The worldwide growth of wireless connectivity has provided immense societal benefits and has led to an explosion in usage of the radio spectrum and expansion to higher frequencies. However, the range of available radio frequencies is finite, and as the quantity of users and applications increase the spectrum gets congested. Ubiquitous connectivity must operate in harmony with scientific uses of spectrum — such as Earth observation, astronomy, and geospace and atmospheric sciences — and other vital services such as public safety. Innovations are needed to overcome the challenges of interference and radio spectrum scarcity. This is an interlinked technical and policy challenge.

The U.S. National Science Foundation is announcing a $25 million investment over five years to launch SpectrumX, an NSF Spectrum Innovation Center that will address the growing demand for usage of the radio spectrum. This represents the first federal investment in a national center focused on the transformation of wireless spectrum management. SpectrumX is a coalition of 27 institutions led by the University of Notre Dame.

“The SpectrumX NSF Spectrum Innovation Center will catalyze innovation and support workforce development to solve radio spectrum challenges that are critical for the nation,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, “I am excited that the memorandum of agreement NSF signed with the Federal Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information Administration will allow us to leverage the core strengths and missions of all three agencies in support of this effort.”

SpectrumX will develop new ways to share and manage the radio spectrum; act as a hub for collaboration among researchers, industry, government agencies and others; and develop the diverse workforce needed for future growth. The overall goal of SpectrumX is to maximize the benefits of the radio spectrum for society. The investment in SpectrumX is part of the Spectrum Innovation Initiative, a collaboration between NSF, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission to promote dynamic and agile spectrum utilization while ensuring innovation and security for all users.

“Congratulations to the NSF team and its partners at Notre Dame and other great academic institutions on launching this vitally important project,” said FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.  “Exploring creative mechanisms for spectrum management that will support new wireless technologies is a central focus of the FCC’s work — and this forward-looking innovation center will enhance our capacity to fulfill this mission.  I look forward to working with the SpectrumX coalition partners, thank NSF and NTIA for their continued collaborative approach to our shared spectrum work and common goals of serving the American people, and I reiterate our agency’s commitment to supporting the SII program.”

The Memorandum of Agreement provides subject matter expertise to the Spectrum Innovation Initiative program, including this center. With NTIA and FCC’s partnership, this initiative is designed to promote dynamic and agile spectrum and help align NSF’s investments with U.S. spectrum regulatory and policy objectives, principles and strategies.

“The United States has been a global leader in the science of spectrum for decades, and the launch of SpectrumX promises to fuel new innovations that will help us meet our national goals and the ever-increasing demand for spectrum,” said Acting NTIA Administrator Evelyn Remaley. “We look forward to collaborating with NSF to provide support and subject-matter expertise for the development of this exciting new Spectrum Innovation Center.”

Learn more about the Spectrum Innovation Initiative Centers and search funding awards by visiting


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The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts. 

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