SFU one of 50 emerging research institutions to receive NSF funding

Marie Young, University Communications & Marketing | 10/10/2023

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In September 2023, the U.S. National Science Foundation announced a $399,727 award to Saint Francis University as part of its first-ever Enabling Partnerships to Increase Innovation Capacity (EPIIC) grant program. The agency is investing $19.6 million to help nearly 50 emerging research institutions grow their capacity to participate in and drive regional innovation. The primary goal for Saint Francis University is to develop a vibrant, visible, and sustainable regional innovation development ecosystem that is attractive and valuable to both industry and students. 

Through this investment, the University is receiving support to develop capacity and institutional knowledge to forge partnerships with regional industries and assist them in solving problems to further their success. Leveraging the University's learning space at the Curry Innovation Center in downtown Altoona, students and faculty will work side-by-side with industry partners to harness and develop innovative ideas and research and develop innovative technologies and solutions. Students will engage in the Center through projects and internships supported by faculty grants and partnership support.

EPIIC works with institutions interested in growing external partnerships and building innovation capacity. NSF recognizes that many institutions, including small academic institutions such as Saint Francis, can benefit from additional focused support for the infrastructure and resources needed to grow external partnerships and tap into innovation ecosystems, including engaging with NSF Engines andEconomic Development Administration (EDA) Tech Hubs.  

"NSF recognizes that institutions with limited research capacities require comprehensive support to become equitable partners in their regional innovation ecosystems," said Thyaga Nandagopal, director of TIP's Division of Innovation and Technology Ecosystems. "This funding aims to set EPIIC awardees on level ground to seek and build lasting partnerships to tap into their innovation potential, and the capacity-building efforts will continue to provide significant innovation partnership opportunities well into the future." 

Dr. Tim Miller, Assistant Professor of Engineering at Saint Francis University is looking forward to serving as the project lead.  "This grant is a great opportunity for Saint Francis University to support economic and technical innovation in our area. At the same time, it enables our students to be a part of our local innovation development!"

SFU's award fits within a larger project to foster collaboration in STEM research and grow capacity with other colleges and universities in the country. The grant focuses on workforce development, experiential learning, industry partnerships, and more. NSF has grouped SFU with four other schools (Seattle University, Cal Poly Humboldt, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, and Utah Tech University) to collaborate with during the grant execution, although each receives its own funds.