The Emerge Accelerator connects Department of Defense (DoD) mission partners (e.g., operational units, program offices, etc.) with emerging technology teams and startups at our nation’s top research universities.

Pilot Program Overview

NSIN is establishing a new pilot called Emerge Accelerator within its Acceleration Portfolio. Emerge seeks to establish T3 partnerships with universities to spin out new dual-use ventures (one that targets both government and commercial (enterprise and/or consumer) customers), based on existing university intellectual property, that correspond to the DoD’s urgent and critical areas of technology development.

Emerge is based on the foundational principle that universities do not need to create new programs or resources to participate, and its funding is intended to support university-based technology teams in accelerated technology development, and venture formation, for the purposes of commercial and DoD applications. The pilot is designed to leverage the existing programs, infrastructure, and venture resources at strategic partner universities that most closely align with DoD technology focus areas and mission priorities.

University Selection General Criteria and Methodology

United States-based universities desiring to participate in Emerge should complete a minimum three-page application (plus applicable appendices) by November 24, 2021 and email it to the cognizant POCs listed below. Applications will focus on how universities can partner with NSIN to spin out dual-use ventures from existing university intellectual property (IP), that have the potential to provide novel solutions to unclassified DoD problem sets.

Emerge will focus on taking student, faculty, and staff teams and/or companies at the prototype stage and match them with DoD users to validate their prototype in a simulated environment, or teams that are pre-protype and need prototyping support.

Applications should focus on:

  1. Nominating existing university companies that have potential to be a good fit for this pilot activity. Universities are encouraged to nominate not only known actionable tech transfer opportunities, but also put out an open call for university-founded teams that may be interested in participating.
  2. How the university will integrate its existing resources with the NSIN baseline model (see next section). You may also suggest your own model, independent of the NSIN baseline. Please provide a rough overview and budget for what you have in mind.
  3. Description of any pre-existing relationship(s) with DoD partners for the testing, funding, and commercialization of each piece of university technology. Optional and for our awareness only.
  4. Anything else that distinguishes the institution as a good candidate for the Emerge pilot.

Selection of universities will happen in two phases:

  • 25 universities will be selected on December 17, 2021.
  • Selected universities will then be provided an in-depth analysis of their proposed IP transfer opportunities portfolio and narrowed down to anywhere from seven to 14 institutions. See Appendix 2.
  • By February 1, 2022 approximately 42 qualified teams/companies (at least three teams per institution) will be selected to participate in one out of two planned Accelerator cohorts (Spring or Summer).

Additional Information

Eligibility Information:

Applications may only be submitted by the following:

Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members.

Institutions should consolidate applications as much as possible in order to submit only one application per institution.

Security Classifications/Requirements:

All Services shall be conducted so as to not require access to classified data/information, approved for public release: distribution unlimited (Distribution Statement A).

General Operational Expectations:

After submitted teams are selected, it will be preferable that communications flow directly among teams and NSIN program leadership. Although universities need not serve as a central reporting and/or program management role after programming begins, NSIN will aim to work collaboratively with university leadership to adapt to the best ad-hoc model that works for all parties.

University support and engagement will be necessary for selecting/recruiting and submitting eligible teams and providing search input material as necessary for the initial tech analysis and team selection process.


Emerge is a DoD-funded pilot. Participating team members must be U.S. citizens or foreign nationals not hailing from a Country of Special Concern.

Disclosure of foreign national status should be made after the final selection of teams. Failure to do so could jeopardize further participation in the pilot.

Technology Vertical Areas:

  1. Energy Technologies (e.g., clean, sustainable, high-yield, nuclear)
  2. Advanced Engineering Materials (e.g., bio-inspired, nanotech)
  3. Semiconductors and Microelectronics
  4. Advanced Computing (e.g., high-performance, quantum, simulation)
  5. Applied AI/ML (e.g., big data analysis/situational awareness, predictive modeling, autonomy, robotics/drones)
  6. Advanced Communications and Networking Technologies (e.g., IoT, 5G, RF, denied/hostile environments)
  7. Biotechnologies (e.g., medical, bio-inspired)
  8. Advanced Sensing (e.g., IoT, EW, denied/hostile environments)
  9. Hypersonics
  10. Space Technologies

Important Dates

November 22 & 23, 2021 at 4-5 p.m. EST: Information sessions about the new Emerge Accelerator program. Register for both sessions here.

