On January 29, 2024, the U.S. National Science Foundation announced 10 teams spanning universities, nonprofits, businesses, and other organizations across the United States as recipients of the first-ever NSF Regional Innovation Engines awards. Two Southwest Hub partner universities — Louisiana State University and the University of Texas at El Paso — will receive funding to catalyze and foster innovation ecosystems.

“NSF programs, such as Engines and I-Corps, work to identify, develop, and support organizations and researchers who are prepared to transition ideas to impact. The NSF’s continued investment in these programs is a testament to our nation’s commitment to building and sustaining thriving innovation ecosystems,” said NSF I-Corps Southwest Hub Executive Director Aprille Busch. “Our Hub is excited to recognize our partners who carry out this work, and we are looking forward to seeing how they will leverage this historic funding to empower innovation and transform the world around us.”

The Louisiana Energy Transition Engine, guided by Future Use of Energy in Louisiana, or FUEL, is focused on energy transition and the decarbonization of Louisiana’s industrial corridor. FUEL, led by LSU, is a collaborative effort of over 50 private energy companies, universities, community and technical colleges, and state agencies that will work to drive innovative technology and workforce development and solve emerging challenges in areas like carbon capture, transport, and storage; hydrogen as an alternative fuel; the use of carbon dioxide to produce low-carbon fuels and carbon-based products; water use and management; sustainable manufacturing; and policy development.

“This culminating effort is trajectory-changing for energy transition research, commercialization and workforce initiatives in Louisiana and all organizations involved. The Louisiana Energy Transition Engine will further the goals of our I-Corps program – successful commercialization and workforce development – not only for Louisiana, but throughout the world,” said Andrew Maas, associate vice president for research for the LSU Office of Innovation & Ecosystem Development.

The Paso del Norte Defense and Aerospace Innovation Engine, led by UTEP, aims to create a public innovation infrastructure to manufacture, commercialize, and deploy aerospace and defense technology. The Engine’s partners will leverage grant funding to bolster an advanced manufacturing and knowledge-based economy in the region, re-deploy manufacturing capabilities to support the U.S. aerospace and defense industries, and build a talent force with the skills needed to support next generation aerospace and defense manufacturing.

Each NSF Engine will initially receive up to $15 million for two years. Engines that demonstrate progress toward well-defined milestones could receive up to $160 million from the NSF over a 10-year period.

The potential investment of nearly $1.6 billion represents the broadest and most significant investment in place-based science and technology research and development in the nation’s history.

Learn more about the Inaugural NSF Regional Innovation Engines.