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News Release 96-026

NSF Will Invest $48 Million to Spark Four New Engineering Research Centers

May 23, 1996

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) plans to fund new Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) in California, Massachusetts, Michigan and Washington State. The four new awards would bring to 25 the number of NSF-sponsored ERCs nationwide.

NSF intends to award over the next five years $12 million each to the University of Southern California, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan and the University of Washington to operate the ERCs. ERCs may receive NSF funding for up to 11 years, dependent upon periodic progress reviews.

"The new ERCs will develop the next generation of multimedia technology, create better biomaterials for medical implants, develop a modular system for rapid manufacturing, and improve the way firms integrate design, manufacturing and product development," says Joseph Bordogna, NSF's assistant director for engineering.

"The close collaboration of universities and industry through these ERCs will provide an integrated context for creating new knowledge and educating a new generation of creative, skilled engineers to secure our nation's leadership position in the world marketplace," says Bordogna.

The new NSF Engineering Research Centers are:

  • Integrated Media Systems Center at the University of Southern California, University Park: Max L. Nikias, director, and Armand Tanguay, deputy director. The center will seek to improve the technologies for combining digital video, digital audio, computer animation, text and graphics as multimedia displays to facilitate the creation, dissemination and realtime interactive access in mixed media. A California study projects that multimedia and creative technologies will represent a new total market of $40 billion by the year 2000, with a wide range of applications in manufacturing, education, vocational training, defense, entertainment, publishing and communication. Some of the center's industrial partners are: Apple Computer, Boss Film Studios, CTV World Television, Digital Equipment Corp., Dolby Laboratories, Fuji-Xerox, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi America, Hughes Aircraft, IBM, Intel, Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas, Motorola, National Semiconductor, Pacific Bell, SEGA of America, Sierra Monolithics, Silicon Graphics, Tanaka Video and TRW.

  • Center for Competitive Product Development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Warren P. Seering, director, and John Houser, deputy director. The center is a collaboration between MIT's Engineering School and the institute's Sloan School of Management. In partnership with industry, the center will develop, test and disseminate improved software tools and models for facilitating the integration of engineering and marketing in design and product development. The center will study the processes of gathering accurate information and making correct decisions in bringing a product to market, including such factors as evaluating risk in new technology and translating consumer preferences into technical specifications. Some of the center.s industrial partners are: Alcoa, AT&T, Ford Motor Co., Intel, ITT, Motorola, Navistar International., Polaroid, Sun Microsystems, 3M, United Technologies, Xerox, and Z Corp.

  • Center for Reconfigurable Machining Systems at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor: Yoram Koren, director, and Galip Ulsoy, deputy director. The center will develop a new system for manufacturing using hardware and software that can be rearranged quickly and reliably. These new systems will be modular, convertible, customizable, integratable and diagnosable to dramatically reduce the time companies need to launch new products and upgrades. The concept of replacing modular systems holds the potential for any number of industries, but especially automotive, aerospace and computer firms. Some of the center's industrial partners are: Allen Bradley, Boeing, Caterpillar Inc., Chrysler Corp., Cincinnati Milacron Inc., Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., HewlettPackard Co., R&B Machine Tool Co., and United Technologies Corp., along with the U.S. Army.

  • University of Washington Engineered Biomaterials NSF ERC: Buddy D. Ratner, director, and Thomas Horbett, deputy director. The new center will study biological recognition mechanisms to develop a new generation of biomaterials for medical implants that will heal in the body easily and normally. The research aims to correct problems with many biomaterials which the body rejects as foreign, by learning from the healing process how to adjust the composition of the surface of implant materials to make them recognizable to the body. This new generation of engineered materials will be able to interact with specific cell receptors or bind appropriate proteins. Some of the center's industrial sponsors and collaborative partners are: Abbott Laboratories, Bausch & Lomb, Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic Promeon, Monsanto, Pfizer Inc., St. Jude Medical, 3M and Wright Medical Technology.

A total of 117 teams applied for the FY96 round of awards. ERCs emphasize the integration of education programs with research activities which, with input from industry, provide new or improved undergraduate and graduate student curricula, research opportunities, and internships with corporate sponsors and collaborative partners.


Media Contacts
Lynn Preston, NSF, (703) 292-5358, email:
George Chartier, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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