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NSF Manufacturing Blue Sky Competition


The fifth annual NSF Manufacturing Blue Sky Competition, funded by the National Science Foundation, and the SME David Dornfeld Manufacturing Vision Award, will be held during the 2021 NAMRI | SME 49th North American Manufacturing Research Conference (NAMRC) and ASME Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference (MSEC), June 21-25, 2021.


The goal of this annual competition is to influence the future of manufacturing research and education in the United States through new visionary ideas of the future. Such visionary ideas are often described as “radical”, “outrageous”, “transformational”, “unconventional”, “convergent”, and “breakthrough”. Presentations should pose grand challenges to be addressed by pursuing the manufacturing research vision, describing the intersections between disparate disciplines necessary to advance that vision. Topical areas should extend beyond the scope of single investigator and show potential for transformative impact in areas of interest to federal agencies.

It is likely that team efforts will be needed to formulate such ideas. Therefore, interdisciplinary collaborations are encouraged, including disciplines outside of engineering.

Entry Process

Each abstract should be up to one page in length, including the title. This one-page abstract should not include names of submitters and their affiliations. Such information should be included in the email.

Abstracts will be judged by a selection committee consisting of members from government and industry covering a broad range of manufacturing interests. About six abstracts will be selected (finalists) to make synchronous presentations on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, during the virtual NAMRC/MSEC conference that will be held online. Conference registration expenses of the selected speakers (i.e., finalists) will be reimbursed through the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Finalists and Judging

The top presentation, determined by the selection committee, will receive the SME Dornfeld Manufacturing Vision Award to recognize outstanding vision and leadership.

Check out this video to learn more!

The participants and particularly the winner, are expected to work with the organizers to broadly disseminate their Blue Sky idea (e.g., through a workshop, publishing in Manufacturing Letters).

After the conference, SME will post links to presentation slides, so that the ideas can be disseminated broadly to the manufacturing community. Submitting an abstract for the competition requires that the submitters agree to publish their presentation slides through the SME website. Abstracts and presentations from the last two years of competition have been posted here.

General Information

People who are interested in submitting abstracts to the competition are strongly encouraged to talk to Professors Frank Pfefferkorn (, ZJ Pei (, or Tony Schmitz (, who will not be serving on the selection committee. It is the intent of the organizers to provide feedback and insight to abstract submitters in an effort to put forward the strongest ideas for advancing manufacturing research in the United States.

Deadline: April 1, 2021 at 11:59 EDT

Submit Your Abstract

More Information

Blue Sky

David Dornfeld Manufacturing Vision Award Past Winners

Blue Sky Selection Committee

Blue Sky Competition Selection Committee