Convergence Accelerator Program Model
The Convergence Accelerator program model includes three phases—topic identification, and convergence research phases one and two. Teams that complete the convergence research phases are expected to delivery high-impact solutions that meet societal needs and continue impact beyond NSF support.
Ideation Process | Topic Identification
Convergence Accelerator research topics begin in the ideation process. Ideas from the community are gathered through a Dear Colleague Letter, Request for Information.
Submitted topic ideas must be:
- Broad in the technical scope
- Impacts society at scale
- Built upon foundational research, and
- Suitable for a multidisciplinary, convergence research approach
Furthering the Idea
Ideas that meet the program's criteria are coordinated into community workshops to further develop and frame the ideas to incorporate convergence research, and collaboration among stakeholders from various disciples and expertise from academic, industry, non-profit, government and other organizations. The workshop findings assist NSF in developing the final track topics to be funded for that year.
The Convergence Accelerator speeds use-inspired research into practice through a two-phase process. Yearly, the program releases a solicitation featuring two research track topics. Topics aligned to a specific research focus are called "Tracks" and funded teams' makeup a cohort. All teams within the cohort begin in the Convergence Research phase one.
At the end of phase one, the teams participate in a formal NSF pitch and proposal process, which is used in selecting teams for phase two. Teams selected for phase two will continue accelerating their solutions toward impact. By the end of the Convergence Research phases, the funded solutions are expected to be sustainable and impactful to societal needs.
Phase One: Applying Convergence Fundamentals into Practice
- Accelerated 9 month planning effort
- Grant funding up to $750,000
- Selected teams learn and apply the Convergence Accelerator fundamentals through a hands-on innovation curriculum
- Teams compete in a co-coopetition environment; identifying needed skills and expertise and partnerships to accelerate the solution forward
- At the end of phase one, teams participate in a pitch competition and a proposal evaluation. Selected teams advance to phase two
Phase Two: Prototyping & Sustainability Planning
- Accelerated 24 months development effort
- Cooperative Agreement funding up to $5 million
- Selected phase one teams advance to phase two, continuing to apply program fundamentals to develop solution prototypes and to build a sustainability model to continue impact beyond NSF support
- By the end of phase two, teams are expected to provide deliverables that impact societal needs at scale
The innovation curriculum assists teams in advancing their solution and preparing the teams for the Convergence Research phase two. The innovation curriculum includes:
- User Discovery: Identifies end-users to provide problem validation and insights to make the solution more impactful, including capturing feedback on prototypes
- Human-centered Design: Learns and applies skills to identify and engage with end-users, including developing a low-fidelity prototype for testing
- Team Science: Unifies a diverse team to develop a vision and focus on common goals
- Communication Skills: Gains skills to improve team communications, as well as increase the breadth of impact of team ideas by understanding how to engage, listen to, and accept feedback from partners and other stakeholders
- Coaching and Mentorship: Provides guidance to assist the teams' mastery of the curriculum and to enhance the team's awareness of entrepreneurship to accelerate the idea into reality
- Pitching: Learns skills to convey the project's value by describing the challenge and solution through storytelling and communication skills to various stakeholders including potential partners, investors, and end-users. Throughout the curriculum, teams practice pitching and the formal pitch occurs at the end of phase one
- Public Expo: The Convergence Accelerator hosts its annual expo to showcase the program's project portfolio to the public, potential investors, and other stakeholders. Teams demonstrate their solutions and have the opportunity to develop new partnerships