New Organization Will Convene Engineering Voices to Identify Opportunities and Priorities for Innovative Research that Benefits Society

America’s economic competitiveness is tied directly to the pace of scientific and technological discovery, which requires sustained, long-term support as well as agility. To help the United States stay at the forefront of research and innovation — and maintain its leadership in the global economy — the National Science Foundation Directorate for Engineering today launched the Engineering Research Visioning Alliance, the first engineering research visioning organization of its kind.

Engineering research profoundly impacts our daily lives in a variety of areas, from improved vaccine distribution to better smartphone cameras to the recent Mars rover landing. The Engineering Research Visioning Alliance brings the engineering community together to envision high-impact solutions to society’s grand challenges and to spark new research directions for a more secure and sustainable world.

Funded with a five-year, $8 million grant, the initiative convenes, catalyzes and enables the engineering community to identify nascent opportunities and priorities for engineering-led innovative, high-impact, cross-domain, fundamental research that addresses national, global and societal needs.

“ERVA is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of something truly transformative,” said Dorota Grejner-Brzezinska, principal investigator and senior associate vice president for research-corporate and government partnerships at The Ohio State University.

Founding partners are members of the Big Ten Academic Alliance; the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research / Institutional Development Award Foundation; and the University Industry Demonstration Partnership.

Barry W. Johnson, L.A. Lacy Distinguished Professor of Engineering in the University of Virginia School of Engineering’s Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is a co-principal investigator in the role of the alliance’s at-large academic representative. Johnson will also serve as the interim director during its start-up phase.

“ERVA will assist NSF in identifying innovative ideas for new fundamental engineering research programs that will enable solutions to many of society’s most pressing challenges. ERVA is proactive rather than reactive in its pursuits to enable NSF to achieve its vision of being the global leader in research and innovation,” Johnson said.

Anthony Boccanfuso, president and CEO of the University Industry Demonstration Partnership; Charles Johnson-Bey, senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton; and Edl Schamiloglu, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate dean for research and innovation for the school of engineering at the University of New Mexico, join Johnson as co-principal investigators.

The alliance builds connectivity among government, academic, industry, community, professional society and public sector stakeholders, empowering the engineering research community to speak with a unified voice.

Ethicist Rosalyn W. Berne, associate professor in science, technology and society within UVA Engineering’s Department of Engineering and Society, and director of the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science, joins the alliance’s standing council, whose members provide critical input for visioning activities.

“This is a most important time in our country to be thinking about the future of engineering research, innovation, education and entrepreneurial endeavors,” Berne said. “As an ethicist, I am heartened to know that ethics will be considered in that process.”

Alliance stakeholders from academia, industry, government, professional societies and foundations and the general public will be invited to participate on topic-based task forces and to offer insight for new research directions.

Professional societies and associations with aligned goals have a role to play and may become Affiliate Partners. Individuals are also invited to participate as ERVA Champions, especially those with an interest in the future of engineering research, including the general public; students at all levels; researchers, faculty and deans in small and large college engineering programs; and interested parties in industry, from engineers to CEOs.