A consortium of 10 Arkansas colleges and universities have received $20 million from the National Science Foundation to expand research and workforce development training over five years.
The grant was made through the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Division of Science and Technology. Funds will support the ASSET project (Arkansas Advancing and Supporting Science, Engineering and Technology), a multi-institutional statewide program with research areas that impact education and workforce, cyberinfrastructure and engineering research.
“This award will go a long way in strengthening STEM-based research and workforce in Arkansas,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “All eyes are now on Arkansas because of the strides we are making in science and technology. We must continue to build on this momentum to ensure our current and future workforce has the skills they need to succeed.”
The institutions receiving funding include:
- Arkansas State University
- Ouachita Baptist University
- Philander Smith University
- Southern Arkansas University
- University of Arkansas
- University of Arkansas at Little Rock
- University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
- University of Arkansas at Monticello
- University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
- University of Central Arkansas
ASSET targets surface interactions or interfaces. Researchers are creating the Center for Advanced Surface Engineering which will address problems identified by Arkansas industries and create new products for manufacturing, oil and gas, agriculture, forestry, aerospace and defense, food packaging, and health-care industries.
The project’s cyberinfrastructure component aligns with Hutchinson’s computer science initiative for K-12 education by expanding the connectivity of high-performance computing clusters throughout the state into a single unified system.
Funding is part of NSF’s Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-1 Award through the NSF’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which promotes scientific progress nationwide by establishing partnerships with government, higher education and industry. RII Track-1 awards support physical, human and cyberinfrastructure improvements in research areas selected by EPSCoR as having the “best potential” to improve research and development competitiveness.
Previous ASSET projects have produced three new companies, as well as 11 filed patents and 11 federal SBIRs awards to six ASSET-associated companies totaling $2.6 million, with three additional pending awards that could add another $1.7 million.
More than $13.5 million of the $20 million grant will be used to directly support laboratory research.
UAMS will receive $2.4 million to support its portion of the research effort, the second highest amount awarded out of the $13.5 million budgeted for research.
Remaining funds will be used for fellowships to support the undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows that will help perform the research and data analyses; student training; development of new courses related to surface science; developing and maintaining a statewide cyberinfrastructure for data accumulation, management and sharing; and establishing and supporting CASE.