Major Foundation Grant to Support Entrepreneurial Researchers at UW

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Center of Excellence for Nature Inspired Flight Technologies and Ideas based at the UW, which Daniel is directing. The goal is to develop new algorithms and devices informed by a deep understanding of how neural systems process information. For example, researchers will seek to improve flight controls by exploring how birds acquire and process wing-strain information.

The Clean Energy Institute is forging a closer collaboration with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, based in Richland, WA, through several joint hires in areas including advanced manufacturing of solar inks and the integration of energy storage with the electrical grid. “Hiring five or more people jointly will accelerate the kind of trafficking activity we all ought to want, namely, the trafficking of ideas, students, and professionals across the Cascades,” Schwartz says.

Likewise, biochemistry professor David Baker already has made collaboration with outside researchers a major focus for the group he heads, the Institute for Protein Design. Still, such collaborations will increase thanks to the funding, says Lance Stewart, the institute’s senior strategy director.

The WRF funding will allow the institute to work with other UW departments and local researchers to identify worthy project ideas in protein design. Fellows will be recruited for specific projects, and will be appointed to the outside labs, while still receiving training and support from the institute. In this way, they will serve as liaisons who can spread protein design expertise to researchers focused on areas such as cancer, cell biology, and materials science, Stewart says.

Doing that sort of collaboration with funding from the National Institutes of Health would require months of grant-writing and waiting. The WRF support “provides a rapid way to fund some of these activities,” he says.

The WRF money will also help finance new physical spaces at the UW, including seed funding for a scale-up facility at the Clean Energy Institute to make prototype devices that demonstrate novel technologies in solar and energy storage, and the WRF Data Science Studio, described by computer science professor Ed Lazowska in an e-mail as “a hub for inter-disciplinary collaboration.”

Lazowska, who has led a successful data science push at the UW over the last several years, calls the WRF investment “a game-changer for us.”

“It’s the key to uniting the other pieces we have assembled,” he says.

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