The University of Washington has received a $30 million grant from the Washington Research Foundation in support of data science, clean energy, protein design, and neuroengineering programs, Xconomy reports.
Awarded through the foundation's Cluster Hire Packages program, the grant will be used to attract and retain elite faculty and postdoctoral researchers working across multiple disciplines, with an emphasis on entrepreneurial researchers skilled at taking scientific discoveries from the laboratory to the real world. The grant will be divided between the eScience Institute, a university-wide data-analysis initiative; the Institute of Neuroengineering, a new program that uses a reverse-engineering approach to try to understand how neural systems accomplish complex tasks; the Institute of Protein Design, which is focused on creating novel proteins with potential application in vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, clean energy, and materials; and the Clean Energy Institute, a research program that focuses on sustainable and alternative energy sources. Each program will have the opportunity to decide how best to use its portion of the grant.
"So much of the funding that comes into the University of Washington is very targeted grant funding, and you can't really deviate very much," said UW vice provost for research Mary Lidstrom. "This is about going out and hiring the best people to do great things under this umbrella."
According to WRF chief executive Ronald Howell, the Cluster Hire Packages grants represent a significant change in the foundation's approach to grantmaking. "We can put a few hundred thousand dollars a year, after some careful due diligence, into individual research projects," Howell said. "Or we can take a much bolder strategy to work with the universities to find out what are the nexus points of inter-disciplinary work that build on the excellence which is already here. If we were to help them recruit stellar people, from graduate students to post-docs, and permanent junior and senior faculty, we would expand the playing field."