CHIPS & Science Act to fund new engines of technology innovation across the Pacific Northwest

Last month U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, announced $3,916,387 in funding to develop four National Science Foundation (NSF) Regional Innovation Engines in the Pacific Northwest.

Washington State University will collaborate with other key partners to further technology innovation and commercialization for three of the four Regional Innovation Engines in the Pacific Northwest for a total funding amount of $2,916,387 in Phase 1, the planning phase of the competition. WSU researchers across the system are collaborating on several proposed and funded projects to advance scientific knowledge in areas of clean energy, smart grid technologies, and mass timber technologies as part of these new NSF Regional Innovation Engines. 

“We are excited to be selected as a partner institution for three of the four Regional Innovation Engines. The science and discoveries will address complex problems that cut across traditional disciplines and drive scientific innovation that will fuel prosperity across the Pacific Northwest,” said Christopher Keane, vice president for research at WSU and vice chancellor for research at WSU Pullman.

NSF announced 44 awards to develop Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) nationwide. Winners are expected to later compete in Phase II for up to $160 million in NSF funding per engine over 10 years. Each NSF Engine is a collaboration between local institutions such as universities, nonprofits, and businesses to drive technology innovation and commercialization in key technology areas like semiconductors or to address pressing national challenges like environmental sustainability or access to education. NSF Engines will work to advance U.S. technology leadership, boost local economies, and create new businesses, spur regional innovation and talent, and good paying jobs. The Cantwell-led and Murray-supported CHIPS & Science Act of 2022 authorized the funding for these awards.

“More than a dozen Washington organizations are now partnering with the National Science Foundation to create good jobs and ensure that our state remains a leader in science and manufacturing, including in technologies that can reduce our carbon footprint and create next-generation chips,” said Sen. Cantwell. “With this announcement, we’re on our way toward the ultimate goal of the CHIPS & Science Act: for companies and universities to translate their scientific discoveries out of the lab and into the real world.”

“This new funding in our region will be a game changer for innovation across Washington state,” said Sen. Murray. “These institutions are drivers of innovation and research in the Northwest, creating jobs and spurring growth for countless communities in and around our state. And now, thanks to the CHIPS & Science Act, the National Science Foundation has the support they need to create partnerships that will boost our local economies and help our nation stay competitive globally.”

Promote Energy and Decarbonization Technologies in the Inland Northwest – $916,490

This award funds development of the Inland Northwest Center for Energy and Decarbonization (INTENT), a public-private collaboration aiming to lead the area’s transition to clean energy while keeping costs low for consumers. Led by Urbanova, the core partners of INTENT include Spokane-based utility Avista, Washington State University, McKinstry, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), the Spokane Workforce Council, and the University of Idaho.

Collaborating partners include Gonzaga University, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, the Nez Perce Indians, Okanogan County PUD, and Grant County Public Utility District.

If awarded a full ten-year Engine contract, these organizations would work together to develop new technologies, train the next generation of energy workers, and ensure that the transition to carbon-free energy is an equitable one.

Develop Smart Grid Technologies in the Pacific Northwest – $999,898

This award will fund the Smart, EQUitable, INteroperable, and Secure (SEQUINS) team, led by Portland State University, an interdisciplinary group of 31 academic, governmental, and private institutions across the Pacific Northwest seeking to create smart energy products and services that are dependable and safe.

Washington State University, Heritage University, Centralia College, and Pullman-based Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories will serve as collaborating organizations on this project.

PNNL is a leadership partner and subawardee organization. PNNL will be providing technical assistance on grid architecture and compatibility issues associated with deployment of smart grid technologies.

Develop Mass Timber Technologies in the Pacific Northwest – $999,999

This award provides funding to develop the Sustainable and Resilient Architecture, Engineering, and Construction in Mass Timber (RE-ACT) Engine, which would promote the use of mass timber products in construction. Mass timber construction materials are made from small pieces of wood that can be sourced from selectively harvested logs. They are a sustainable alternative to concrete and steel, and can reduce the carbon footprint of the U.S. building industry. The team’s goal is to create a thriving local ecosystem in mass timber architecture, engineering, and construction, along with manufacturing and forest management, to address social and environmental challenges in housing, workforce development, equity, and natural resource stewardship.

Led by the University of Oregon, the award also includes funds for Washington State University. PNNL and Seattle-based CleanTech Alliance will serve as collaborating organizations on this project.