November 24, 2021 at Noon EST: Emerge Application Due Date.

December 17, 2021: Target for Initial Selection of 25 Universities.

February 1, 2022: Final Selection of Seven to 14 Universities, Technology Areas, and Prospective Team Admission.

February 14, 2022: Accelerator Cohort 1 (Spring) Start Date.

April 29, 2022: Accelerator Cohort 1 (Spring) End Date.

May 16, 2022: Accelerator Cohort 2 (Summer) Start Date.

July 29, 2022: Accelerator Cohort 2 (Summer) End Date.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does every team fill out an application or just the university? Only the university representative(s) must complete the application.

What’s the incentive for universities? While the teams, not the universities, will receive funding, the universities will benefit from participation in Emerge in two ways. First, this program puts teams in the universities’ tech transfer portfolio in contact with key DoD stakeholders and testing partners, increasing their likelihood of breaking into the DoD market and commercializing their technology. Second, the universities will receive a copy of the analysis produced through our proprietary ML tool, which tells if technology is early, emerging, or mature and where the market for it is.

How many teams can we submit? There is no limit on the number of teams. However, ensure the teams are at least notionally interested in participating and would have a dual-use application.

What stage team do you seek? As this is a pilot program, our selection criteria are intentionally broad. However, ideally, we want teams that plan to form a business around a prototype soon or have already formed a business in the last year.

Do teams need to be fully committed to participating before being nominated by their university? No. While we would prefer that teams plan to participate if selected following submission, it is unnecessary. The initial selection is based on team technology, and during the final selection, a team’s willingness to participate will be determined.

We already have a program that does X, do we have to participate in everything? No, if you’d only like to participate in a part of this opportunity, that’s possible. Just indicate your specific preferences in the application. Also, if you have a unique proposal for collaborating with NSIN, let us know that as well.

Will you match PIs with entrepreneurs? Unfortunately no. Applicants need to bring their team. As there is a demand for this, NSIN is exploring ways to implement it in the future. NSIN has another DIA program that matches entrepreneurs and PIs to create new start-ups, but it’s around tech from DoD labs.

How involved must PIs be? Simply put, PIs may be as involved as they want to be. It’s ultimately up to the teams to decide how to take advantage of these services.

How involved must teams be? The expected minimum workload for teams is about two hours per week for the 10 weeks per each respective cohort. In addition to the pre-recorded online modules, the program will include live virtual office hours, pitch presentations, mentoring sessions, customer discovery workshops, and a final showcase event.

Can teams pick which cohort they attend, whether it is starting in February or the one beginning in May? We will try to accommodate accepted teams’ preferences as much as possible. There is, however, a limit to how many teams can participate in each cohort at a time.

Derivative IP? The purpose of the Emerge Accelerator is for new ventures based around university IP to explore the benefits of making their business dual-use. NSIN is a DoD organization that exists to promote dual-use innovation. We are not asking to obtain teams’ equity or IP rights. For teams that make separate agreements with our DoD partners, IP considerations will be up to the parties involved. NSIN does not speak for other DoD organizations or the DoD at large.

How do the NSIN Emerge Accelerator and the NSIN NSA2 (National Security Academic Accelerator) program relate? Emerge is NSA2’s replacement. The NSA2 pilot program was run from FY 20 to FY 21 to spin out dual-use ventures from US universities. Building on lessons learned and new government requirements, Emerge was launched with the same objective as NSA2 but offering a unique approach. Like NSA2, Emerge is a pilot program, subject to change after a year of execution.

Cognizant Program Officer(s) and POCS: