The Planning Grants for Engineering Research Centers competition was run as a pilot solicitation within the ERC program. Planning grants are not required as part of the full ERC competition, but intended to build capacity among teams to plan for convergent, center-scale engineering research.
This Planning Grant project is focused on activities that will identify and bring together the technical and practical expertise necessary to address the major societal challenges of biodefense. Biodefense challenges, like infectious diseases and bioterrorist attacks, can have a direct impact on individuals, as well as serious consequences for agriculture. This has a direct impact on the food supply and food security. A national priority to address these growing public health, economic, and societal threats is research and development that enable the 1) rapid detection of infectious agents/toxins, 2) rapid diagnosis, 3) rapid production of medical countermeasures, and 4) rapid and efficient deployment of these medical countermeasures. In addition to being rapid, these technologies must also be cost-effective and deployable under a variety of resource-limited situations. The planning grant will advance the field of biodefense by bringing together faculty, students and stakeholders from different disciplines to address technical needs. It will also support education through the involvement of undergraduates and graduate students in the planning grant activities. The planning grant activities will help identify research directions needed to protect lives and preserve animal and plant health in the face of natural and intentional biological threats.
The goals of the planning grant activities include (1) a detailed understanding of the basic science, engineering, computational, social science, workforce development, innovation ecosystem, and diversity and inclusion components needed to address this societal problem; (2) identification of strategic academic, industry, and governmental partners, as well as specific areas of expertise needed, unique existing facilities and testbeds required for success; (3) identification of the stakeholder community, establishing relationships with them, and using their knowledge base to inform (1) and (2) above; (4) independent evaluation and refinement of the concept of the proposed NSF ERC; (5) development of a center identity (i.e. name, vision statement, goals, strategic model), and (6) creation of an effective leadership/management structure. These benefits are not possible without bringing faculty and stakeholders together in person. These interactions will establish areas of partnerships in convergent research, identify gaps and prioritize activities and strategies for an ERC. The planning grant activities will culminate in a 2-day workshop, bringing together faculty from the partner universities, stakeholders from industry, governmental agencies, funding agencies, non-profits, community and workforce development organizations along with students. In the end, planning grant activities will establish a stronger, crystallized vision for the scope, leadership structure, team, partner network, and activities of an Engineering Research Center in Global Biodefense.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.