NSF News

NSF Director Panchanathan joins Rep. Cartwright in Pennsylvania for Engine kickoff

On July 7, U.S. National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan joined Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, for the launch of a $1 million NSF Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) Development Award, part of the NSF Engines program authorized by the "CHIPS and Science Act." Panchanathan discussed the merits of the new agriculture project, the significance of the "Chips and Science Act," and the critical role of the STEM enterprise in growing the industries of today and tomorrow.

In May, the Pennsylvania Industrial Hemp Engine Development Project (PAIHE) was among 44 teams across the country selected for NSF Engines Development Awards worth $1 million. These first-ever awards are a class of planning grants designed to help recipients form partnerships within their communities, translating research into real-world impacts. The PAIHE team is focused on advancing agricultural research and technologies in collaboration with local hemp industries.

The event was hosted by Vytal Plant Science Research (VPSR), a non-profit, Hazleton-based biotechnology corporation. VPSR and Penn State are leading the PAIHE team, which is made up of businesses, academia, farms, non-profits and community organizations from around the state. In attendance were VPSR's CEO, the president of Penn State, the Pennsylvania secretary of agriculture, project partners, stakeholders, researchers, students and members of the media. Panchanathan remarked on the scalable impacts and opportunities presented by this project well into the future.

"This project has the potential to unleash new use-inspired research and a wide range of innovative technologies for renewable energy, materials and land use, all while strengthening Pennsylvania's diverse STEM workforce," Panchanathan said. "With global demand for renewable products continually increasing, this project will showcase how partnerships can help solve important challenges and strengthen regional industries and the nation's economy."

For Panchanathan, the visit to Pennsylvania revealed the power of NSF's investments to catalyze sustainable progress, benefiting cities like Hazleton. The PAIHE project outlines a plan of action that places the team and its region on a path to becoming competitive for a $160 million "full NSF Engine" award. An innovation hub fueled on that order of magnitude would usher in a new era of opportunities and economic prosperity, reverberating between small, working-class towns and large metropolises throughout the country.