NSF NSF 23-506: 2024 Expanding AI Innovation through Capacity Building and Partnerships (ExpandAI) - October Deadline

Research Category

Funding Type

Internal Deadline

Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Limit: 1 // G. Yong (Eller College of Managemen)



Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: An organization may submit one proposal per submission window. An organization must wait for a determination from NSF (e.g., Award, Decline, or Returned Without Review) on the pending proposal before submitting a new proposal in the next window. Declined proposals require a new invitation to submit (via the Concept Outline process) and significant revision, while proposals Returned Without Review may be submitted using the same invited Concept Outline (assuming that the proposal is received within one year of the original Concept Outline invitation).

The National Science Foundation and its partners support the continued growth of a broad and diverse interdisciplinary research community for the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and AI-powered innovation, providing a unique opportunity to broadly promote the NSF vision and core values, especially inclusion and collaboration. The National Artificial Intelligence Research Institutes program has established a national network of multisector flagship centers of AI research and workforce development that address a wide range of society's grand challenges through AI-powered innovation.



This program solicitation offers two Tracks corresponding to stages of readiness for partnerships in AI Institutes. These are “ExpandAI Capacity Building Pilots” and “ExpandAI Partnerships” as described below.

Track 1: ExpandAI Capacity Building Pilots

Capacity Building Pilots (CAP) are planning and growth efforts focused on the establishment of AI activities at the funded MSI and the early exploration of future synergistic partnerships that have the potential to be part of prospective ExpandAI Partnerships. Successful pilots will result in establishing new AI research capacity, education/workforce development in AI, and/or AI infrastructure capacity at the proposing institution and, potentially, a basis for future AI partnerships. CAP activities should plan for engaging appropriate communities to test the feasibility of partnerships as well as developing plans for continuing capacity development. Plans should consider required research infrastructure, plans to leverage established groups in related research areas, and inclusion of faculty training and research experiences that emphasize the diversification of investigators. 

Proposals must articulate a clear vision motivating the capacity building activities, with a focus on long-term benefits to the MSI such as enhanced faculty capacity for foundational and/or use-inspired AI research or new effective models for increased education and career pathways in AI. Proposals to this track must include a strong Institutional Need and Support Statement (see proposal preparation instructions) containing an assessment of the current AI research and instructional capacity and infrastructure, a demonstration of institutional need for capacity building in AI, and a statement of the commitment of institutional support for the proposed activities. Proposals that substantiate a strong case in this need and support statement are likely to be most compelling for the funding opportunity. Further guidance for this supporting document can be found in Proposal Preparation Instructions.

Successful proposals will feature a Capacity Building Plan that features clear and measurable outcomes/benefits of capacity building. Suitable activities for such a plan are:

  • establishment or significant enhancement of foundational or use-inspired AI research, marked by increased faculty research output;
  • design of academic pathways or innovative models for teaching and learning in AI, incorporating how students learn effectively in AI activities, and bringing AI disciplinary advances into the undergraduate and graduate experience;
  • establishment or significant expansion of AI career pathways for students resulting from new AI activities;
  • enhanced AI research infrastructure;
  • significant increase in the participation of investigators and students who have been traditionally underserved and underrepresented in AI; and
  • a plan for objective process evaluation in support of the proposed efforts.

Note that this list is representative of suitable activities and outcomes for this track. CAP activities need not be limited to this list, and proposals do not have to include every type of outcome represented in that list. Proposers are encouraged to select and integrate the activities most appropriate for their institutional context and their vision for capacity building toward partnerships. 

Early partnership development between the proposing MSI and one or more AI Institutes is neither required nor encouraged in a CAP proposal.

Track 2: ExpandAI Partnerships

The ExpandAI Partnership (PARTNER) track is an opportunity for MSIs to scale up already-established AI research and/or education programs and to initiate/leverage new collaborations with AI Institutes. These partnerships will be multi-organization collaborations submitted by an MSI and will include a subaward to an AI Institute. PARTNER projects are centered around shared, complementary goals. Proposals will be submitted as single-organizational collaborative proposals. PARTNER proposals may only be submitted by a qualifying MSI as indicated in Eligible Institutions in this solicitation. 

PARTNER proposals should scale up and make fully productive an appropriate existing capacity in AI research, education/workforce development, and/or infrastructure capacity. The proposing MSI in this track is not required to have previously been awarded a CAP project under this program. PARTNER proposals must constitute a significant new partnership that has the clear potential to build on the institution’s current AI capacity as well as leverage the intrinsic strengths and talents of the MSI for mutual benefit in collaborative AI activities.

MSIs applying for this track must demonstrate readiness to leverage external expertise and financial resources to focus on medium- and long-range plans to leverage this funding opportunity and new partnerships to develop AI capacity within the MSI, including but not limited to further development of the MSI’s envisioned methodological thrusts, use cases, educational and/or workforce development activities, and the potential for the MSI to expand and scale these efforts through formal, mutually beneficial partnerships. Proposals should include at least one (and if appropriate, more) established AI Institutes in developing a roadmap for collaborative work in some unifying theme or focus. 

PARTNER proposals must feature a compelling Partnership Roadmap for collaborative work in some unifying theme or focus. Roadmaps are the beginning of a joint strategy between organizations for collaborative work. These roadmaps may also include community building activities (e.g., workshops) to further develop common interests, objectives, and goals for the growth of collaborative activities. Effective roadmaps are both depicted visually (e.g., conceptual diagram, logic model, table, etc.) and fully explained by a descriptive narrative. The roadmap should address all proposed projects involving research, education/workforce development, infrastructure, and any other types that are applicable to the collaboration. Roadmaps might address:

  • enhancement of existing projects by virtue of new collaboration;
  • initiation of new projects made possible by the collaboration;
  • community building activities (e.g., workshops) to further develop common interests, objectives, and further growth of the partnership;
  • potential and plans for scaling nascent programs;
  • an evaluation plan for measuring the growth and mutual benefit of activities in all projects.

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