NSF to build capacity for convergent engineering research centers with national impacts

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60 planning grants foster a new generation of NSF Engineering Research Centers.

September 26, 2018

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded 60 grants to build U.S. capacity for convergent engineering research centers that can create far-reaching, positive impacts on society and the economy.

For more than 30 years, NSF Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) have addressed a variety of engineering and technological challenges as they pursue transformational and interwoven research, workforce development and innovation outcomes. With these one-year, $100,000 planning grants, NSF is energizing the research community for a new generation of ERCs.

“The U.S., like the rest of the world, faces complex challenges affecting people’s lives and prosperity -- challenges that require deep integration of scientific and engineering knowledge and methods to solve,” said Dawn Tilbury, NSF assistant director for Engineering. “NSF wants to ensure future engineering research centers can address such challenges and continue to generate benefits for the nation.” 

The ERC planning grants will foster research collaborations that lead to societal impacts through new approaches for team formation, diversity and inclusion, stakeholder engagement, and convergence.

“With their long history of multidisciplinary research and innovation, NSF Engineering Research Centers are an ideal place for the convergence approach to research to create even more consequential advances in the future,” Tilbury continued. “Convergence research, one of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas, is needed to solve thorny problems and address important national needs, in health, sustainability, manufacturing and other areas.”

New Approaches

In 2015, recognizing major shifts in the U.S. and global landscapes, NSF sought community input and recommendations for future engineering research centers through a study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The study report, A New Vision for Center-Based Engineering Research, recommended research, education and innovation models for a new generation of Engineering Research Centers that would produce the most significant benefits.

To successfully implement the recommended approaches in new NSF ERCs, the ERC planning grants will grow new capabilities in the research community that help teams to prepare to successfully perform convergent engineering research. Principal investigators are kicking off their activities with a training workshop in Alexandria, Virginia during Oct. 2-3, 2018.

NSF plans to announce a funding opportunity for the new generation of Engineering Research Centers in fall 2018 and launch the centers in 2020.


Media Contact
Sarah Bates, NSF, (703) 292-7738, sabates@nsf.gov 

Program Contacts
Junhong Chen, NSF, (703) 292-4623, junchen@nsf.gov
Dana Denick, NSF, (703) 292-8866, ddenick@nsf.gov
Deborah Jackson, NSF, (703) 292-7499, djackson@nsf.gov
Eduardo Misawa, NSF, (703) 292-5353, emisawa@nsf.gov

Related Websites
Engineering Research Center Planning Grant solicitation (NSF 18-549): https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2018/nsf18549/nsf18549.htm
NSF news release, August 5, 2015, “Preparing for the ubiquitous technologies of tomorrow”: https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=135831

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2020, its budget is $8.3 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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