Science Diplomats Club – Talk by Dr Erwin Gianchandani, Deputy Director of Technology, Innovation and Partnerships at the National Science Foundation

[The Science Diplomats Club (SDC), coordinated by the Office for Science and Technology (OST) of the French Embassy in the United States, brings together science and technology counselors from over 40 embassies in Washington, as well as representatives of research institutes and science and technology agencies, around a theme and an identified guest of honor. On Monday December 4, the CNRS office in Washington D.C. co-hosted the club’s last meeting of the year with the OST, with a much-anticipated speech by Dr Erwin Gianchandani, Deputy Director of the Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate of the National Science Foundation, created in March 2022. This was an opportunity for science and technology counselors to learn more about this recent structure, and about possible international collaboration prospects].

On Monday, December 4, 2023, the Deputy Director of the Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Erwin Gianchandani addressed the SDC audience, made up of delegates from 12 different countries, from the European Union to the United States, as well as representatives of US federal agencies, to present the missions and objectives of his new direction.

Left: Dr Erwin Gianchandani introducing NSF’s new TIP Directorate; right: Dr Bridget Turaga, Program Director in NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering.
© Office for Science and Technology of the French Embassy in the United States

As a funding agency for basic research, the NSF has always supported translational research to enable revolutionary innovations to find concrete applications (via possible commercialization). In March 2022, Congress passed the federal Chips and Science Act and enabled the TIP direction to emerge and formalize real federal support for translational research, with dedicated funding of $20 billion through 2027. The TIP is designed to accelerate the development of key technologies and enable the United States to meet its most pressing societal and economic challenges through the allocation of competitive funding.

After outlining the genesis of the directorate, Dr. Gianchandani emphasized NSF’s desire to find talent from diverse backgrounds and backgrounds, “outside the traditional ranks” (such as specialized technicians) to foster innovation ecosystems across the United States. As an example, he mentioned the “Regional Innovation Engines” program, regional coalitions bringing together researchers, institutions, companies and members of civil society to collaborate on research activities that could lead to solutions with both economic and social impact. Beyond the goal of advancing key technologies – such as semiconductors, artificial intelligence, advanced wireless technologies and biotechnology – and cultivating partnerships between a plurality of public and private players, this program is particularly aimed at stimulating regional innovation and talent across the country.

The NSF also trains experts who visit laboratories across the country to present the TIP’s initiatives to researchers, and suggest that they consider transferring their research to more concrete applications.

Sylvette Tourmente, head of the CNRS office in Washington D.C., presented the missions of CNRS Innovation to the public.
© OST of the French Embassy in the United States
© OST of the French Embassy in the United States
Left: Dr. Kendra Sharp, Director of NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering; right: Dr. Bridget Turaga
© OST of the French Embassy in the United States

For this event, NSF wanted to exchange ideas with the cosmopolitan SDC audience, to learn from foreign initiatives in promoting innovation, and to see how new opportunities for collaboration could be created. With this in mind, Dr. Kendra Sharp, Director of NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering, particularly emphasized NSF’s willingness to discuss best practices in innovation with international partners, whether global or highly localized. She discussed with the audience the mechanisms promoted by the embassies or scientific agencies represented to transfer research results from the laboratory to the market, and the ways of promoting the development of innovation ecosystems that transcend borders. This exchange gave Sylvette Tourmente, director of the CNRS office in Washington D.C., the opportunity to talk about CNRS Innovation (CNRS’s national structure for technology transfer and commercialization), and Mireille Guyader, Scientific Counsellor at the French Embassy, the opportunity to detail the French ecosystem of support for innovation and technology transfer. Their two speeches were complementary and fed into discussions with NSF representatives.

Finally, Dr. Kendra Sharp spoke about NSF’s “Global Centers” program, in partnership with Australia, Canada and the UK, which encourages international collaborative research on the themes of climate change and clean energy, leading to results that can benefit society.

This “two-way learning” between NSF and the public brought out several other topics, such as the balance between data openness and intellectual property protection, underlining the importance of trust within partnerships and early dialogue on such issues.

From left to right: Florent Bernard, scientific counselor to the European Union delegation in the United States, Mireille Guyader, scientific counselor to the French Embassy in the United States, Erell Gloaguen, program manager for the CNRS office in Washington D.C., Kendra Sharp, Director of the Office of International Science and Engineering at NSF, Bridget Turaga, Program Director at the Office of International Science and Engineering at NSF, Sirin Tekinay, Program Director at the Office of International Science and Engineering at NSF.
© OST of the French Embassy in the United States

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