NSF Engineering Research Centers - Information & Advice

NSF’s Directorate for Engineering (ENG) has released a new solicitation for Gen-4 Engineering Research Centers (ERC) – Convergent Research and Innovation through Inclusive Partnerships and Workforce Development.  ERCs aim to advance engineered systems that can only be achieved through a center-based approach. This is the third Gen-4 ERC solicitation, and it highlights four foundational components of the ERC program: Convergent Research, Engineering Workforce Development, Diversity and Culture of Inclusion, and the Innovation Ecosystem.

ERCs should focus on outcomes that positively impact engineering communities and can impact engineering challenges more broadly as well as advancing state of the art research, science, engineering fundamentals, and research communities. NSF expects the ERCs will produce significant outcomes within the 10-year timeframe of the award and beyond.

Note: This page is being updated with information and resources for the new competition as they become available.

Key characteristics of an ERC:

  • Convergent Research
  • Engineering Workforce Development
  • Diversity and Culture of Inclusion
  • Innovation Ecosystem

These four foundational elements are expected to exert a holistic influence on the engineering community, scientific enterprise, and society.

Key Information

Due Dates:

  • Letters of Intent (LOI) are required and are due September 2, 2022.
  • Preliminary proposals are required and are due October 3, 2022
  • Full proposals will be accepted by invitation only and are due May 8, 2023.

Total Funding and Award Size: NSF anticipates awarding up to six new ERCs with up to $21 million in fiscal year (FY) 2024, pending funding availability, to support the first year of the new centers.  The solicitation states that NSF is in discussions with other federal agencies to support ERC awards, which could expand the total number of awards made.  The breakout of maximum funding in subsequent years for each center is as follows:

  • Year one: up to $3.5 million
  • Year two: up to $4.5 million
  • Year three through five: up to $6.0 million
  • Years six through eight (pending performance and renewal reviews): up to $6.0 million
  • Years nine and ten: would be phased down, with $4 million in year nine and $2.6 million in year 10.

Cost Share: Cost sharing is required for the ERC program and cost sharing requirements will be determined based on the lead and core partner institutions classification in the “Carnegie Foundation’s Classification of Institutions of Higher Education”[2] at the time the letter of intent is submitted.  Lead and core partner institutions will be responsible for the cost share on their entire portion of award funds, even if subawards are made to other institutions.  Further details on the cost sharing formula are available in the full solicitation.

Eligibility and Limitations:  Only U.S. universities with undergraduate, masters, and doctoral engineering programs can submit proposals as the lead university.  There are no restrictions on the number of proposals per institution, except institutions that currently have two active ERC awards do not qualify to submit an ERC preliminary proposal as a lead institution.

PI Eligibility and Limitations:  The Lead PI must be a faculty member at the lead university.  There are no restrictions on the number of proposals per PI or Co-PI.  The Lead PI and ERC Director can be different people but must be from the same institution.

Organizational Requirements:  Full proposals (by invitation only), must include:

  • Multiple institutions, including a lead university and additional U.S. university core partners.
  • Core partners must include at least three faculty and three students participating in the ERC.
  • At least one of the universities in the ERC team must be a university “that serves populations of traditionally underrepresented students interested in STEM (defined as minority serving institutions, women's colleges, or institutions where the majority of the students are students with disabilities).”
  • Commitments from lead and core partner universities for cost sharing must be in place.

Sources and Additional Background: