Invitation to Submit Entries for the NSF Idea Machine Competition

Dear Colleagues:
NSF invites the community to help set the Foundation’s long term STEM research and education agenda by participating in the NSF 2026 Idea Machine, a prize competition to identify new directions for future research. Key points about the Idea Machine:
  • Entrants suggest “grand challenge” questions for future research, first in narrative form and then a subset via video pitches.
  • The public will have the opportunity to weigh in on entries.
  • Authors of the best ideas will receive public recognition and/or cash prizes
  • See the attached Powerpoint and visit the website for more details.
Contestants must be at least 14 years old at the time of entry. They can be U.S. citizens or permanent residents; or individuals residing legally in the U.S. at the time of entry. Individuals and teams are invited to participate, as are teachers on behalf of their high-school classes. We are reaching out beyond the traditional NSF research community. We hope to attract entries from industry, foundations, amateurs, professionals, anyone with an interest or stake in the science and engineering enterprise of the U.S.
Steps of the Idea Machine Process:
  1. The competition opens for on-line submission of ideas.
  2. NSF staff will do the initial judging to down-select to approximately 30 entries.
  3. NSF will invite the authors of those 30 entries to submit video pitches that will be posted on line, along with their original narrative entries.
  4. The public will be invited to comment. Then all the materials will get packaged, NSF staff will provide some analysis.
  5. A Blue-Ribbon Panel of external judges will review all the materials and down-select to ~12 entries for remote interviews.
  6. The panel conducts the interviews, then recommends ~6 entries to NSF for further consideration.
  7. NSF staff will add analysis.
  8. NSF leadership will make the final selection of 2-4 winning entries.
  9. Authors of winning entries will receive cash prizes and public recognition.
  10. NSF will use winning entry ideas to identify future funding opportunities – within existing programs or by developing new ones.
EPSCoR is excited about this new opportunity for the community to take an active role in shaping the future direction of NSF. Please help us to spread the word and pass along this information to your colleagues.
On behalf of,
Dr. Loretta Moore
Section Head, NSF EPSCoR