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What is Future Directions (FDC)?

IEEE Future Directions seeks to identify, develop and promote projects that are value-added for IEEE and its members, bringing together multiple societies and councils to provide broad and deep perspective on a particular topic or technology. These projects range from short-term activities to reach a specific goal to 3-year initiatives aiming to engage cross-collaboration among industry, academia, and government striving to develop and deploy various future technologies.


Acronym and Term Glossary

Acronym and Term Glossary

FDC = Future Directions Committee, also referred to as Future Directions or FD.

TA = Technical Activities, IEEE Technical Activities’ mission is to foster the development and facilitate the exchange of scientific and technological knowledge that benefits members, the profession, and humanity. It comprises 39 IEEE Societies, seven IEEE Technical Councils, 18 IEEE technical communities, and the Technical Activities Board (TAB). For more information, visit this website.

TAB = Technical Activities Board, The IEEE Technical Activities Board is the governing body of IEEE Technical Activities and is the largest of six major boards within IEEE. There are 63 voting members, which include Presidents of all 46 Societies and Technical Councils, as well as officers, Division Directors (who also sit on the Board of Directors), and chairs of key TAB committees. For more information, read this pdf.

S = Society, IEEE has 39 technical Societies that provide benefits to members within specialized fields of interest. Society memberships enable you stay current within your chosen technology profession, keep in touch with your peers, and invest in your career. For more information, visit this website.

TC = Technical Council, Technical Councils are groups of Societies working together in broad areas of technology. Technical Councils sponsor activities that benefit individuals in all of the member Societies. There are currently seven Technical Councils. For more information, visit this website.

= Technical Community, IEEE Technical Activities is home to a growing number of technical communities, each responsible for fostering new and emerging technologies. These communities are currently free to join. To learn more, visit this website. To sign up for the communities, click here.

OU = Organizational Unit, An IEEE Organizational Unit is a subset of the entire IEEE membership that has been formed to carry out particular educational, geographic, professional, technical, or other appropriate activities of interest and service to those who are members of that organizational unit as permitted by law.


Comparing the Different FDC Models

 S/C/TC IncubatorSmall ProjectsFDC Initiative
GoalEncourage quick small scale out-of-the-box projects with a specifically defined goal. This helps start a TAB OU. Assess value and community support for pursuing activities in a specific arena. The goal is for TAB and FDC to partner on a small initiative.Attracting new members, generating revenue, and providing value to new and existing members.
FundingLess than or equal to 20,000 USD in the fiscal year of proposal. No carryover funding for second year.Less than or equal to 60,000 USD in the fiscal year of proposal. No carry-over funding for the second year. 3 year funding model through the combination of TAB, NIC, and self-generating revenue.
ProcessReview and render decision from FDC in 10 business days. Must be endorsed by a society/councilReview and render decision from FDC in 10 business days. Must be endorsed by a society, council, or Future DirectionsA proposal must be sent, approved by the board, and then a project plan must be drafted which will be used to request funding from the above mentioned entities.
Duration1 fiscal year. Then the incubator will either continue within a TAB OU or be terminated. 1 fiscal year. Then the small project will be reevaluated. At this point it may either continue on in FDC as is, be promoted to a fully fledged FDC Initiative, move to an existing TAB OU, or be terminated. 3 years in Future Directions, then transferred to another OU or OUs.
Responsible PartyTAB OUFDCFDC
Staff Supportnonelimited FD staff supportfull FD staff support


Notes: The S/C/TC 1 fiscal year incubators have $20K in funds. This is not a new FDC initiative or an FDC project. These funds are to jumpstart an OU in a new tech area. They have no FDC staff support and are expected to continue in an OU after completing the FDC incubator or to be terminated by the OU.

The 1 fiscal year small projects are allowed up to $60K in funds. These are projects suggested by FDC or an S/C/TC targeted for a new space. This is not a new FDC Initiative or an Incubator. They do have limited FDC single project staff support and would be evaluated at year end for either continuing in FDC, moving to an OU or OUs, or termination.

What is an Incubator?

An “incubator” is a proposal that is intended to gather academia and industry together to work towards one specific and narrowly defined goal. This goal is intended to serve as a springboard to highlight a specific technical area. These incubator projects usually involve one or more IEEE Societies or Councils, and may or may not have staff support from Future Directions.

Check Out Our Past Incubators!

