The National Science Foundation (NSF) leads federal partners to accelerate the development of transformational, AI-powered innovation, workforce development, and advanced and scalable computing resources.

Scenes fro New York Hall of Science in Queens including the mass installation of Gingerbread Lane in New York
Credit: Photo by Andrew Kelly/NY Hall of Science

New funding opportunity anticipates approximately $200 million in long-term investments to advance AI research and create national nexus points for universities, federal agencies, industries, and nonprofits over the next six years. It will accelerate the development of transformational, AI-powered innovation by allowing researchers to focus on larger-scale, longer-term research.

The program, led by NSF in partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Science & Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has both planning and institute tracks. The planning track will support planning grants for up to two years and $500,000 to enable teams to develop collaborative plans and capacity for full institute operations. The institute track will support cooperative agreements of $16 million to $20 million for four to five years (up to $4 million per year) to create AI Research Institutes in an initial set of high-priority areas:

  • Trustworthy AI
  • Foundations of Machine Learning
  • AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System
  • AI-Augmented Learning
  • AI for Accelerating Molecular Synthesis and Manufacturing
  • AI for Discovery in Physics
  • The AI, Research Institutes program, will support the advancement of multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder research on larger-scale, longer-time-horizon challenges in AI research than are supported in typical research grants.

NSF's ability to bring together a vast range of scientific disciplines — including computer and information science and engineering, cognitive science and psychology, economics and game theory, engineering and control theory, ethics, linguistics, mathematics, philosophy, and more — uniquely positions NSF to lead the nation in addressing key research challenges.
This year, NSF joined other federal agency partners in announcing the release of the 2019 Update to the National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Research and Development (R) Strategic Plan. Also, Advances in AI are core to many of the “10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments,” key among these being Harnessing the Data Revolution and the Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier.
Grant proposals for the National AI, Research Institutes program, are due to NSF no later than January 28, 2020, for Institute proposals and January 30, 2020, for planning grant proposals.

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments, and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With the fiscal year 2020 budget of $8.3 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities, and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

NSF Director France Córdova said: “Advances in AI are progressing rapidly and demonstrating the potential to transform our lives. This landmark investment will further AI research and workforce development, allowing us to accelerate the development of transformational technologies and catalyze mature markets.”

Michael Kratsios, Chief Technology Officer of the United States, said: “The National Science Foundation is at the cutting edge in this Administration's efforts to prioritize AI research and development. These institutes will advance our national strategy for U.S. leadership in AI, leverage important multisector R & D partnerships, and support groundbreaking AI innovation for the American people's benefit.”

NSF Acting Assistant Director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering Erwin Gianchandani said: “These institutes will accelerate the transition of AI innovations into many economic sectors while also nurturing and growing the next generation of AI researchers and practitioners. This long-term, substantive, and highly visible investment in AI research and workforce development will realize the potential of AI and enable the U.S. to maintain global leadership.”

News Release 19-021
Public Affairs, 
NSF, (703) 292-7090,
Date: October 8, 2019