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NSF Awards $92.5M for Five New Engineering Research Centers

October 22, 2008

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced earlier this month the establishment of five new university-based centers developing interdisciplinary research and education programs in partnership with industry in the areas of biorenewable chemicals, green energy systems, communications networks, medical implants and smart lighting.

Each of the Engineering Research Centers (ERC) will receive $18.5 million over five years to focus on technological breakthroughs that lead to new products and services, according to NSF. Additional institutional support has also been secured through several of the partnering universities. The centers can apply for a renewal through NSF that extends another five years and are expected to be self supporting after 10 years.

The five new centers place an increased emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship, partnerships with small research firms and international collaboration and cultural exchange. They include:

  • NSF ERC for Biorenewable Chemicals - Based at Iowa State University, the center will develop technologies to transform the petroleum-based chemical industry into an industry based on plants and other biorenewables. Iowa State University has committed $600,000 per year for the center.
  • NSF ERC for Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management - Based at North Carolina State University, the center will develop technology that transforms the nation's centralized power grid into an alternative-energy-friendly "smart grid" that stores and distributes energy produced from solar panels, wind farms, fuel cells and other energy resources. An additional $10 million has been secured through institutional support and industry membership fees.
  • NSF ERC for Integrated Access Networks - Based at the University of Arizona, the center will develop optoelectronic technologies for high-bandwidth, low-cost, widespread access networks. Over the next decade, the center will devise and adapt chip-scale optoelectronic integration technologies capable of delivering data at 10 gigabits, or 10 billion operations per second.
  • NSF ERC for Revolutionizing Metallic Biomaterials - Based at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the center will transform medical and surgical treatments by creating "smart" implants for craniofacial, dental, orthopedic and cardiovascular interventions.  The center is the first historically black institution to be chosen to lead an ERC.
  • NSF Smart Lighting ERC - Based at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), the center will create new solid-state lighting technologies to enable rapid biological imaging, novel modes of communication, efficient displays and safer transportation. The state has committed $700,000 to the center's first year, with additional funding of nearly $1 million expected from industrial partners and $500,000 from RPI.

An accompanying press release is available from NSF at: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=112313&org=NSF&from=news