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Many mobile systems (smartphones, electronic glass, autonomous robots) can capture images. These systems use batteries and energy conservation is essential. This challenge aims to discover the best technology in both image recognition and energy conservation. Winners will be evaluated based on both high recognition accuracy and low power usage. Image recognition involves many tasks. This challenge focuses on object detection, a basic routine in many recognition approaches.

Fog World Congress is the first conference that brought industry and research together to explore the technologies, challenges, industry deployments and opportunities in fog computing and networking. The FWC provided a seamlessly integrated forum for industry and academia to work together. Interactive sessions provided an unprecedented platform where experts guided interactive roundtable discussions, ran a fog hackathon, and organized workshops to attack specific technical and business issues in selected industrial verticals. There were sessions designed to debate controversial topics such as why and where fog will be necessary, what will happen in a future world without fog, and how fog could disrupt the industry.


For the past few years, smart grids have been the main topic of fervent research and development at both the industrial and academic level. However, all these prospected transformations bring with them numerous challenges and opportunities. In order to address some of these questions, IEEE Smart Grid, in collaboration with Think SmartGrids — the structure assembling smart grid players in France — gathered experts from the energy, telecommunications, and computing sectors for the first IEEE International Forum on Smart Grids for Smart Cities.


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Wish to Submit a Proposal?

We are accepting requests for new incubator proposals for 2018. Use the links below to get started.

Read the Instructions

Complete the Incubator Proposal Form

What is a Small Project?

A small project is a Future Directions effort to coordinate collaboration across IEEE members in academia, industry, and government to further development of a particular technology or application space. The goal of a small project is to gauge the interest of the community so that we may pursue activities in this arena either on the same scale or at an increased level. If the community supports these projects, then they may be promoted to a fully fledged Future Directions Initiative.

Small Projects In the Works


The new IEEE Environmental Engineering Project intends to create an interdisciplinary forum for the community interested in the area of environmental engineering; including components in various S/Cs which are using our technologies and methodologies but are not yet embraced by our IEEE communities.


Based on horizon scanning, interviews, and expert knowledge, the mission of the Technology Roadmap Project is to identify short (~3 years), mid-term (~5 years) and long-term (~10 years) research, innovation and upcoming technology trends. This will enable the development of a concrete innovation and engagement roadmap which will guide the IEEE communities towards maximum impact contributions across its societies. This roadmap will focus on the consumer driven demand-side as well as the wider industry and standards ecosystem. The outcome shall be a live document with a clear set of (accountable) recommendations which will be updated annually.

What is an Initiative?

An Initiative is a Future Directions supported large scale project which focuses on one specific technological area. The goals of each Initiative are attract new members, generate revenue, and provide value to both new and existing IEEE members. Typically, an IEEE Initiative will accomplish these goals by attending and hosting conferences, creating educational materials, building external relationships, and producing newsletters and publications all while striving to increase the size of its technical membership.

Check Out our Newest Initiatives


Blockchain is a new and emerging technology family positioned on the leading edge of the technology hype curve. It is not bleeding or cutting-edge technology; nor is it fully formed, standardized, or supported by best practices. The Blockchain Technical Community is highly fragmented and badly needs what the IEEE can deliver; a stabilizing think space of seasoned professionals specifically trained and positioned to make a difference. Blockchain is by far the most forward thinking, impactful, and disruptive emerging technology family that the Future Directions Committee and the IEEE has sought to embrace.


Dedicated to reengineering human senses for better reality, IEEE Digital Reality Initiative is the go-to platform for keeping you at the forefront of virtual reality, augmented reality, human augmentation, and smart robots. With a deeper understanding of how human senses work, we will be able to advance technologies that capture and reproduce, or synthesize the stimuli of various senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, etc.); combine the reproduced or synthesized stimuli with the naturally received stimuli in various ways; and help humans or enable machines to perceive, understand, and respond to the stimuli. Plans are underway to capture all the different perspectives via in-depth cross-disciplinary discussions, and to drive to a set of results which will facilitate disruptive innovations and foster cross-industry collaborations globally in the areas of virtual reality, augmented reality, human augmentation, and smart robots.


Small Initiatives May Grow into Larger Scale IEEE Initiatives Spanning Across all Organizational Units. For More Information, View These Initiatives; or Investigate all of IEEE Future Directions.