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Kansas State University partnership wins $1 million NSF Engines Development Award

Thursday, May 11, 2023

NSF Engines Development Award

K-State and regional partners win award to advance biosecurity, biodefense and biomanufacturing in northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri. | Download this photo.



MANHATTAN — The Advancing Biosecurity, Biodefense, and Biomanufacturing Technologies project has been awarded $1 million from the U.S. National Science Foundation's Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines, program. The project team includes core partners from Kansas State University, Manhattan Area Technical College, BioKansas, K-State Innovation Partners and the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Advancing Biosecurity, Biodefense, and Biomanufacturing Technologies is among more than 40 unique teams to receive one of the first-ever NSF Engines Development Awards, which aim to help partners collaborate to create economic, societal and technological opportunities for their regions.

"Congratulations to Kansas State University and their team for winning this award and building on the many new significant research and development projects in the Manhattan region," said U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas. "This award is part of the national effort created by the CHIPS and Science Act to geographically rebalance federal research and development to universities across the country. K-State has demonstrated that participation in this new program will create jobs, strengthen our nation's global competitiveness and encourage innovation."

This development award will focus on biotechnology-based products within the biosecurity, biodefense and biomanufacturing sectors, with applications ranging from biopharmaceutical manufacturing to renewable energy and advanced materials.

"The region of northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri is home to significant activity in the domain of biosecurity, biodefense and biomanufacturing, including academic and government research and the private sector," said Beth Montelone, principal investigator and senior associate vice president for research at K-State. "Partners in the region aspire to build upon this activity to make northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri a hub of research, education and manufacturing in biosecurity, biodefense and biomanufacturing."

Manhattan Area Technical College, or MATC, provides workforce education to support bioscience and biotechnology, which will aid the project's effort to support the needs of industry through workforce development.

"MATC will provide entry-level technician education in biomanufacturing — including essential lab skills and quality assurance competencies — and in facility support workforce education," said James Genandt, co-principal investigator and president and CEO of MATC.

Sonia Hall, CEO of BioKansas, will serve as a co-principal investigator and will assist in convening diverse stakeholders in the Kansas City metro region. BioKansas is a statewide organization working to strengthen Kansas' bioscience ecosystem that will provide support to the project through economic and workforce development efforts, including workforce development and retention programs focused on equity and inclusion.

This award will also seek to attract, create and grow economic activity in the region through partnership with regional economic development agencies.

"This will set up a path for more companies to locate and expand in the Greater Manhattan region, creating new jobs, attracting talent and investing in our communities," said Daryn Soldan, co-principal investigator and director of economic development, Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce.

Another focus of the project is to streamline the process of discovery to commercialization for industry partners and ensure technological advancements achieve practical application and promote economic development.

"Over the next two years, K-State Innovation Partners looks forward to supporting the project by facilitating collaboration among the university, industry and communities through industry engagement, technology commercialization and economic development," said Rebecca Robinson, co-principal investigator and president and CEO of K-State Innovation Partners.

More than 25 partners supported the proposal and will be involved in the project. A full list of partners can be found on the award website, and those interested in joining as a partner can email bio-dev-engine@k-state.edu.

The NSF Engines program was launched by the NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships and authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. The program is a transformational investment for the nation, ensuring the U.S. remains in the vanguard of competitiveness for decades to come.

"These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF's vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation." 

The awardees span a broad range of states and regions, reaching geographic areas that have not fully benefited from the technology boom of the past decades. These NSF Engines Development Awards will help organizations create connections and develop their local innovation ecosystems within two years to prepare strong proposals for becoming future NSF Engines, which will each have the opportunity to receive up to $160 million in additional funding.

"Through these planning awards, NSF is seeding the future for in-place innovation in communities and to grow their regional economies through research and partnerships," said Panchanathan. "This will unleash ideas, talent, pathways and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation."

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NSF Engines Development Award

Written by

Jarrett Whitson