NSF invests in bio-inspired systems

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The US National Science Foundation has announced a $30 million investment to support new interdisciplinary, fundamental research projects for the Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation, or EFRI, program. 

Awardees will work on projects that involve engineering brain-inspired systems and creating safe and sustainable engineered living systems. Each $2 million, four-year award integrates research with ethical, legal, and social considerations and with broadening participation activities.

Susan Margulies, NSF assistant director for Engineering comments: "The biological world is a rich source of inspiration and building blocks for engineering new solutions to address national challenges and improve our lives. With NSF's investment, engineers and scientists will bring their knowledge and creative ideas together to transform our fundamental understanding and enable bio-inspired solutions for climate change adaptation, preservation of health, and novel approaches to algorithms, circuits and devices."

Seven research awards will advance a new science of engineered learning systems inspired by the brain, including neuromorphic devices, that emulate the flexibility, robustness and efficiency of biological intelligence and reduce the energy costs of information processing. 

These projects will advance the understanding of biological learning principles and design better algorithms, circuits, networks and devices. Themes include theoretical neuroscience, brain-informed hardware design and algorithmic learning for resilient, adaptive technologies.

Eight research awards will engineer cells, plants and other organisms in living systems and technologies that enhance safety and sustainability. These projects have the revolutionary potential for new capabilities such as self-replication, self-regulation, self-healing and environmental responsiveness. Themes include designing resilient and sustainable built environments, pathogen monitoring for a safe built environment, and biomining for eco-friendly supply and recovery of critical minerals, metals and elements.

The 2022 investment in EFRI Brain-Inspired Dynamics for Engineering Energy-Efficient Circuits and Artificial Intelligence will support seven new projects:

The 2022 investment in EFRI Engineered Living Systems will support eight new projects:

Sohi Rastegar, head of the Office of Emerging Frontiers and Multidisciplinary Activities which oversees the EFRI program added: “NSF's investments in emerging frontiers and potentially transformative, fundamental science and engineering research will help the US lead globally and bring the benefits of technology to people across the nation.”

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency and NASA partnered with NSF to support the 2022 awardees.

NSF’s EFRI program seeks to inspire and enable researchers to work across disciplines to expand the limits of engineering and address pressing national needs and grand challenges. More information about NSF's EFRI program can be found on NSF's website.