NSF News

NSF awards $35M for networks to transform research capacity and competitiveness

The U.S. National Science Foundation has awarded $35 million through the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Research Incubators for STEM Excellence Research Infrastructure Improvement (E-RISE RII) to boost research competitiveness, build partnerships across academic institutions and non-academic sectors and create workforce development opportunities. 

E-RISE RII is a new program that aims to further EPSCoR's programmatic goals by developing and implementing sustainable networks of diverse research teams to collaborate on critical jurisdictional research priorities. The program is a response to the 2022 Study of the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, the Envisioning the Future of NSF EPSCoR report and the "CHIPS and Science Act of 2022."

"This investment from NSF's E-RISE RII program powers scientific progress through broad networks of researchers, institutions and organizations that will significantly enhance STEM research capacity in our EPSCoR jurisdictions,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "We are investing in a future where EPSCoR jurisdictions are even more competitive in the scientific enterprise, both nationally and internationally."

The networks will leverage their partnerships by developing innovative educational plans that address their jurisdictional priorities and help prepare a skilled technical workforce. They will broaden participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by requiring the inclusion of members of traditionally underrepresented groups. The teams aim to make sustainable improvements in science for the betterment and economic impact of their jurisdictions’ research and development enterprise.


The awardees and a summary of each project are listed below: 

Enhancing Maine Forest Economy, Sustainability, and Technology (Maine-FOREST) Ecosystem To Accelerate Innovation

Led by the University of Maine, this project will build strategic R&D capacity to fuel the dramatic growth of Maine’s forest-based economy and the rural communities it supports. The project will employ innovative and inclusive approaches to participatory system dynamics modeling to leverage stakeholder networks, while yielding new information regarding convergent science. The project’s framework will nurture adaptive community resilience and strengthen the capacity of rural and Indigenous communities to respond to current and future socio-ecological threats and opportunities. 

Collaborating institutions: Bates College, Colby College, University of Maine Fort Kent, University of Maine at Presque Isle, University of Southern Maine, Maine Development Foundation and Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance.


Establishment of the Mississippi Nano-bio and ImmunoEngineering Consortium (NIEC)

This project, spearheaded by the University of Mississippi, will build capacity in Mississippi for use-inspired R&D of advanced polymer materials and for addressing the scientific, engineering and educational training needs of the nano- and biotechnology industries at a time when these industries are experiencing unprecedented growth. The project proposes to create a robust pipeline for next-generation materials by fostering multidisciplinary research teams to iteratively design, synthesize and characterize new materials, while evaluating their impact on delivery efficacy in relevant disease models. In addition to advancing scientific knowledge in biomaterials research — with a focus on pioneering innovations applicable to healthcare, bioengineering and materials science — this project will establish a comprehensive biomaterials research network across Mississippi.

Collaborating institutions: Mississippi State University, Jackson State University, Tougaloo College, Alcorn State University, University of Southern Mississippi and University of Mississippi Medical Center. 


BioNitrogen Economy Research Center (BNERC)

South Dakota State University is leading this project to build sustainable capacity to leverage abundant atmospheric nitrogen gas and solar energy to create a commercially viable, solar-powered "bionitrogen economy" in South Dakota, relying in part on the knowledge and resources of Native communities about agricultural and medicinal indigenous plants. While alleviating environmental issues of nitrogen pollution in a largely agricultural state, the project will also provide alternatives for the commercial production of nitrogen- and carbon-rich biological products, including fertilizers, nutritional proteins and bioplastics. The project will promote workforce development by integrating K-12 outreach, undergraduate and graduate research programs and partnering with tribal communities. 

Collaborating institutions and organizations: Oglala Lakota College, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, University of South Dakota and Houdek.


Research Center for Distributed Resilient and Emergent-Intelligence-Based Additive Manufacturing (DREAM)

This project, led by New Mexico State University, will enhance New Mexico’s competitive edge in the global manufacturing sector by establishing the groundwork for an advanced distributed intelligent additive manufacturing infrastructure. The project will contribute to fundamental knowledge in advance manufacturing, cybersecurity and machine learning while spurring economic growth in New Mexico and contributing to national efforts to onshore manufacturing. The project will provide an integrated pathway for workforce development in additive manufacturing from middle school to doctoral and postdoctoral levels by intertwining classroom activities with research experience and pedagogical models that promote diversity, inclusion and belonging.

Collaborating institutions: Navajo Technical University, University of New Mexico and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.


Driving AgTech Research and Education in Kentucky (DARE-KY) through Inclusive Network Building, Impactful Research, and Workforce Development for Soilless Food Systems

Led by Kentucky State University, this project will establish an unprecedented, cross-sector research incubator to improve nutrient management, food safety, and sustainability of soilless agriculture in Kentucky, which will lead more diverse and inclusive STEM research and several approaches to understand how nutrient flow through aquaponic systems influences microbial communities and its potential impact on biofilm formation and food safety. The project will enhance workforce development in Kentucky by creating new curricula, integrating research into student learning and developing new work-and-learn opportunities. 

Collaborating institutions: Bluegrass Community and Technical College, University of Pikeville, Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation and FoodChain Inc.