NSF News

NSF and industry partners announce sustainable polymer research funding opportunity

$9.5 million is available for multidisciplinary work to enable the accelerated creation of safe, sustainable and high-value polymers on a commercial scale.

The U.S. National Science Foundation has launched a $9.5 million research funding opportunity in partnership with BASF, Dow, IBM, PepsiCo Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. Sustainable Polymers Enabled by Emerging Data Analytics (SPEED) is part of NSF's Molecular Foundations for Sustainability program and seeks to accelerate the discovery and manufacture of superior and sustainable polymers to enhance national competitiveness and tackle global challenges such as plastic waste. NSF is providing $7 million, and the five industry partners are collectively contributing $2.5 million in funding and in-kind donations.

"Synthetic polymers are in many products and materials used by our society, from concrete and plastics to paper and rubber," says NSF Chemistry Division Director David Berkowitz. "Melding frontier chemistry with advanced data science tools to design and commercialize new high-value polymers can reduce pollution and waste — and ultimately enhance the health of our planet and the resiliency of our communities."

SPEED is one of several NSF efforts to advance fundamental research in sustainable chemistry, a national priority highlighted in the "CHIPS and Science Act of 2022" which called on NSF to support sustainable chemistry research and education by fostering collaborative research and development partnerships among universities, industry and other organizations.

The funding from SPEED will support multidisciplinary teams and convergent research that can enable the accelerated creation of safe, sustainable, high-value molecules on commercial scales. The effort also aims to support the development of the U.S. STEM workforce needed for such advances. A key focus is harnessing the predictive potential of emerging data tools and analytics, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to streamline industry adoption of new discoveries and yield societal benefits faster and more reliably. Those benefits include enhancing U.S. manufacturing capabilities and growing a circular economy around the creation of renewable, degradable and recyclable products.

To learn more about this funding opportunity and how to submit a proposal, visit the Molecular Foundations for Sustainability: Sustainable Polymers Enabled by Emerging Data Analytics webpage.


Statements from our partners

"Plastic waste is a global challenge and driving innovative solutions for a sustainable future are essential. BASF is proud to contribute, with industry partners and the National Science Foundation on the advancement of research in sustainable polymers. I am inspired by the SPEED opportunity to openly accelerate polymer data science in support of circular economy strategies. It's up to us all to shape a sustainable future and prioritize the health of our planet through groundbreaking research and multidisciplinary collaboration," said Benjamin Raerup Knudsen, vice president of Research North America, BASF Corporation.

"We believe that collaboration is key to solving challenges and ensuring a sustainable future for the world," said Dave Parrillo, vice president of research and development, packaging and specialty plastics and hydrocarbons at Dow. "The SPEED program uniquely supports courageous collaboration and innovative research among scientific and engineering disciplines. We are excited about the potential for this program to accelerate advancements in polymer science that are applicable at scale and will address some of the world's most pressing sustainability challenges. Dow is proud to support this research funding opportunity as an enabler to the future of STEM."

"IBM is proud to support the National Science Foundation's SPEED program," said Teodoro Laino, distinguished research scientist at IBM. "Unlocking the next frontier in sustainable material development, such as polymer, demands a profound integration of cutting-edge digital technologies. By harnessing the wealth of diverse multi-modalities contained in data collected over decades, pioneering novel architectures like foundation models, and engaging diverse talent across academia and industry, we pave the way for a transformative era in materials science."

"At PepsiCo, we aim to build a world where packaging never becomes waste. We are excited to support the NSF SPEED program to enable synergies between fundamentals of polymer science and data analytics that will accelerate the development of sustainable polymers and further progress a circular economy for packaging," said PepsiCo R&D Packaging Vice Presidents Prasad Joshi and Ron Khan.

Procter & Gamble Senior Vice Presidents Gerard Baillely and Lee Ellen Drechsler both support this program as an innovation priority: "We celebrate over 50 years of advancing the research, design and industrialization of polymers with tangible benefits to quality of life across multiple applications and with robust human safety and environmental compatibility. Now with the SPEED program, we bring the power of data science, advanced research and new STEM talent to continue driving polymer innovation and look forward to the opportunities ahead."