US govt boosts textile industry via NSF regional innovation engines


  • The US government, through the NSF Regional Innovation Engines programme, is investing in innovation, notably in sustainable textiles.
  • It focuses on North Carolina’s textile industry, partnering with various sectors to transform communities and foster new industries.
  • The NSF will award 10 teams across 18 states, with an initial investment of $150 million.

The US government has announced a significant investment in the country’s innovation ecosystems, including a focus on the textile industry, through the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Regional Innovation Engines programme. Part of the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, this initiative is set to transform various sectors, with a notable emphasis on sustainable textiles.

First lady Jill Biden and NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan recently highlighted two NSF Regional Innovation Engine awardees in North Carolina, focusing on driving innovation in textile manufacturing. The North Carolina Sustainable Textiles Innovation Engine aims to revolutionise the $90 billion textile industry, advancing technology in textiles and wearable tech, and developing innovative uses for textiles in protection and the medical field.

The NSF Regional Innovation Engines will address a range of sectors, including sustainable textiles. These engines will collaborate with private industry, venture capital, governments, educational institutions, labour unions, Tribal communities, and nonprofit organisations to transform communities and regions, fostering new industries and workforces, the US government said in a press release.

The programme aligns with president Biden’s economic vision of supporting regional economies and bolstering future industries. It also reflects the government’s commitment to leveraging public investment to catalyse private sector investment and job creation in key areas, including sustainable textile manufacturing.

The NSF Engines will award 10 teams spanning 18 states. With a potential NSF investment of nearly $1.6 billion over the next decade, NSF Engines represent one of the single largest broad investments in place-based research and development in the nation’s history, as per NSF.

Each NSF Engine will initially receive up to $15 million for two years. NSF’s initial $150 million investment in these 10 regions is being matched nearly two to one in commitments from state and local governments, other federal agencies, philanthropy and private industry.

Teams that demonstrate progress toward well-defined milestones could potentially receive up to $160 million each from NSF over 10 years. Beyond the 10 NSF Engines awards, a subset of the semi-finalists and finalists will be invited to pursue NSF Engines Development Awards, with each receiving up to $1 million to further develop their partnerships and model for a future NSF Engines proposal. They will join 44 existing awardees announced in early May 2023.

“The inaugural NSF Engines awards demonstrate our enduring commitment to create opportunity everywhere and enable innovation anywhere,” said NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “Through these NSF Engines, NSF aims to expand the frontiers of technology and innovation and spur economic growth across the nation through unprecedented investments in people and partnerships. NSF Engines hold significant promise to elevate and transform entire geographic regions into world-leading hubs of innovation.”