Osceola County’s NeoCity-based BRIDG could see up to $160 million come its way after The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that it is one of the 16 finalists for its prestigious Regional Innovation Engines competition.

In September, Osceola County’s Technology Center NeoCity and its Coalition partners received $50.8 million from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to develop Central Florida’s semiconductor and microelectronics industry cluster. Established in accordance with the Biden Administration’s “CHIPS and Science Act,” the competition aims to foster innovation and collaborative technology-driven ecosystems across the nation. BRIDG’s inclusion as a finalist underscores NeoCity’s potential to become a leading innovation hub.

BRIDG is a not-for-profit, public-private partnership specializing in advanced system integration and packaging. NSF Engines will provide each awardee with approximately $15 million for the first two years, with the potential for up to $160 million over a 10-year period, subject to progress assessments.

“Being selected as a finalist and the only microelectronic semiconductor manufacturing-focused engine validates our regional coalition efforts to enable and advance the innovation ecosystem in Central Florida,” said Jim Vandevere, president of BRIDG. “As an NSF Engine, our region can leverage existing investments made to positively transform and catalyze NeoCity. We look forward to working with NSF and our partners during the final review process in hopes of receiving an NSF Engine award to help rebuild the manufacturing industrial base and serve as an advanced packaging hub for our nation.”

The program seeks to address key technology areas and societal and economic challenges by partnering with local and regional organizations. The partnerships will expand innovation capabilities and create inclusive technology-driven innovation hubs that will drive economic growth and address critical challenges.

“We take great pride in the impressive momentum of our collaborations at NeoCity, which have garnered recognition from esteemed institutions such as NSF, key industry players, as well as state and federal leaders,” said Osceola County Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer. “Our strategic vision to cultivate fresh career prospects for our residents and establish Osceola County as a pivotal innovation hub is gradually being realized through the fusion of talent and resources from all our NeoCity partners. Award of the NSF Engine program will affirm these and elevate BRIDG’s status in advanced system integration and packaging.”

The proposal is joined by partners from Osceola County, Florida High Tech Corridor, imec, Orlando Economic Partnership, University of Central Florida, University of Florida, Valencia College, and CareerSource Central Florida.

“These NSF Engines finalists demonstrate strong promise to become emerging hubs of innovation for our nation. NSF Engines harness the talents and resources to advance our vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “NSF welcomes regional and local organizations to reach out to these finalists and contribute their ideas, talent and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation.”+

Over the course of up to 10 years, each NSF Engine will progress through three phases: nascent, emergent, and growth. A successful NSF Engine will transform its region into a nationally renowned, self-sustaining, technology- and innovation-driven economic hub.

NSF initially narrowed the proposals to 34 semifinalists, and after rigorous assessment, Osceola County emerged as one of the 16 finalists. Each finalist team will undergo interviews in person later this summer and fall to evaluate their adaptability to changing circumstances and their potential impact on regional innovation ecosystems.

The NSF Engines program, launched by NSF’s Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP), draws upon the nation’s science and technology research and development enterprise and regional-level resources. This initiative aims to catalyze robust partnerships, boost the economy in specific geographic regions, address societal challenges, enhance national competitiveness, and create high-wage jobs.

BRIDG’s potential as an NSF Engine finalist represents an exceptional opportunity for growth and advancement. The county’s constituents are encouraged to support the finalists by reinforcing their commitments to the proposed activities.

For more information about the NSF Engines program, please visit the official NSF Engines program website.

“Valencia College is a fully supportive partner in the NSF Engines program, and we are excited to be among the 16 finalists. Getting this award would be a significant investment in our community and the semiconductor initiative in NeoCity,” said Joe Battista, Vice President for Workforce, Career & Professional Education for Valencia College.

“I express my heartfelt gratitude to the virtual visit committee from NSF for recognizing and appreciating the innovative interconnect packaging technology developed by the team,” said Dr. Y.K. Yoon, professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Florida. “Their acknowledgement is a great honor and encouragement for our ongoing efforts. I also extend my sincere appreciation to the entire team for their outstanding teamwork and dedication in preparing for the visit. Their hard work and collaboration has been instrumental in showcasing the seamless integration of technology and regional economic development.”

“It is exciting Osceola County is a finalist for the U.S. National Science Foundation’s first-ever Regional Innovation Engines competition,” said Pam Nabors, president & CEO of CareerSource Central Florida. “CareerSource Central Florida is proud to partner alongside such innovative and mission-driven organizations to help increase awareness, trainings, and opportunities in the emerging semiconductor industry. This would allow growth in the advanced manufacturing sector across Central Florida and beyond, and will boost change and advancements in the economy, along with good paying jobs and careers.” 

“We are honored to be one of the finalists for the NSF grant. Our regional coalition is the only finalist solely focused on semiconductor manufacturing,” said Tim Giuliani, president and CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership. “Becoming an epicenter of semiconductor reshoring and advancement takes a big team, years of persistence and trusted partners. We have all of those ingredients here and we’re still just getting started.” 

“With these economic engines, the NSF is addressing some of the most critical science and technology needs for our nation,” stated Dr. Grace Bochenek, director of School of Modeling, Simulation and Training at the University of Central Florida.  “Within the NeoCity Semiconductor Technology Accelerator engine, the University of Central Florida plays an important role in advancing solutions through research and development to solve some of the nation’s most critical needs, in this case for the microelectronic semiconductor industry. Our history of working with government, industry, other universities and educational institutions provides the foundation for expanding and elevating a robust ecosystem.”