SGI-DOT Competitive Research Program

The Sun Grant Initiative, through funding from the the U.S. Department of Transportation, is charged with conducting a competitive research program for land-grant universities and their partners. Each Center utilizes approximately 75% of their total funding for these grant programs.

Working with the Sun Grant Initiative, the Department of Transportation Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) convened a team of federal agency specialists to identify the nation’s leading research priorities to be addressed in order to develop renewable bio-based transportation fuels. DOT took a comprehensive “systems” approach, looking at the total bioenergy production process from feedstock development and logistics through conversion processes. DOT also looked at crosscutting issues, such as examining ways to produce and process bio-based transportation fuels to minimize the impacts of the transportation sector on the environment. To address these national research priorities in their regional and local contexts, with support from DOT, the Sun Grant Initiative has developed and implemented a national program of peer-reviewed regional competitive grants to conduct research on the development of bio-based transportation fuels.

Each of the five SGI Centers managed its own regional competitive grants program, to best meet the challenges of bioenergy and biomass research and education needs within their respective regions. As part of the development of the Regional Competitive Grants Program, each of the SGI Centers developed a solicitation for their region, consistent with national priorities identified by an ad hoc federal agency panel led by DOT/RITA with representatives from DOE, USDA, EPA and DOD. These national priorities for renewable transportation fuel development included: biofuel feedstock development; biofuels conversion processes; biofuel system analysis; economics, marketing and policy; and, environmental impacts. These national priorities were considered in the context of the unique biomass and biomass resources and challenges within each of the regions.

A brief history of this partnership follows, including links to the most current available grant awards:

Each of the five regional Sun Grant Initiative Centers announced its regional competitive grants program in a Request for Applications (RFA) released in later February through early March of 2007. The RFA was sent to research and extension director’s offices at agricultural colleges in each state and territory, to participants in regional SGI biomass events, and posted on the regional SGI Center web sites.  The RFA outlined the research priority areas and instructions for using the online application system for submitting letters of intent and proposals.  The online application system was tailored for applications for each region, but a single integrated system was developed and managed by the Western Regional SGI Center at Oregon State on behalf of all of the regions.   Each region developed peer review panels with representatives from academia as well as specialists from national laboratories and federal agencies with appropriate subject matter expertise.  Projects were selected on the basis of scientific merit, novelty, probability of success, timeframe for results, and priority for the region. Each of the regions developed their own award portfolio, based on the needs and the characteristics of their regions. Given a longer history of pertinent research, the North Central SGI region funded a smaller number of larger and longer term projects. With a more diverse biomass resource base, the Western and North Eastern region funded a larger number of smaller “start-up” and exploratory grants. All of the regions completed their award process by the summer of 2007. A summary of all 2007 Sun Grant Initiative Funded Research (pdf) is available.

Some regions are holding calls annually while others will hold their biennially. Information about any open Request for Applications can be found below. To access the online proposal submission system, Webnibus, click the link for your region.