On 10 March the US Department of Defense (DoD) announced a move to enhance the United States’ defence research capabilities, awarding $17.6m to 27 academic teams through the Defense Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR). 

This initiative aims to enhance the basic research infrastructure across institutions of higher learning in states and territories that have historically been underutilised in this arena.

DEPSCoR is a strategic programme crafted to not only increase the number of academics engaging in research areas critical to the DoD but also to provide an enduring boost to the science and engineering capabilities of the institutions. 

Dr. Bindu Nair, the director of DoD’s Basic Research Office, emphasised the importance of leveraging the diverse research talents found throughout the country. She stated: “The Department of Defense’s science and technology mission relies on an ecosystem of creative and insightful researchers in every state.”

The funding announcement follows the conclusion of two competitions held in Fiscal Year 2023: the DEPSCoR Research Collaboration competition and the DEPSCoR Capacity Building competition.

The Research Collaboration competition invited tenured and tenure-track faculty members from the 37 eligible states and territories to submit proposals that could potentially align with the DoD’s research needs. This initiative aims to integrate new researchers into the DoD’s research community by pairing them with experienced mentors who have previously collaborated with the department. 

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Out of over 80 white paper submissions, 25 collaborative teams were selected, with principal investigators hailing from universities across 15 states. Each team is set to receive up to $600,000 over a three-year period to conduct science and engineering research pertinent to the DoD.

Winning teams include the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, which, under principal investigator Marien Simeni, will explore ablation on hypersonic vehicle heat shielding by using pulse lasers. 

Principal investigator Nek Sharan, of Auburn university, was awarded the DoD grant money to investigate dynamic loads and flow structures on hovering rotor blades above inclined ground. 

Separately, the Capacity Building competition focuses on advancing the strategic objectives of higher education institutes. Its goal is to improve these institutions’ standings as competitive centres for research and development. 

From over 15 submissions, two teams led by executive offices at Louisiana Tech University and the University of Tulsa were chosen. These teams are awarded up to $1.5m each over two years to engage in activities aimed at achieving excellence in basic research areas of importance to the DoD.

Louisiana Tech University will research the domestic manufacture of microelectronics for harsh environments ins next-generation nitride-based thin films, under principal investigator Zhi Liang.

Principal investigator Rose Gamble of the University of Tulsa will oversee research into ultra-high temperature materials for extreme environments.