Setting the nation’s engineering research agenda

Michigan Engineers involved in NSF Engineering Research Visioning Alliance, a force multiplier for high-impact research.

To help the United States stay at the forefront of research and innovation and maintain its leadership in the global economy, the National Science Foundation Directorate for Engineering today launched the Engineering Research Visioning Alliance (ERVA), the first engineering research visioning organization of its kind. 

Two University of Michigan engineering faculty members are involved. They are Nancy Love, the Borchardt and Glysson Collegiate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; and Mark Kushner, the George I. Haddad Collegiate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences as well as chemical engineering. 

ERVA brings the engineering community together to envision high-impact solutions to society’s grand challenges and to spark new research directions for a more secure and sustainable world.

“Engineering has the power to transform people’s lives, especially when it brings to bear a diversity of knowledge, perspectives, and experience to solve important problems,” says NSF Assistant Director for Engineering Dawn Tilbury. “With NSF’s support, the Engineering Research Visioning Alliance will enable the engineering community to mobilize and make a difference in our country’s future.”

Funded with a five-year, $8 million award from the NSF, the initiative convenes, catalyzes and enables the engineering community to identify nascent opportunities and priorities for engineering-led innovative, high-impact, cross-domain, fundamental research that addresses national, global and societal needs.

“When engineers come together behind a big challenge, we create amazing discoveries and innovations that can lead to exciting new fields,” says Tilbury. “Through ERVA, NSF wants the engineering community to come together to find ideas that will unite us, develop roadmaps for cutting-edge research agendas, and lead to game-changing impacts on our world.” 

ERVA builds connectivity among government, academic, industry, community, professional society and public sector stakeholders, and aims to empower the engineering research community to speak with a unified voice. 

Love and Kushner serve on ERVA’s 35-member Standing Council, which will solicit and integrate input from all stakeholders with interest in engineering research and convene quarterly to explore contemporary and future research and translational opportunities.

“I’m excited to be a member of the ERVA Standing Council,” Love said. “ERVA has an opportunity to transform engineering research and learning on its head, ensuring that we develop future generations of engineers that are both technically competent and innovative.”

ERVA’s structure is designed to coalesce the engineering stakeholder community to identify and develop bold new fundamental research directions. Its founding partners are members of the Big Ten Academic Alliance; the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)/Institutional Development Award (IDeA) Foundation (EIF); and the University Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP). ERVA’s co-PIs are Anthony Boccanfuso, Ph.D., president and CEO of UIDP; Barry W. Johnson, Ph.D., the L.A. Lacy Distinguished Professor of Engineering at the University of Virginia; Charles Johnson-Bey, Ph.D., senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton; and Edl Schamiloglu, Ph.D., distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering and associate dean for research and innovation for the school of engineering at the University of New Mexico.

A 10-member Advisory Board provides oversight, and a 35-member Standing Council provides critical input for visioning activities. ERVA stakeholders from academia, industry, government, professional societies and foundations, and the general public will be invited to participate on topic-based task forces and to offer insight for new research directions.

Professional societies and associations with aligned goals have a role to play in ERVA and may become ERVA Affiliate Partners. Individuals are also invited to participate as ERVA Champions, especially those with an interest in the future of engineering research, including the general public; students at all levels; researchers, faculty and deans in small and large college engineering programs; and interested parties in industry, from engineers to CEOs. 

Get involved with ERVA and learn about its upcoming visioning activities at and follow @ERVAcommunity and the hashtag #ERVAcommunity on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.