NSF, Partners Form ‘RINGS,’ a New Initiative to Catalyze Next-Gen Computing and Networking

By Oliver Peckham

April 28, 2021

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is announcing a new public-private partnership aimed squarely at the development of next-generation technologies: the Resilient & Intelligent NextG Systems (RINGS) program. RINGS will focus on accelerating research in the areas of wireless and mobile communication, networking, sensing, computing systems and global-scale services.

“[Next-generation] systems are future versions of today’s cellular, Wi-Fi and satellite networks that are expected to connect billions of people and revolutionize the relationship between users’ devices and cloud services,” the NSF wrote. “The new systems will enable enhanced data streaming, communications, analytics and automation. These future networks and systems will provide key support to societal priorities such as education, transportation, public health and safety, defense and associated critical infrastructure.”

Notably, the NSF is stressing the importance of resilience in these next-generation systems in order for them to “survive, gracefully adapt to and rapidly recover from malicious attacks, component failures and natural and human-induced disruptions.” With escalating incursions from unfriendly international actors – e.g. the high-profile SolarWinds attack, which involved Russian hackers compromising a network monitoring service – the renewed emphasis on and investment in network cybersecurity is well-timed.

The NSF is partnering with a number of fellow government agencies and high-profile corporations for RINGS, including the Department of Defense (Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Apple, Ericsson, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm and VMware, among others. 

RINGS will be funded to the tune of around $40 million, which includes contributions from each of the partners. The private-sector partners are also offering their technical insight and expertise to the program, with an eye toward helping to accelerate resulting technologies in the future.

“Since I joined NSF, I have championed public-private partnerships as a critical foundation for advancing the frontiers of science and driving home solutions to some of our foremost societal challenges,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the NSF. “I am delighted we are launching this multi-sector collaboration to drive the innovations that will shape future communication networks so vital to everyday life.”   

Proposals are now open for funding under RINGS, which the NSF calls its “single largest effort to date to engage public and private partners to jointly support a research program.” RINGS plans to award 36-48 awards, with each award including up to $1 million in funding across up to three years. The deadline for proposal submission is July 29, 2021. To learn more about RINGS, view the program solicitation at this link.

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