National Science Foundation Announces Funding Opportunity under the National Robotics Initiative
The National Science Foundation's NRI-2.0 program builds upon the original National Robotics Initiative (NRI) program to support fundamental research in the United States that will accelerate the development and use of collaborative robots (co-robots) that work beside or cooperatively with people. The focus of the NRI-2.0 program is onubiquity, which in this context means seamless integration of co-robots to assist humans in every aspect of life.
NSF has identified $35,000,000 for investment with the anticipation of awards to 60 projects. Closing date for applications is February 19, 2019. NSF notes in the eligibility section that community colleges are eligible to apply.
The program supports four main research thrusts that are envisioned to advance the goal of ubiquitous co-robots: scalability, customizability, lowering barriers to entry, and societal impact. Topics addressing scalability include how robots can collaborate effectively with multiple humans or other robots; how robots can perceive, plan, act, and learn in uncertain, real-world environments, especially in a distributed fashion; and how to facilitate large-scale, safe, robust and reliable operation of robots in complex environments.
Customizability includes how to enable co-robots to adapt to specific tasks, environments, or people, with minimal modification to hardware and software; how robots can personalize their interactions with people; and how robots can communicate naturally with humans, both verbally and non-verbally. Topics in lowering barriers to entry should focus on lowering the barriers for conducting fundamental robotics research and research on integrated robotics application. This may include development of open-source co-robot hardware and software, as well as widely-accessible testbeds. Outreach or using robots in educational programs do not, by themselves, lower the barriers to entry for robotics research.
Topics in societal impact include fundamental research to establish and infuse robotics into educational curricula, advance the robotics workforce through education pathways, and explore the social, economic, ethical, and legal implications of our future with ubiquitous collaborative robots.
Collaboration between academic, industry, non-profit, and other organizations is encouraged to establish better linkages between fundamental science and engineering and technology development, deployment, and use.
The NRI-2.0 program is supported by multiple agencies of the federal government including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).