NSF's Spectrum Innovation Initiative

NSF has many facilities requiring access to the spectrum including the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array Spectrum and Wireless Innovation enabled by Future Technologies (SWIFT) Innovation Zones like NSF's Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) Remote sites require connectivity like NSF's Polar Programs

The electromagnetic spectrum is both a key enabling technology for modern civilization and a key to unlocking new scientific discoveries. As technology has advanced at a rapid pace, the limited spectrum resource has seen increasing demand and the need for more efficient use of the spectrum has become clear. Use of the spectrum for the provision of mobile broadband data, Internet of Things (IoT) access, mobile healthcare, intelligent transportation system, 5G and next generation systems, and scientific investigation call for innovative approaches.


The Spectrum Innovation Initiative

The National Science Foundation's Spectrum Innovation Initiative presents a suite of opportunities to address the pressing challenges arising from the growing demand for usage of the electromagnetic spectrum, including passive and active applications.

The goal of the Spectrum Innovation Initiative is to promote dynamic and agile spectrum utilization, while ensuring innovation and security for all users. Reaching this goal will require basic research, infrastructure development, new collaborations, public outreach, education and workforce development. While NSF has supported successful spectrum research activities for many years, with the Initiative NSF is enacting an increased commitment on a larger and more interdisciplinary scale. Enhancing efficient spectrum utilization and access is vital to the national interest, including the scientific enterprise and industries of the future.

NSF, through this initiative, is focused on cultivating research and innovation in spectrum usage in the following ways:

  1. National Radio Dynamic Zones (NRDZ) - establishing new pilot test ranges allowing dynamic spectrum sharing research and development for passive and active users;
  2. National Center for Spectrum Innovation and Workforce Development - connecting spectrum researchers with the nationwide challenges and growing the spectrum workforce in support of industries of the future;
  3. Spectrum Research Activities - promoting and developing the means for increased and more effective use of the spectrum for passive and active applications, especially activities of a cross-disciplinary nature;
  4. Education and Workforce Development - encouraging the development of a skilled and diverse workforce through education and training programs.

Current Opportunities

  • Dear Colleague Letter: NSF's Spectrum Innovation Initiative and associated Supplemental Funding Opportunities NSF 20-081: NSF is announcing opportunities for supplemental support to existing NSF-owned and operated facilities, NSF platforms, NSF-supported projects, and NSF educational programs directly related to spectrum innovation as well as support for conferences and workshops.

    The DCL expires on July 1, 2021.

  • Dear Colleague Letter:  Supplemental Funding Opportunity to explore feasibility of National Radio Dynamic Zones (NRDZ) NSF 20-079: NSF is offering an opportunity to explore the feasibility of establishing NRDZ and to identify the underlying research and deployment challenges, through supplements to existing NSF awards.

    The DCL expires on July 1, 2021. For Fiscal Year 2020 (ending September 30, 2020), white papers conveying intent to request supplemental funding should be received by June 1, 2020.

  • National Center for Wireless Spectrum Research (SII-Center): NSF intends to catalyze the development and establishment of a successful national center called the Spectrum Innovation Initiative National Center for Wireless Research (SII-Center) to conduct foundational spectrum research. The spectrum research SII-Center will serve as a focal point for sustained research and development in the most challenging areas that are expected to create advanced wireless technologies and systems that benefit society, of which 5G cellular networks are an example. The SII-Center is also expected to educate and develop an agile workforce needed to support industries of the future which will rely heavily on wireless technologies and will require new advanced and automated spectrum management techniques. NSF has already awarded Planning Grants in fiscal year 2020. The following is the anticipated calendar for the SII-Center Proposals:


SII-Center Proposals




Letter of Intent: February 1, 2021
(required, due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time)

Full Proposal Submission Window
March 1 - April 1, 2021
The submission window opens on March 1, 2021 and closes at 5 p.m. submitter's local time on April 1, 2021.

A Letter of Intent (due by 5 p.m. submitter's local time on February 1, 2021) is a required prerequisite for SII-Center Proposals.


  • Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Enabled by Future Technologies (SWIFT): This program has a focus on effective spectrum utilization and/or coexistence techniques, especially with passive uses, which have received less attention from researchers. Breakthrough innovations are sought on both the wireless communication hardware and the algorithmic/protocol fronts through synergistic teamwork. The goal of these research projects may be the creation of new technology or significant enhancements to existing wireless infrastructure, with an aim to benefit society by improving spectrum utilization, beyond mere spectrum efficiency. The SWIFT program seeks to fund collaborative team research that transcends the traditional boundaries of individual disciplines.
  • NSF/Intel Partnership on Machine Learning for Wireless Networking Systems (MLWiNS): This program seeks to accelerate fundamental, broad-based research on wireless-specific machine learning (ML) techniques, towards a new wireless system and architecture design, which can dynamically access shared spectrum, efficiently operate with limited radio and network resources, and scale to address the diverse and stringent quality-of-service requirements of future wireless applications. In parallel, this program also targets research on reliable distributed ML by addressing the challenge of computation over wireless edge networks to enable ML for wireless and future applications.


Information: Workshops, Webinars and FAQs

    Informational Webinar date/time: Fri, May 08, 2020, 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM EDT

    The Spectrum Innovation Initiative (SII) seeks to chart out a trajectory to ensure United States leadership in future wireless technologies, systems, and applications in science and engineering through the efficient use and sharing of the radio spectrum. The Initiative is designed to make an impact in several critical areas, including spectrum use, efficiency, and particularly for the availability of spectrum for science applications. The Coordination Group has set up a webinar to provide additional information on opportunities and various aspects of the Initiative, including the National Center for Wireless Spectrum Research (SII-Center) NSF 20-557

    Webinar slide presentation is available here

    SII-Center FAQs

    SII-Center Development Workshop I: The National Challenge for Spectrum Innovation

    Date/time: Thurs-Fri, Nov 19-20, 2020, 11:30 am - 6 pm Eastern

    Registration deadline for lightning talks: November 2, 2020

    Registration deadline: November 17, 2020 by noon Eastern

    The Spectrum Innovation community is invited to participate in the NSF SII-Center Fall Proposal Workshop on Thursday-Friday Nov 19-20. This workshop will focus on the sharing of information and ideas for further work in developing SII-Center proposals. The format of the workshop will be two days (approximately 6-hr each) of presentations by governmental agency and private industry experts who will share their views of the most important issues in the field of Spectrum Management. We will also convene Q&A panels to facilitate an opportunity for proposing teams to interact with the speakers. Finally, this workshop will offer attendees an opportunity to share a lightning talk of their planned center focus and areas of research interest. Attendees interested in giving a lightning talk should register via the link below by November 2, 2020. This Nov 19-20 workshop will be open to all groups and individuals interested in learning more about the SII-Center vision.

    SII-Center Development Workshop I

    Registration link: https://nsf.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_f_jAw5NkQ7Ox6luwTiHmxw

    Please see this Agenda

    SII-Center Development Workshop II

    Date/time: TBD, Dec 7-11, 2020, Time TBD

    A second 2-day workshop is being developed to be held during the week of December 7-11. This workshop will be by invitation only and admittance to Workshop II will require participation in Workshop I. Attendance at this second workshop will be contingent upon groups presenting a brief overview of their center vision and areas of research interest at the Nov 19-20 workshop. The December workshop will be designed to be interactive in nature and will aim to help proposing teams identify any potential gaps in their current center design and possibly to identify team partnerships that will help them to address any identified gaps.
    A registration link will be available here no later than November 23, 2020.

Participating NSF Directorates
Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS)
Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE)
Directorate for Engineering (ENG)
Directorate for Biological Sciences (BIO)
Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR)
Directorate for Geosciences (GEO)
Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences (SBE)


Contact Information

Spectrum Innovation Initiative program team:
Email for contacting the Spectrum Innovation Initiative Program Team: SII@nsf.gov

Alexander Sprintson (CISE/CNS) (703) 292-2170
Mohammod Ali (ENG/ECCS) (703) 292-4632
Lisa Winter (GEO/AGS) (703) 292-8519
David Morris (MPS/AST) (703) 292-4478
Jonathan Williams (MPS/AST) (703) 292-2455
B. Ashley VanderLey (MPS/AST) (703) 292-2428
Nancy A. Lutz (SBE) (703) 292-7280
Li Yang (EHR) (703) 292-2677

SII-CENTER program team:
Email for inquiries regarding the SII-CENTER solicitation: SII-Center@nsf.gov

Alexander Sprintson (CISE/CNS) (703) 292-2170
Mohammod Ali (ENG/ECCS) (703) 292-4632
Lisa Winter (GEO/AGS) (703) 292-8519
David Morris (MPS/AST) (703) 292-4478
Jonathan Williams (MPS/AST) (703) 292-2455
B. Ashley VanderLey (MPS/AST) (703) 292-2428