collaborations, networks, seminars or other approaches.
  • Identification of research theme(s) for advancing the state-of-the-art at one or more frontiers of quantum information science and engineering within a 5-year period.
  • Formation of cross-disciplinary research teams for the chosen challenge research theme and the major activities, including research coordination and workforce development.”

Eligibility: While there is no restriction on who may serve as a PI or the number of submissions an institution may submit, an individual can appear as a PI or Co-PI on no more than two Conceptualization Grant (CG) proposals and no more than one Challenge Institute (CI) proposal. Additionally, during Round I, prospective application teams can submit either a CG or CI proposal but not both.

Due Date: Letters of Intent for Conceptualization Grant proposals are due April 1, 2019. Conceptualization Grant proposals are due June 3, 2019. Letters of Intent for Round I of the QLCI are due June 3, 2019 with preliminary proposals due by August 1, 2019, and full proposals, by invitation only, due by January 2, 2019. Letters of Intent for Round II are due August 3, 2020, with preliminary proposals due September 1, 2020, and full proposals, by invitation only, due by February 1, 2021. Letters of Intent for all competitions are required.

Total Funding and Award Size: NSF anticipates up to $94 million in total funding, with 15 to 25 conceptualization grants being awarded between $100,000 and $150,000 for 12 months. NSF intends to award up to three Challenge Institutes during each round with up to $5 million per year for five years.

Sources and Additional Background:

— Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC
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