CSC News

August 27, 2021

Shen’s Tech Startup, CoCoPIE, Wins NSF Small Business Innovation Funding

CoCoPIE, a tech startup co-founded by Dr. Xipeng Shen, Professor of Computer Science at NC State, has been awarded a $250,000 Small Business Innovation Research Phase (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant supports his proposal “Enabling Real-Time AI on End Devices Through Compression-Compilation Co-Design.”


CoCoPIE was founded by Shen and collaborators, Bin Ren, assistant professor in William & Mary’s Computer Science Department, and Yanzhi Wang, assistant professor in Northwestern University’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.  CoCoPIE offers a novel software-based approach to endowing end-user devices with artificial intelligence (AI) functionality.  For instance, the CoCoPIE website describes how the software can upscale low-resolution smartphone videos and images to high definition real time.


The proprietary compression-compilation co-design technology of CoCoPIE makes AI models several times smaller and faster than the state-of-the-art optimization technology while preserving the accuracy. It can hence significantly lower the cost of AI products and make many impossible tasks on mobile devices possible. As a pure software solution, it foregoes the needs for costly special AI hardware, shortening the time-to-market from years to minutes.


“NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” said Andrea Belz, Division Director of the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships at NSF. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.”


"CoCoPIE is an enabler and disruptor. The revolutionary technology of CoCoPIE opens up limitless new opportunities for AI app developers, smartphone and IoT device vendors, robotics, health, autonomous driving, and many other industries", says Shen, the lead PI of this SBIR grant and CTO of CoCoPIE.


Once a small business is awarded a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant (up to $256,000), it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II (up to $1,000,000). Small businesses with Phase II funding are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds with qualifying third-party investment or sales.

Startups or entrepreneurs who submit a three-page Project Pitch will know within one month if they meet the program’s objectives to support innovative technologies that show promise of commercial and/or societal impact and involve a level of technical risk. Small businesses with innovative science and technology solutions, and commercial potential are encouraged to apply. All proposals submitted to the NSF SBIR/STTR program, also known as America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, undergo a rigorous merit-based review process. To learn more about America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, visit:



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