Effective Oct. 1, 2006, the Engineering Directorate (ENG) of the National Science Foundation (NSF, www.nsf.gov) will be reorganized. The reorganization is expected to further enhance agility within disciplines, broaden multidisciplinary research, and enable discovery in emerging technologies.
The ENG is tasked with engineering research and education in the United States to build and strengthen the country’s capacity to lead the world in innovation. Some of the emerging technologies on which the ENG is currently focused include bioengineering, cyberinfrastructure, manufacturing innovation, metabolic engineering, molecular electronics, nanotechnology, photonics, and sensors and sensor systems.
The new structure, which merges many of the current divisions” existing disciplines under broader themes and clusters, is expected to help the ENG continue to support cutting-edge engineering research and education, while addressing the emerging and perennial needs of the nation.
The ENG”s new structure was developed through thorough strategic planning, self-examination, and community feedback. It is expected to better support the future of research, education, and innovation.
The new structure will entail consolidating the ENG”s five current disciplinary divisions into three, and establishing three crosscutting units. The specific outcomes of this reorganization are as follows:
1. The divisions of Chemical and Transport Systems (CTS) and Bioengineering and Environmental Systems (BES) will merge to form the division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET).
CBET will support research and education in the rapidly evolving fields of chemical engineering, bioengineering, and environmental engineering, and in areas that involve the transformation and/or transport of matter and energy by chemical, thermal, or mechanical means. CBET will also make investments contributing significantly to the knowledge base and the development of the workforce for major components of the U.S. economy, including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, forest products, metals, petroleum, food, textiles, utilities, and microelectronics.
CBET will have two windows for unsolicited proposals: August 15, 2006 through September 15, 2006, and February 1, 2007 through March 1, 2007.
2. The divisions of Civil and Mechanical Systems (CMS) and Design and Manufacturing Innovation (DMI) will merge to form the division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI).
CMMI will support fundamental, frontier disciplinary, and interdisciplinary research needed to design, build, and secure the nation”s critical infrastructure, manufacturing, and service enterprise systems. CMMI”s investments also will advance the integration of education and research, which enables the development of a diverse, adaptable, and globally competitive engineering workforce.
CMMI will have two windows for unsolicited proposals: September 1, 2006 through October 1, 2006, and January 15, 2007 through February 15, 2007.
3. The division of Electrical and Communications Systems (ECS) will add cyber systems to its portfolio to become the division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS).
ECCS will address fundamental research issues underlying component and device technologies, power, controls, networking, communications and cybersystems technologies.
The division will also support the integration and networking of systems principles across all scales. ECCS will also ensure the education of a diverse workforce prepared to continue the rapid development of emerging technologies as drivers of the global economy.
ECCS will have two windows for unsolicited proposals: September 7, 2006 through October 7, 2006, and January 7, 2007 through February 7, 2007.
4. The Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) will now provide more emphasis on its role as a crosscutting division within the directorate.
The EEC”s programs will enable the continual evolution of the engineering education and research enterprise at U.S. universities, provide a unifying link across all engineering disciplines for programs that cut across all disciplines, and provide comprehensive oversight for projects of a scale requiring such oversight.
5. The Office of Industrial Innovation (OII), which houses SBIR/STTR, will broaden to include new partnerships, and become the division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP).
IIP will accelerate industrial innovation in the United States by leveraging fundamental scientific and engineering research through small businesses in alignment with the statutory purpose of the Small Business Program and the NSF Vision.
6. A crosscutting Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) will be added and report to the Office of the Assistant Director (OAD).
EFRI is a new component of the Directorate for Engineering. It will serve the critical role of helping the directorate focus on important emerging areas in a timely manner. Each year, EFRI will recommend, prioritize, and fund interdisciplinary initiatives at the emerging frontier of engineering research and education. These investments will represent transformative opportunities, potentially leading to: new research areas for NSF, ENG, and other agencies; new industries or capabilities that result in a leadership position for the country; and/or significant progress on a recognized national need or grand challenge.
The EFRI process of selecting, announcing, and funding new frontier areas will function throughout the year, ensuring continual input and feedback from the engineering community on promising future research opportunities. This input will come from such diverse sources as workshops, advisory committees, technical meetings, professional societies, proposals and awards, and NSF committees of visitors.
From this comprehensive input, ENG will identify, evaluate, and prioritize those frontier topics that best match the EFRI criteria (transformative, addressing a national need or grand challenge, going beyond one division, an area where the community is poised to respond, and clearly demonstrating ENG”s leadership role).