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UIDP, core partners launch NSF’s new Engineering Research Visioning Alliance

New organization will convene engineering voices to identify opportunities and priorities for innovative research that benefits society

After a competitive process, UIDP has been awarded a five-year, $8 million cooperative agreement from the National Science Foundation to create and manage the Engineering Research Visioning Alliance (ERVA). This first-of-its-kind program has a single focus: To identify and develop bold new engineering research directions and thereby catalyze the engineering research community’s pursuit of innovative, high-impact research that benefits society.

“The big challenges we face as a nation require interdisciplinary approaches and engineering R&D to develop effective solutions,” said Anthony Boccanfuso, president and CEO of UIDP and one of ERVA’s co-principal investigators. “ERVA will serve as an intellectual lodestar for identifying opportunities for maximum impact and to catalyze the use-inspired research we need for new products and services that improve the human condition.”


UIDP submitted the winning proposal with its core partners, the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA) and the EPSCoR/IDeA Foundation (EIF). UIDP’s administrative management role in ERVA positions it to enhance current efforts and deliver greater benefits to UIDP members.

UIDP and ERVA will leverage a sophisticated operational model for ideation activities. To support the work, Elsevier, as research intelligence partner, will employ its data analysis tools to help illuminate the leading edge of engineering research. Other operational partners are the Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP) for evaluation and Flock and Rally for integrated communications.

America’s economic competitiveness is tied directly to the pace of scientific and technological discovery, which requires sustained, long-term support as well as agility. To help the United States stay at the forefront of research and innovation — and maintain its leadership in the global economy — the National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Engineering launched the ERVA, the first engineering research visioning organization of its kind.

Engineering research profoundly impacts our daily lives in a variety of areas, from improved vaccine distribution to better smartphone cameras to the recent Mars rover landing. ERVA brings the engineering community together to envision high-impact solutions to society’s grand challenges and to spark new research directions for a more secure and sustainable world.

ERVA was created to provide the engineering community with a process for identifying future engineering research directions that will place the U.S. in a leading position to realize a better future for all. It is an engaged, inclusive, multilayered partnership, providing a truly diverse array of voices with the opportunity to impact national research priorities.

“Engineering has the power to transform people’s lives, especially when it brings to bear a diversity of knowledge, perspectives, and experience to solve important problems,” says NSF Assistant Director for Engineering Dawn Tilbury. “With NSF’s support, the Engineering Research Visioning Alliance will enable the engineering community to mobilize and make a difference in our country’s future.”

Funded by the NSF, the initiative convenes, catalyzes and enables the engineering community to identify nascent opportunities and priorities for engineering-led innovative, high-impact, cross-domain, fundamental research that addresses national, global and societal needs.

“When engineers come together behind a big challenge, we create amazing discoveries and innovations that can lead to exciting new fields,” says Tilbury. “Through ERVA, NSF wants the engineering community to come together to find ideas that will unite us, develop roadmaps for cutting-edge research agendas, and lead to game-changing impacts on our world.”

ERVA builds connectivity among government, academic, industry, community, professional society and public sector stakeholders, empowering the engineering research community to speak with a unified voice.

“ERVA is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of something truly transformative,” notes Dorota Grejner-Brzezinska, Ph.D., ERVA’s principal investigator (PI) and senior associate vice president for research-corporate and government partnerships at The Ohio State University, a member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA). “It enables the engineering community to unify under the common theme of working together to address society’s greatest challenges.”

ERVA’s structure is designed to coalesce the engineering stakeholder community to identify and develop bold new fundamental research directions. Its founding partners are members of the Big Ten Academic Alliance; the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)/Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Foundation (EIF); and the University Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP).

In addition to Boccanfuso, ERVA’s co-PIs are Barry W. Johnson, Ph.D., the L.A. Lacy Distinguished Professor of Engineering at the University of Virginia; Charles Johnson-Bey, Ph.D., senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton; and Edl Schamiloglu, Ph.D., distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate dean for research and innovation for the school of engineering at the University of New Mexico.

A distinguished 10-member Advisory Board provides oversight, and a 35-member Standing Council provides critical input for visioning activities. ERVA stakeholders from academia, industry, government, professional societies and foundations, and the general public will be invited to participate on topic-based task forces and to offer insight for new research directions.

Professional societies and associations with aligned goals have a role to play in ERVA and may become ERVA Affiliate Partners. Individuals are also invited to participate as ERVA Champions, especially those with an interest in the future of engineering research, including the general public; students at all levels; researchers, faculty and deans in small and large college engineering programs; and interested parties in industry, from engineers to CEOs.

Get involved with ERVA and learn about its upcoming visioning activities at and follow @ERVAcommunity and the hashtag #ERVAcommunity on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.


About ERVA

The Engineering Research Visioning Alliance (ERVA) is a neutral convener that helps define future engineering research directions. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Engineering, ERVA is a diverse, inclusive and engaged partnership that enables an array of voices to impact national research priorities. The five-year initiative convenes, catalyzes and enables the engineering community to identify nascent opportunities and priorities for engineering-led innovative, high-impact, cross-domain research that addresses national, global and societal needs. Learn more at




Hashtag: #ERVAcommunity


About the National Science Foundation (NSF)

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.