UNT receives $1 million to lead network of regional organizations selected for initial NSF Engines Development Award

Thursday, May 11, 2023

The team will focus on transforming logistics in the Texoma Region, which covers 26 counties and is bordered on the south by the Dallas-Fort Worth area and north by the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma.

DENTON (UNT), Texas — The University of North Texas, Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas Arlington, Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Dallas College along with a network of 25 other participating organizations in North Central Texas and Southeastern Oklahoma, have been awarded $1 million from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines, program.

The UNT-led team, called the Texoma Innovation Engine (TIE), is among the more than 40 unique teams from across the nation selected to receive one of the first-ever NSF Engines Development Awards, which aim to help partners collaborate to create economic, societal and technological opportunities for their regions.

Faculty in UNT’s G. Brint Ryan College of Business and College of Engineering, as well as representatives from other area organizations, will work together to advance the logistics industry as an economic driver in the Texoma Region by supporting use-inspired research, logistics innovation and expediting laboratory-to-market technology transfer.

“As the largest inland port and one of the most significant bottlenecks in our nation’s freight system, the Texoma Region needs transformative change in logistics innovation to ensure long-term resiliency and agility for the global supply chains connecting to companies in the region,” said Terry Pohlen, director of UNT’s Jim McNatt Institute for Logistics Research, co-director of UNT’s Center for Integrated Intelligent Mobility Systems and principal investigator for the NSF Engines Development Award.

The joint project is expected to move the region’s workforce and mobility systems forward.

“This large regional effort provides a unique opportunity to advance and leverage the latest scientific and technological innovations in autonomous vehicles, electrification, artificial intelligence and cyber to transform the logistics industry with a nationwide impact and establish a strong basis for preparing a highly skilled and diverse workforce for long-term sustainability of this transformation,” said Andrey Voevodin co-director of UNT’s Center for Integrated Intelligent Mobility Systems and co-principal investigator for the NSF Engines Development Award.

Launched by NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships and authorized by the “CHIPS and Science Act of 2022,” the NSF Engines program uniquely harnesses the nation’s science and technology research and development enterprise and regional-level resources. NSF Engines aspire to catalyze robust partnerships to positively impact regional economies, accelerate technology development, address societal challenges, advance national competitiveness and create local, high-wage jobs.

“These NSF Engines Development Awards lay the foundation for emerging hubs of innovation and potential future NSF Engines,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said. “These awardees are part of the fabric of NSF’s vision to create opportunities everywhere and enable innovation anywhere. They will build robust regional partnerships rooted in scientific and technological innovation in every part of our nation. Through these planning awards, NSF is seeding the future for in-place innovation in communities and to grow their regional economies through research and partnerships. This will unleash ideas, talent, pathways and resources to create vibrant innovation ecosystems all across our nation.”

The Texoma Innovation Engine will solicit use-inspired projects from the logistics community and, through research hubs located in disadvantaged areas, translate emerging technologies into innovative systems, practice and workforce development programs. These hubs will conceptualize new products and services, incubate startups and facilitate commercialization. 

The Texoma engine is a collaborative network of universities, colleges, schools, public agencies, industries, and economic and workforce development agencies.

“This success is a prime example of regional cooperation leading to national opportunities,” said Victor Fishman, executive director of the Texas Research Alliance.

Beyond the education institutions, other participating organizations on the team’s governance board include:

  • Texas Research Alliance
  • Dallas Regional Chamber
  • DFW International Airport
  • Hillwood Properties
  • Texas Transportation Association (TXTA)
  • Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • Southern Dallas County Inland Port Transportation Management Association
  • Southern Oklahoma Development Association (SODA)

The NSF engine awardees span a broad range of states and regions, reaching geographic areas that have not fully benefited from the technology boom of the past decades. These NSF Engines Development Awards will help organizations create connections and develop their local innovation ecosystems within two years to prepare strong proposals for becoming future NSF Engines, which will each have the opportunity to receive up to $160 million. 


About UNT’s Jim McNatt Institute for Logistics Research
The Jim McNatt Institute for Logistics Research seeks to advance our understanding of how business, government, technology, the environment and the human element interact within complex logistics systems and enterprises to support sustainable and resilient economic growth. The McNatt Institute brings together UNT expertise across disciplines such as emergency management, economics, geography, engineering, transportation and planning, digital commerce, arts and logistics. This intellectual convergence stimulates collaboration between government agencies, businesses, nonprofits and service providers to examine the integration of people, goods and related information across the entire supply chain.

About UNT’s Center for Integrated Intelligent Mobility Systems
UNT has a variety of projects underway through CIIMS, which is paving the way for the future of transportation and mobility — working to accelerate collaboration between manufacturers, logistics professionals and emerging technologies to develop unmanned aerial vehicles, autonomous cars and robots. The center brings together more than 50 researchers across disciplines, from the College of Engineering and the G. Brint Ryan College of Business to the College of Information and College of Health and Public Service.

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