The project will be led by Dr. Robert Brown at Iowa State University, who already heads ISU’s renewable energy studies. The new grant, awarded to smaller states that historically receive lesser shares of NSF grants, is a five-year award and will pull in talent from the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Iowa’s community and private colleges and even K-12 schools.
“There will be legions of researchers and worker,” on this,” said Brown, who has overseen ISU’s studies on biofuels and bioeconomy.
The State of Iowa will chip in $2 million, some of the last month in the now-defunct Iowa Power Fund that lapsed after the defeat of its creator, former Gov. Chet Culver.
The project will do more studies on advanced biofuels, as well as work on wind energy and energy efficiency.
A new twist will be studies, directed by Bruce Babcock of ISU’s Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, on energy policy.
“The idea here will be to get scientists and economists to start talking the same language,” said Brown.
The grant was hailed as an example of collaboration between Iowa’s universities.
“This $20 million grant is the latest example of Iowa’s public universities working to build an exciting future for the entire state,” said Craig Lang, president of the Iowa Board of Regents. “By developing Iowa’s capacity to harness alternative renewable energy sources, our universities are promoting economic development for Iowa and enhancing the quality of life for its citizens.”
The project will also create a statewide Future Leaders in Advancing Renewable Energy (FLARE) Institute designed to develop the careers of junior faculty in renewable energy fields and broaden the participation of women, under-represented minorities and first-generation college students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
The $20 million grant is part of the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The program – known as EPSCoR – is targeted at states and regions that have not won as much research and development funding as other areas. The grants are designed to improve the research capacity of eligible states or regions, making them nationally competitive for future grants.