Environmental Convergence Opportunities in Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (ECO-CBET)

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

Creating solutions to pressing environmental and sustainability challenges will require input and imaginative approaches from various fields, perspectives, and disciplines. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), in their report "Environmental Engineering for the 21st Century: Addressing Grand Challenges," identified five critical challenges we must address as a society:

o   Sustainably supply food, water, and energy

o   Curb climate change and adapt to its impacts

o   Design a future without pollution and waste

o   Create efficient, healthy, and resilient cities

o   Foster informed decisions and actions

The report further states, "The challenges provide focal points for evolving environmental engineering education, research, and practice toward increased contributions and a greater impact. Implementing this new model will require modifications in educational curriculum and creative approaches to foster interdisciplinary research on complex social and environmental problems." This solicitation aims to address these grand challenges by supporting a collaborative research model that seamlessly integrates sustainability, environmental engineering, and process science and engineering.

Accordingly, the Environmental Convergence Opportunities in Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (ECO-CBET) solicitation will support activities that confront vexing environmental engineering and sustainability problems by uncovering and incorporating fundamental knowledge to design new processes, materials, and devices from a systems-level perspective. Projects should be compelling and reflect sustained, coordinated efforts from interdisciplinary research teams. A key objective of the solicitation is to encourage conversations and robust collaborations amongst the chemical process, transport phenomena, bioengineering, and environmental and sustainability research communities such that unanticipated solutions may arise. Furthermore, training the future workforce to actively engage and be successful in interdisciplinary research will be necessary to continually innovate given the scope of the environmental problems faced by our global community.


  • Preliminary Proposal Deadline Date (required): February 12, 2020
  • Full Proposal Deadline Date: April 30, 2020

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

Process science and engineering, in the context of this solicitation, is broadly defined, including all programmatic interests of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorate for Engineering's (ENG) Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET). The interests are outlined in the "core" program descriptions:

Chemical Process Systems (CPS) Cluster

-        Catalysis

-        Electrochemical Systems

-        Interfacial Engineering

-        Process Systems, Reaction Engineering, and Molecular Thermodynamics


Engineering Biology and Health (EBH) Cluster

-        Biophotonics

-        Biosensing

-        Cellular and Biochemical Engineering

-        Disability and Rehabilitation Engineering

-        Engineering of Biomedical Systems


Environmental Engineering and Sustainability (EES) Cluster

-        Environmental Engineering

-        Environmental Sustainability

-        Nanoscale Interactions


Transport Phenomena (TP) Cluster

-        Combustion and Fire Systems

-        Fluid Dynamics

-        Particulate and Multiphase Processes

-        Thermal Transport Processes


Teams should be constructed in such a manner that expertise is complementary and distinct, drawing from the program descriptions as inspiration; non-traditional collaborations between research communities is highly encouraged. There should be at least three named investigators to ensure a diversity of perspectives. