Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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July 10, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Seven proposals submitted from Tennessee for “NSF Regional Innovation Engines Program”

Several others submitted by non-Tennessee organizations impact the Volunteer State in one way or another.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a list of letters of intent submitted for its latest solicitation for the “NSF Regional Innovation Engines Program,” and there were seven submissions from Tennessee plus several others that involve the Volunteer State.

Accompanying the release was this statement from the federal agency: “NSF is publishing information from letters of intent (LOI) to highlight the wide array of teams across the U.S. that will be part of the 2024 ‘NSF Engines’ competition. Posting this data can also connect teams interested in similar technology topic areas and geographic regions. Teaming is encouraged to strengthen proposals that may be aligned in vision and intent.”

Among the 285 unique LOIs were these from the Volunteer State:

  • TEAM TN, officially known as the Tennessee-Enhanced Advanced Mobility in Tennessee, submitted by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). The Principal Investigator (PI) is listed as Robert Gibson with the Center for Transportation Research, and the geographic service area is the State of Tennessee.
  • The Tennessee and Idaho Coalition for Nuclear Energy, Medicine, and Security (TIC-NEMS), submitted by the UT Research Foundation. The PI is Brian Wirth, Governor’s Chair Professor in Computational Nuclear Engineering at UTK, and the geographic area is Idaho and Tennessee.
  • Secure Quantum-Enabled Cyberinfrastructure to Fuel the 21st Century Economy, submitted by the Chattanooga Quantum Collaborative. Charlie Brock, the organization’s Chief Executive Officer, is the PI, and its coverage area is the Volunteer State.
  • East Tennessee Biomanufacturing Hub, submitted by East Tennessee State University (ETSU). The PI is Eric Jorgenson, Vice President for Biomanufacturing Development for the ETSU Research Corporation. The geographic focus is also listed as Tennessee.
  • Human-Robotics Frontier in Manufacturing and Agriculture Automation in the Mid-South Region, submitted by Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU). The PI is MTSU Assistant Professor Hongbo Zhang, and the focus is on two states – Mississippi and Tennessee.
  • Mid-America Maritime and Intermodal Transportation Innovation Engine, submitted by Vanderbilt University. The PI is Leah Dundon, Research Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Vanderbilt, and the team’s service area is Tennessee.
  • The Mid-South Wood Circular Economy Engine, submitted by the University of Memphis. The PI is Jennifer Auchter, Project Manager in the University’s Center for Applied Earth Science and Engineering Research, while the geographic focus is on three states – Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Two out-of-state organizations that, like TEAM TN, won “Regional Innovation Engines Development Awards” announced in May 2023, submitted LOIs.

  • The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville indicated its intent to submit a proposal for its Greening the Southeast that involves Alabama and Tennessee; and
  • The University of Kentucky’s concept for GAME Change was apparently retitled as Advancing Circular Economy Technologies for Advanced Manufacturing Solutions with the focus still on the Bluegrass State and Tennessee.

Others that indicated Tennessee in their geographic coverage included:

  • Alabama A&M University submitted a proposal for integrating 6G wireless sensor networks and artificial intelligence for climate-smart agriculture. It is focused on Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
  • The University of Mississippi proposed the Advanced Materials Innovation Engine (AEMIE) that has a geographic focus on the Magnolia State as well as Alabama and Tennessee.
  • Appalachian State University submitted a multi-state proposal for GreenForCE, which stands for Green Forestry-based Circular bioeconomy. In addition to North Carolina and Tennessee, it also involves Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
  • Intelli-Products Inc., a climate tech engineering firm located in Asheville that says it is using heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technology developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, submitted a proposal for an undescribed project focused on Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

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