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Apr 9 -- The National Science Foundation invites comments to OMB by May 20, 2024 regarding the proposed Generic Clearance for the Regional Innovation Engines Evaluation and Monitoring Plan. [Comments due 30 days after submission to OMB on April 19.]

The instruments will collect data on (1) individuals in leadership or governance roles in funded NSF Regional Innovation Engine (NSF Engine), and individuals engaged or participating in the NSF Engine's activities; (2) organizations that are partnering with the NSF Engine or participating in NSF Engine activities; and (3) information on the programmatic activities, outputs, impact, and/or outcomes of the Engine (i.e., use-inspired research, development and translation, impact on the economy, new jobs created, new industries launched, and others).

The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 codified the National Science Foundation's cross-cutting Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP), NSF's first new directorate in more than 30 years, and charged it with the critical mission of advancing U.S. competitiveness through investments that accelerate the development of key technologies and address pressing national, societal and geostrategic challenges. NSF's TIP directorate deepens the Agency's commitment to support use-inspired research and the translation of research results to the market and society. In doing so, TIP strengthens the intense interplay between foundational and use-inspired work, enhancing the full cycle of discovery and innovation.

TIP integrates with NSF's existing directorates and fosters partnerships—with government, industry, nonprofits, civil society, and communities of practice—to leverage, energize and rapidly bring to society use-inspired research and innovation. TIP spurs use-inspired research and innovation to meet the nation's priorities by accelerating the development of breakthrough technologies and advancing solutions.

The NSF Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) program serves as a flagship funding program of the TIP directorate, with the goal of expanding and accelerating scientific and technological innovation within the U.S. by catalyzing regional innovation ecosystems throughout every region of our nation. The NSF Engines program was authorized in the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 (Section 10388) to

(1) advance multidisciplinary, collaborative, use-inspired and translational research, technology development, in key technology focus areas;
(2) address regional, national, societal, or geostrategic challenges;
(3) leverage the expertise of multi-disciplinary and multi-sector partners, including partners from private industry, nonprofit organizations, and civil society organizations; and
(4) support the development of scientific, innovation, entrepreneurial, and STEM educational capacity within the region of the Regional Innovation Engine to grow and sustain regional innovation.

The NSF Engines program aims to fund regional coalitions of partnering organizations to establish NSF Engines that will catalyze technology and science-based regional innovation ecosystems. Each NSF Engine is focused on addressing specific aspects of a major national, societal and/or geostrategic challenge that are of significant interest in the NSF Engine's defined “region of service.” The NSF Engines program envisions a future in which all sectors of the American population can participate in and benefit from advancements in scientific research and development equitably to advance U.S. global competitiveness and leadership. The program's mission is to establish sustainable regional innovation ecosystems that address pressing regional, national, societal, or geostrategic challenges by advancing use-inspired and translational research and development in key technology focus areas. The programmatic level goals of NSF Engines are to:

• Goal 1: Stimulate innovation in regions with low levels of innovation;
• Goal 2: Build and train an inclusive workforce;
• Goal 3: Advance key technologies;
• Goal 4: Create a culture that promotes inclusive and equitable prosperity;
• Goal 5: Cultivate new, sustainable, trusting cross-sector partnerships;
• Goal 6: Create a sustainable innovation ecosystem;
• Goal 7: Increase economic growth;
• Goal 8: Increase job creation.

To achieve these goals, each NSF Engine will carry out an integrated and comprehensive set of activities spanning use-inspired research, translation-to-practice, entrepreneurship, and workforce development to nurture and accelerate regional industries. In addition, each NSF Engine is expected to embody a culture of innovation and have a demonstrated, intense, and meaningful focus on improving diversity throughout its regional science and technology ecosystem. NSF Engines are awarded as cooperative agreements and are expected to undergo an annual comprehensive evaluation assessment of the NSF Engine's performance, which will inform subsequent year funding. The total funding for each NSF Engine is up to $160 million over 10 years with the first-ever group of NSF Engines expected to be announced in late 2023.

Effective monitoring, assessment, and evaluation of NSF Engines will be critical for making programmatic funding decisions and increasing the understanding of how regional innovation ecosystems are created. Systematic data and information collection will be qualitative, quantitative, and descriptive in nature and will provide a means for managing Program Directors to monitor progress throughout a given NSF Engine the award and ensure that the award is in good standing. These data will also allow NSF to assess the NSF Engines Program in terms of intellectual, technological, societal, commercial, and economic impacts that are core to the NSF merit review criteria. Finally, in compliance with the Evidence Act of 2019, information collected will be used for both internal and external program evaluation and assessment, satisfying Congressional requests, and supporting the Agency's policymaking and reporting needs.

This information collection, which entails collecting information from NSF Engines grantees and participants through a series of surveys, interviews, focus groups, and case studies, is in accordance with the Agency's commitment to improving service delivery as well as the Agency's strategic goal to “advance the capability of the Nation to meet current and future challenges.”

For this effort, four categories of survey instruments have been developed, each of which will include closed-ended and open-ended questions to generate quantitative and qualitative data. For ease of use for our respondent pool, survey questionnaires will be programmed into interactive web surveys and distributed to eligible respondents by email.

The surveys, which will serve as a census for all applicable NSF Engines grantees, partner organizations, and participants, will be used to collect baseline measures at the start of the program and vital information on how grantees, partner organizations, and participants progress through the program. All data collected through web surveys will be made available to the external evaluator(s) for each NSF Engine to be used for their own analyses, assessments, and evaluation. The four categories of data that will be collected for each NSF Engine through web-based surveys are outlined below:

-- Input data for a given NSF Engine . . . .
-- Individual level data . . . .
-- Partner organization level data . . . .
-- Programmatic-level data . . . .

NSF Regional Innovation Engines: https://new.nsf.gov/funding/initiatives/regional-innovation-engines
NSF submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202404-3145-002 Click on IC List for survey instruments, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this site.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2024-07517
 
For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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