Regional Innovations Engine

University of Utah part of new NSF-funded initiative to ensure regional climate solutions and economic opportunities.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) on Monday announced the University of Utah along with six core academic partners will be part of a multi-institutional enterprise to confront the climate challenges facing the desert Southwest and spur economic development in the region.

The effects of climate change are acutely evident in the American Southwest, from the desertification of Utah’s Great Salt Lake to the record-breaking extreme heat in Arizona and the dwindling supply of the Colorado River reaching Nevada.  

NSF Engines: Southwest Sustainability Innovation Engine (SWSIE) will use these challenges to catalyze economic opportunity and seeks to establish the Southwest as a leader in carbon capture, water security and renewable energy and bring high-wage industries to the region. Southwest Sustainability Innovation Engine unites academic, community, nonprofit and industry partners across Arizona, Nevada and Utah that are committed to this goal.

SWSIE is among the first proposals selected by the NSF to establish a Regional Innovation Engine, a first-of-its-kind NSF program to create focused research and technology transfer hubs. The NSF will fund SWSIE’s initial development and growth with $15 million over the next two years. The engine can be renewed for up to 10 years with $160 million in funding available for each Regional Engine.

The U of U’s core academic partners in SWSIE are Arizona State University, who serve as the lead partner of the project, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the Desert Research Institute, the Water Research Foundation, SciTech Institute and Maricopa Community Colleges. The team includes over 20 senior personnel including faculty from Atmospheric Sciences, Biological Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Communications, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Geography, and Geology and Geophysics.  The College of Science's Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy is also part of the consortium. 


Brenda Bowen.

At the helm of the U leadership team is Brenda Bowen, co-PI on the SWSIE project and co-lead of the community development working group. Bowen is professor of geology and geophysics, chair of department of atmospheric sciences, and director of the Global Change and Sustainability Center at the U.

“We are so thrilled to have the opportunity to grow academic, industry, and community partnerships that unite Utah, Nevada, and Arizona as we innovate sustainable solutions for water, energy, and carbon,” she says. “This is work that needs to happen, and this award will allow us to align our efforts to maximize the positive impacts across the region.” 









Read the entire story by Xoel Cardenas, Sr. Communications Specialist.,Office of the Vice President for Research here.