13:00 PM

During Ohio State visit, NSF director touts value of partnership

Collaboration leads to innovation, says Director Panchanathan

Partnerships between the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and research institutions nationwide – including The Ohio State University – are key to advancing innovation, NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said during a day-long tour of Ohio State earlier this month to support research in higher education.

“We have never seen global competition like what we are seeing right now,” Panchanathan said during a morning gathering of administrators and faculty in Pomerene Hall. “But it is about us. Can we be even more excellent than we are so that we might produce even better solutions, outcomes, innovation? So therefore, this moment is challenging us to consider, to design, to innovate at speed and scale.”

With an annual budget of $8.5 billion, the NSF is the only federal agency charged with advancing all fields of scientific discovery, technological innovation and science, technology, engineering and math education. In fiscal year 2020, the NSF distributed $195,016,000 in awards to Ohio, including $67,451,000 to Ohio State, according to the agency’s website.

Panchanathan, a computer scientist and engineer, became NSF’s 15th director in 2020. He previously served as the executive vice president of the Arizona State University (ASU) Knowledge Enterprise, where he was also chief research and innovation officer. He was also the founder and director of the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing at ASU.

During the Pomerene Hall gathering, Panchanathan described NSF’s approach to supporting scientific research and advancement. He said the NSF funds projects that meet three main criteria: advancing the frontiers of research and innovation; ensuring accessibility and inclusivity; and emphasizing the importance of global science leadership.

“The fundamental foundation of these three pillars is this concept of partnership,” Panchanathan said. “How can we blur the walls of these pillars and do a lot more not only within the pillars, but also between the pillars?”

Following the morning presentation, Panchanathan attended the groundbreaking for Ohio State’s Energy Advancement and Innovation Center (EAIC). In celebrating the start of construction for the new hub of energy research and technology incubation, Panchanathan joined Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson; Grace Wang, Ohio State’s executive vice president for research, innovation and knowledge; President and CEO for ENGIE North America Bill Collins; Vice President and Head of Major Partnerships for ENGIE North America Serdar Tufekci; and U.S. Representatives Joyce Beatty, Troy Balderson and Mike Carey.

The facility will be a platform for Ohio State faculty members, students, alumni, ENGIE Buckeye Operations team members, local entrepreneurs and industry experts to work together on the next generation of smart energy systems, artificial intelligence, renewable energy and green mobility solutions. 

“This platform is going to only accelerate the potential innovations,” Panchanathan said. “I can assure you one thing: that NSF will ensure that we are going to keep the science, technology and engineering aspects of our nation at the vanguard of competitiveness.”

After the groundbreaking, Panchanathan participated in a roundtable discussion with faculty members who have recently received NSF funding. He and the faculty discussed the opportunities and challenges that arose from conducting research and classes virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the breakthroughs that can be achieved through interdisciplinary research.

“We’re all here with the common belief that by working across disciplines, by working out of the silos that we are in, we can not only do well for humanity, society and also the economy,” Panchanathan said, “but most importantly, we can do even better for the world.”

Share this