Funding Opportunity: DoD Newton Award for Transformative Ideas during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Department of Defense seeks novel conceptual frameworks or theoretical approaches to addressing outstanding or emerging challenges facing the scientific community. This award will be presented to a single investigator or team of up to two investigators that develops a “transformative idea” to resolve challenges, advance frontiers, and set new paradigms in areas of immense potential benefit to DoD and the nation at large. Proposals should aim to produce novel conceptual frameworks or theory-based approaches that present disruptive ways of thinking about fundamental scientific problems that have evaded resolution, propose new, paradigm-shifting scientific directions, and/or address fundamental and important questions that are argued to be undervalued by the scientific community.

Deadline: May 15, 2020

For more information see the program announcement on Grants.gov.

U.S. Government Seeks COVID-19 Countermeasures

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) part of Health and Human Services (HHS), seeks information from stakeholders on available medical countermeasures in development.  Through the website MedicalCountermeasures.gov the U.S. government has created a portal called CoronaWatch for developers of potential COVID19 vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics or other technologies to meet with program managers at relevant federal agencies including CDC, FDA and NIH.   BARDA also has a open call for COVID19 countermeasures funding through their existing Broad Area Announcement

Technologies sought include:

  1. Diagnostic assay for human coronavirus using existing FDA-cleared platforms
  2. Point-of-care diagnostic assay for detection of SARS-CoV-2 virus
  3. Diagnostic assay for detection of COVID-19 disease (SARS-CoV-2 infection)
  4. COVID-19 Vaccine
  5. COVID-19 Therapeutics
  6. Immunomodulators or therapeutics targeting lung repair
  7. Pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis
  8. Respiratory protective devices
  9. Ventilators
  10. Advanced Manufacturing Technologies

Through a CoronaWatch meeting stakeholders can engage BARDA and other agencies directly to gain technical feedback and strategic input regarding a proposed technology’s relevance to the government’s needs. The CoronaWatch web portal is serving as the single point of entry for interested entities submitting market research and meeting requests for U.S. government COVID-19 medical countermeasures. At this time, the government is only seeking  submissions on COVID-19\.

DARPA launches DPRIVE — Data Protection in Virtual Environments

The safety and security of critical information – whether it is sensitive intellectual property (IP), financial information, personally identifiable information (PII), intelligence insight, or beyond – is of vital importance. Conventional data encryption methods or cryptographic solutions, such as Advanced Encryption Standards (AES), translate data into a secret “code” that can only be decoded by people with access to a decryption key. These methods protect data as it is transmitted across a network or at rest while in storage. Processing or computing on this data however requires that it is first decrypted, exposing it to numerous vulnerabilities and threats. Fully homomorphic encryption (FHE) offers a solution to this challenge. FHE enables computation on encrypted data, or ciphertext, rather than plaintext, or unencrypted data – essentially keeping data protected at all times. The benefits of FHE are significant, from enabling the use of untrusted networks to enhancing data privacy. Despite its potential, FHE requires enormous computation time to perform even simple operations, making it exceedingly impractical to implement with traditional processing hardware.

DARPA developed the Data Protection in Virtual Environments (DPRIVE) program to design and implement a hardware accelerator for FHE computations that aims to significantly reduce the current computational burden to drastically speed up FHE calculations. DPRIVE specifically seeks to reduce the computational run time overhead by many orders of magnitude compared to current software-based FHE computations on conventional CPUs, and accelerate FHE calculations to within one order of magnitude of current performance on unencrypted data.

To develop the target accelerator, DPRIVE will explore new integrated approaches to the full FHE hardware and software stacks. Specifically, the program seeks to develop novel approaches to memory management, flexible data structures and programming models, and formal verification methods that ensure the design of the FHE implementation is effective and accurate. As the co-design of FHE algorithms, hardware, and software will be critical to the program, it will require teams with varied technical expertise to take on the research objectives.

DARPA held a Proposers Day meeting on March 2, 2020, in Cupertino, California to provide more information about DPRIVE to interested researchers.

Full program details are available in the DPRIVE Broad Agency Announcement

We Made the Papers!

Nature story headlineTim Clancy, President of Arch Street was interviewed by the prestigious science journal Nature regarding the proposed FY 2021 federal science budget released by the President yesterday.

Nature quote 2021 budgetFor example, the 2021 request for the National Science Foundation is not a good one with large cuts being proposed, similar to prior administration requests.  The budget released on Monday, February 10 would cut NSF support for fundamental research by nearly 8%.  While Congress has rejected prior proposed cuts and provided modest increases, this not be possible this year as the overall federal budget top line for FY 2021 is essentially flat.  Given that both the administration and key congressional leaders are calling for increases in priority research areas such as artificial intelligence and quantum information science, any research not in these fields may get squeezed even further.  

Energy Innovation Series — Storage & Battery Technologies 

A new series of public discussions at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC seeks to foster greater understanding of and support for the role of innovation in the energy system.  The series will be conducted in cooperation with the Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Technology Transitions and comprise of five public events focused on specific categories of energy technology. T

The series will consist of five public events highlighting the innovation occurring in different energy technology areas and a final wrap-up discussion of the innovation ecosystem at large. The technology areas are storage and battery technologies; grid infrastructure, software, and cybersecurity; carbon dioxide management; advanced nuclear and fusion; advanced transport beyond electric vehicles. Each session will feature a representative from a national lab, an independent researcher, and a representative of the private sector working on innovation in each technology area. In addition, each discussion will highlight the technology area’s route from laboratory testing to demonstration or pilot projects to commercialization and market deployment.

The project will kick-off with a dialogue on Innovation in Storage and Battery Technologies on February 20, 2020.  The session will be webcast.

 

With China’s Rise, the U.S. is No Longer the Uncontested R&D Leader

sr-cover

 

For decades the United States has been the clear global leader in research and development.  A new report by the the National Science Board indicates that this is no longer the case.  The report, the State of U.S. Science and Engineering 2020  is mandated by Congress and provides information on the state of the U.S. science and engineering (S&E) enterprise over time and within a global context.  The major takeaway from the report has been the sharp rise of R&D investments in China relative to a slower or even declining R&D levels in the United States depending on the category.  For example, the share of U.S. R&D funded by the federal government has declined.  This means a relative drop in critical early-stage basic research, particularly at colleges and universities and government laboratories.

According to the report, global research and development expenditures have more than tripled since 2000, growing from $722 billion in 2000 to $2.2 trillion in 2017, fueled largely by growth in China. The U.S. and China together accounted for nearly half of all research and development spending — 25 and 23 percent, respectively — in 2017.

In the U.S., federal spending for research and development has increased since 2000, but the share of research and development funded by the federal government — as opposed to businesses or other entities — declined, from 25 percent in 2000 to 22 percent in 2017. Among higher education institutions — which perform the largest amount of basic research, of which the federal government is the primary funder — the share of research and development funded by federal sources declined from 57 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in 2017. ​