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NSF Partnership Offers Funding Opportunity for Research in Sustainable Polymers

The U.S. National Science Foundation has launched a $9.5 million research funding opportunity in partnership with BASF, Dow, IBM, PepsiCo Inc., and Procter & Gamble Co. Sustainable Polymers Enabled by Emerging Data Analytics (SPEED) is part of NSF’s Molecular Foundations for Sustainability program and seeks to accelerate the discovery and manufacture of superior and sustainable polymers to enhance national competitiveness and tackle global challenges such as plastic waste. NSF is providing $7 million, and the five industry partners are collectively contributing $2.5 million in funding and in-kind donations.

“Synthetic polymers are in many products and materials used by our society, from concrete and plastics to paper and rubber,” saids NSF Chemistry Division Director David Berkowitz. “Melding frontier chemistry with advanced data science tools to design and commercialize new high-value polymers can reduce pollution and waste — and ultimately enhance the health of our planet and the resiliency of our communities.”

SPEED is one of several NSF efforts to advance fundamental research in sustainable chemistry, a national priority highlighted in the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which called on NSF to support sustainable chemistry research and education by fostering collaborative research and development partnerships among universities, industry, and other organizations.

The funding from SPEED will support multidisciplinary teams and convergent research that can enable the accelerated creation of safe, sustainable, high-value molecules on commercial scales. The effort also aims to support the development of the U.S. STEM workforce needed for such advances. A key focus is harnessing the predictive potential of emerging data tools and analytics, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to streamline industry adoption of new discoveries and yield societal benefits faster and more reliably. Those benefits include enhancing U.S. manufacturing capabilities and growing a circular economy around the creation of renewable, degradable and recyclable products.

“Plastic waste is a global challenge and driving innovative solutions for a sustainable future are essential. BASF is proud to contribute, with industry partners and the National Science Foundation on the advancement of research in sustainable polymers. I am inspired by the SPEED opportunity to openly accelerate polymer data science in support of circular economy strategies. It’s up to us all to shape a sustainable future and prioritize the health of our planet through groundbreaking research and multidisciplinary collaboration,” said Benjamin Raerup Knudsen, vice president of Research North America, BASF Corp.

To learn more about this funding opportunity and how to submit a proposal, visit the Molecular Foundations for Sustainability: Sustainable Polymers Enabled by Emerging Data Analytics webpage.

Learn more about the NSF at www.nsf.gov

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