University of Washington doctoral student Eric Rombokas interacts with a lifelike robotic hand that includes the same number of muscles and tendons as the human hand, allowing the possibility for a more seamless integration with the human nervous system. The robotic hand was built in the UW’s Neurobotics Lab, which works on the interface between robotics and the human body. The group will be involved in the new NSF Engineering Research Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering. Credit: Yoky Matsuoka, University of Washington
National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced the award of $74
million to create four new Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) that will
advance interdisciplinary research and education in partnership with
the next five years, the ERCs will share the goal of creating knowledge
and innovations that address significant societal issues such as health
and sustainability challenges while advancing the competitiveness of
U.S. industry. The centers will support research and innovation in solar
energy, water infrastructure, neural engineering and energy
the first time, NSF’s investment in two of these centers will be
matched by another federal agency–NSF and the Department of Energy will
co-fund the ERCs investigating solar energy and energy transmission.
this partnership, as with partnerships between NSF and industry, we
bring together complementary strategic objectives,” said Thomas
Peterson, NSF’s assistant director for Engineering. “Jointly-funded ERCs
will have unique opportunities to advance basic and translational
research and to shape the energy workforce–all of which will be
essential for energy innovation.”
1985, the ERC program has fostered broad-based research and education
collaborations to focus on creating technological breakthroughs for new
products and services and on preparing U.S. engineering graduates to
successfully participate in the global economy. The four centers
launched this year, as part of the third generation of NSF ERCs, place
increased emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship, partnerships with
small research firms, and international collaboration and cultural
Gen-3 ERCs are designed to speed the process of transitioning knowledge
into innovation and to provide young engineers with experience in
research and entrepreneurship, strengthening their role as innovation
leaders in the global economy,” said Lynn Preston, the leader of the ERC
Program. “Because they build on the rich understanding we gained from
two previous generations of ERCs, we expect these new centers to make
even more significant impacts on the competitiveness of U.S. industry.”
the new awards, NSF supports 17 ERCs in the areas of biotechnology and
health care; energy, sustainability, and infrastructure; and
microelectronics, sensing, and information technology. Brief
descriptions of the new centers follow.
The NSF ERC for Re-inventing America’s Urban Water Infrastructure, led by Stanford University, will seek sustainable urban water systems to supply, treat, and reuse water.
The NSF ERC for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering,
led by the University of Washington, will pursue the ideal mind-machine
interface and other devices to restore and augment health.
The NSF-DOE ERC for Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST), led by Arizona State University, will aim to make solar energy technologies sustainable, ubiquitous, and multifunctional.
The NSF-DOE ERC for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT),
led by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will create transforming
technologies to allow reliable, secure, and efficient operation of the
electricity transmission infrastructure across vast distances.