5 Universities Launch Engineering Research Centers with $92.5 Million in NSF Funding

The National Science Foundation this week announced that it's funding the establishment of new NSF Engineering Research Centers at five universities in the United States. NSF said it will provide the centers--the third generation of such interdisciplinary research centers--with $92.5 million in funding over the next five years.

The new centers, which join 10 others previously established under the program, will be housed at Iowa State University, North Carolina State University, University of Arizona, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The aim of the centers is to foster "research and education collaborations among university and industry partners to focus on technological breakthroughs that lead to new products and services and on strengthening the capacity of [United States] engineering graduates to compete in global markets," according to NSF, which also explained that the five new centers, or ERCs, will place an increased emphasis on three key areas:

  • Innovation and entrepreneurship;
  • Partnerships with small research firms; and
  • International collaboration and cultural exchange.

The new centers will focus on five distinct research areas: biorenewables, renewable energy management, optical access networks, "smart" implants, and solid-state lighting technology. The five centers launched within the last month include:

Each individual ERC will receive $18.5 million over the next five years to advance their particular areas of research.

"The [third-generation Engineering Research Centers] have been designed to build on the well developed understanding laid down by the two previous generations of ERCs," says Lynn Preston, leader of NSF's ERC program, in a statement released this week. "We have added several new dimensions designed to speed the innovation process and prepare engineering graduates who are innovative, creative and understand how to function in a global economy where engineering talent is broadly distributed throughout the world. We expect these ERCs to make even more significant impacts on the competitiveness of U.S. industry than their predecessors."

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).


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