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About PSCR

Who we are

The Public Safety Communications Research (PSCR) Division is the primary federal laboratory conducting research, development, testing, and evaluation for public safety communications technologies. It is housed within the Communications Technology Laboratory (CTL) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). PSCR is focused on driving research to advance communications technologies in support of the public safety community in partnership with stakeholders across public safety, industry, government, and academia.

PSCR 2024 Digital Brochure

To learn more about PSCR's mission, key research areas, critical partnerships, and impacts on public safety communication technology, read the PSCR 2024 Digital Brochure.

PSCR Strategic Accomplishments Digital Handout

See how PSCR leveraged $300 million to support American leadership in public safety communications research. View our strategic accomplishments resource.


Serving as an objective technical advisor and laboratory, PSCR is driven towards advancing public safety communications technologies by accelerating their development, adoption, and implementation so that the public safety community can more effectively carry out their mission to protect lives and property.

PSCR Themes graphic that reads "1: Advancing Technology, 2: Supporting Public Safety Communities, 3: Research-Driven, 4: Partnerships with stakeholders"

Driving research

PSCR conducts research at its Public Safety Innovation Lab and Public Safety Immersive Test Center in Boulder, Colorado, and also accelerates research by investing in external partners through grants, cooperative agreements, and prize challenge competitions. 

Advancing communications technologies

PSCR develops standards to ensure the telecom industry accounts for the unique needs of public safety users and produces measurement metric methods, software, datasets, and tools for stimulating future R&D in the public safety space and beyond. PSCR impacts include newly formed companies and partnerships, publications, patents, public safety methods, FirstNet store apps, and more.

Supporting public safety communities

PSCR works directly with first responders and the solver community to address the urgent need for new and improved technology which enhances the public safety community’s ability to respond to emergencies.

Partnering with academia, government, and industry

PSCR regularly convenes a diverse group of stakeholders, acting as a nexus for influencing communications technology R&D so that public safety practitioners can get the next-generation capabilities they need to do their jobs more efficiently, effectively, and safely. Learn more about 5x5: The Public Safety Innovation Summit, taking place in San Diego, California June 28-30, 2023.

The history of PSCR

Since 2002, PSCR has worked to drive innovation and advance public safety communication technologies through cutting-edge R&D. In February 2012, the enactment of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act marked an unparalleled push toward next-generation technologies for public safety. The legislation contained landmark provisions for the development and build out of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN), a dedicated, interoperable network for emergency responders.

The Public Safety Trust Fund (PSTF) was established to support the design and implementation of the Network. The Act charged NIST with utilizing up to $300 million of PSTF allocations to establish an R&D program to support the development and deployment of NPSBN. PSCR established the Public Safety Innovation Accelerator Program (PSIAP) to drive R&D and transform public safety communications capabilities.

The $300 million funding expired in September 2022, however, PSCR’s critical R&D continues in the form of internal research, prize challenges, and stakeholder engagement opportunities. Our past awardees are continuing their research, developing their products, and making a direct impact on public safety communication technology.

To learn more about PSCR’s history, watch the short film “The History of PSCR” in our Virtual Lab Tour.

Key research areas

The following five portfolios comprise PSCR's research structure:

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Created April 5, 2016, Updated March 21, 2024