On Sunday, Dr. Raffaella Montelli, a program director in the Division of Earth Science at the National Science Foundation (NSF), spoke with SEG Faculty Advisors from around the world at the Faculty Advisor Workshop. This workshop provided an "overview of the various programs that fall under the NSF's Innovation Call and that are intended to enable an eclectic mix of academic-industry collaborations, to accelerate the translation of NSF-supported inventions into commercial products, and to educate the workforce of the future."
Attendees were greeted by Elsa Velasco, SEG university and student programs manager, who coordinated the event. Past president Bob Hardage then spoke about the importance of faculty advisors. He thanked the advisors saying that "SEG student chapters are the future of our society, and faculty advisors are crucial to recruiting and encouraging future geoscientists.You are building the future of geosciences." Echoing Hardage's remarks was Cung Vu, a member of the SEG Foundation Board of Directors, who said, "Students are the lifeblood of SEG and of industry. They bring innovation." Both Hardage and Vu thanked the faculty advisors for their contributions before seceding the floor to Montelli.
Montelli spoke about the different funding opportunities the NSF makes available to U.S. universities. One program that she addressed at length was the Industry-University Cooperative Research Centers Program (I/UCRC). "This program develops long-term partnerships among industry, academe, and government. Each center is established to conduct research that is of interest to both the industry members and the center faculty. An I/UCRC contributes to the nation's research infrastructure base and enhances the intellectual capacity of the engineering and science workforce through the integration of research and education.The centers are catalyzed by a small investment from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and are primarily supported by industry center members, with NSF taking a supporting role in the development and evolution of the center." There are currently 68 such centers, planned and active. Only one of which, the Center for Geothermal Resources with locations at the University of Nevada Reno and at the University of California Davis, is in the geosciences and is in planned stage.
Montelli addressed the needs of SEG's growing international membership by discussing how the I/UCRC program allows U.S. universities with an active NSF I/UCRC center to form international partnerships. International universities that want to partner with an active I/UCRC center would have to have a similar research structure that incorporates industry partners. Currently there are international NSF I/UCRC partner centers in Russia, India, Belgium, and Germany.
Another NSF opportunity Dr. Montelli discussed was the NSF Innovation Corps or I-Corps. "The NSF I-Corps is a set of activities and programs that prepare scientists and engineers throughout United States to extend their focus beyond the laboratory and broadens the impact of select, NSF-funded, basic-research projects. These programs provide an opportunity for faculty and their students to team with entrepreneurs to explore the market potential of their research products throughout the I-Corps Teams program; to support the regional needs for innovation education, infrastructure and research throughout the I-Corps Nodes Program; and to catalyze additional groups to explore potential I-Corps Team projects and other entrepreneurial opportunities that build on basic research throughout the I-Corps Sites Program. Together, the I-Corps programs strengthen the innovation ecosystem at the local and national levels."
Dr. Montelli manages the I-Corps Program, the I/UCRC Program and the Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) Program for the Directorate of Geosciences.
The workshop concluded with a question and answer session. Dr. Montelli then took time to speak one-on-one with several attendees. This workshop was part of SEG's continuing efforts to provide more resources for and to our valuable faculty advisors.