Opportunity number
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Civic Innovation Challenge
Due date
Stage 1: July 1, 2020, Stage 2: March 31, 2021
Information Technologies
Project funding
$500,000 - $1M
Program funding
Funding size
Below $1M Up to $1M

Civic Innovation Challenge (CIVIC)

RFP Summary provided by the agency

The Civic Innovation Challenge (CIVIC) is a research and action competition in the Smart and Connected Communities (S&CC) domain designed to build a more cohesive research-to-innovation pipeline and foster a collaborative spirit. Building on the NSF S&CC program and the extensive S&CC ecosystem, CIVIC aims to accelerate the impact of S&CC research, and deepen cooperation and information sharing across sectors and regions. CIVIC will lay a foundation for a broader and more fluid exchange of research interests and civic priorities that will create new instances of collaboration and introduce new areas of technical and social scientific discovery. CIVIC will fund projects that can produce significant community impact within 12 months (following a four-month planning phase) — in contrast to many community-university partnerships that take years to provide tangible benefits to communities — and have the potential for lasting impact beyond the period of the CIVIC award.

CIVIC introduces several unique features that differentiate it from the NSF S&CC program:

  1. CIVIC flips the community-university dynamic, asking communities to identify civic priorities ripe for innovation and then to partner with researchers to address those priorities;
  2. CIVIC focuses on research that is ready for piloting in and with communities on a short timescale, where real-world impact can be evaluated within 12 months;
  3. CIVIC requires the inclusion of civic partners in the core project team, to emphasize civic engagement; and
  4. CIVIC organizes and fosters “communities of practice” around high-need problem areas that allow for meaningful knowledge sharing and cross-site collaboration during both pre-development and piloting. For purposes of clarity, civic partners may include local, state, or tribal government officials; non-profit representatives; community organizers or advocates; community service providers; and/or others working to improve their communities.

CIVIC is organized as a two-stage competition with two tracks centered around the following topic areas:

  • Track A. Communities and Mobility: Offering Better Mobility Options to Solve the Spatial Mismatch Between Housing Affordability and Jobs; and
  • Track B. Resilience to Natural Disasters: Equipping Communities for Greater Preparedness and Resilience to Natural Disasters.

In the first stage (Stage 1), up to 12 awards per track will be made for Planning Grants – each with a budget of up to $50,000 for four months to undertake pre-development activities, including solidifying the team, maturing the project plans, and preparing to submit a well-developed full proposal for Stage 2. Only awardees of Stage 1 will be eligible to submit proposals for Stage 2.

In the second stage (Stage 2), up to four teams per track will be selected from Stage 1 award recipients to receive a full award — each with a budget of up to $1,000,000 for up to 12 months to execute and evaluate their research-centered pilot projects.

This research and action competition is jointly supported by NSF’s Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) and Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Track A is supported by NSF and DOE. Track B is supported by NSF/CISE and DHS. Additional support for CIVIC activities may be available from a set of philanthropic organizations working together with MetroLab Network. NSF will not share proposals or reviews with philanthropic organizations.

Additional Links:


What is the mission and focus of the program: research, social, economic or others?

Science and Technology and other Research and Development

How do you submit to this opportunity?

Apply on grants.gov

Who are the target applicants: cities, universities, companies, small business, nonprofits, or others?

Non-profit, non-academic organizations: Independent museums, observatories, research labs, professional societies and similar organizations in the U.S. associated with educational or research activities. -Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) – Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members.Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus. *Who May Serve as PI: There are no restrictions or limits.

Example project(s) summaries from past RFPs:


Investigator(s): Kang Shin (Principal Investigator)
Sponsor:University of Michigan Ann Arbor

The objective of this research is to (1) gain insights into the challenges of securing interactions in Internet of Things (IoT)deployments, (2) develop a practical framework that mitigates security and privacy threats to IoT interactions, and (3) validate the proposed framework in a medium-scale IoT testbed and through user studies. The emerging IoT computing paradigm promises novel applications in almost all sectors by enabling interactions between users, sensors, and actuators. These interactions can take the form of device-to-device (e.g., Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)) or human-to-device (e.g., voice control). By exploiting vulnerabilities in these interaction surfaces, an adversary can gain unauthorized access to the IoT, which enables tracking, profiling and posing harm to the user. With the thousands of diverse IoT manufacturers, developers, and devices, it is very challenging, if not impossible, to ensure all devices are properly securedat production and kept up-to-date after production. IoT users and administrators have to place their trust in a set of devices, with the least secure device breaking the security chain.

By shifting the trust base from the various manufacturers and developers to a single framework under the user’s control, deploying IoT devices will be more feasible and less vulnerable. The proposed framework will help advance the national health, prosperity and welfare, and also secure the national defense. Securing IoT interface surfaces as case studies will be integrated in graduate-level courses, and used to train (especially underrepresented and female) students with interdisciplinary topics that require a balanced mix of theory and practice, thus developing human resources in the nationally needed areas.The proposed research will also significantly advance the understanding of the challenges to secure IoT interaction surfaces in practice, thus promoting the progress of science. This project will establish a general direction to secure interactions in the current and future IoT deployments. It will offer an additional protection layer in the cases where security cannot be properly built-in and maintained.


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