ERCs Build University Cultures that Join Discovery, Education

National Science Foundation
Directorate for Engineering
Division of Engineering Education and Centers
Engineering Research Centers Program
Two+ Decades of Productivity & Innovation
…and More to Come
Lynn Preston
Leader of the ERC Program
[email protected]
The 1984 National Academy of Engineering
Engineering Research Centers Program Charge
• Develop fundamental knowledge in fields that will
strengthen US competitiveness
• Increase the proportion of engineering faculty committed
to cross-disciplinary teams
• Focus on engineered systems
• Increase competence in fields needed by industry
• Engage companies and practitioners as partners to
stimulate technology transfer
• Increase the number of engineering graduates who can
contribute innovatively to U.S. productivity
• Join research and education and expose students to
industrial practice
NSF’s Response to the Challenge
• Established the ERC Program, centrally managed to deliver on the
• Structured key features for ERC delivery
– Visions for engineered systems technology
– Strategic planning tools
– Integrated cross-disciplinary research programs from
fundamentals to proof-of-concept test beds, designed to deliver
on the vision
– Education programs designed to deliver graduates who know
how to transfer knowledge to technology
– Interactive partnerships with industry to accelerate technology
• Added diversity and pre-college engineering education
• Funded each center for 10 years to encourage sustainability
• Post-award oversight (annual reviews plus two renewal reviews)
improves performance and delivery
52 NSF Engineering Research Centers
Current (17) and “Graduated” (35)
Engineering Research Centers Program Impacts
• 52 funded ERCs impact 58 lead and 126 partner universities
plus > 1600 outreach institutions
• ERCs built partnerships with ~2000 firms
• New model for academic engineering
– Shared visions for transformational engineered systems research
and education in collaboration with industry
• Graduated 11,481 students who understand how to
advance technology and work in teams
• 1,489 ERC patents filed, 663 patents awarded, 2,117
licenses and 159 spin-off companies
• Produced innovations that
– Strengthened the competitive position of member firms
– Provided foundations for new industries
– Produced $10s of billions of market value for $1.0 B in NSF/ERC
funding since 1985
Engineering Research Centers Program Impacts
• 70-90% of ERC member firms reported significant
benefits from their ERC investments
• 78% of the member firms reported significant positive
impact on their competitiveness
• 75-97% of ERC graduates’ supervisors find them
significantly more effective than their non-ERC peers
• 35 ERCs have graduated from 10 years of NSF support,
29 (83%) are self-sustaining, most at $3-5 M/year
From 2000 on US Economic Strength Challenged by
Broadly Distributed Global Competence
Engineering Research and America’s Future
(NAE Committee to Assess the Capacity of the U.S.
Engineering Research Enterprise, 2005)
The Engineer of 2020 (NAE, 2004)
Educating the Engineer of 2020 (NAE, 2005)
Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and
Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future
Innovate America: National Innovation Initiative Final
Report (Council on Competitiveness, 2005)
The World is Flat: A Brief History of the
Twenty-First Century (Thomas L. Friedman, 2005)
Repositioned ERCs to Strategically Deliver on 21st
Century Challenges
Retained all ERC key features – proven value
Added focus on innovation ecosystems that:
- Rest on partnerships with industry
- Encompass entrepreneurship and start-up development
- Engage large and small firms in translational research
to accelerate commercialization
Required long-term partnerships with pre-college
schools/teachers to bring engineering concepts into K-12
Augmented education programs to produce an engineering
workforce: globally competitive, entrepreneurial,
demographically diverse, poised to innovate
Added partnerships with foreign universities
• Global research and education experience for ERC
NSF’s FY 2012 Engineering Research Centers
Broadly Impact Many Technology Sectors
NSF’s FY 2012 Engineering Research Centers
and Partners Universities
Engineering Research Centers
Two + Decades of Productivity and Innovation
• Essential academic platforms for innovation,
local start-up business development -national competitiveness
• Great return on investment for government,
industry, academe – the nation
and More to Come
• Positioned to keep meeting future needs for
technology, an innovative engineering
workforce, and innovation
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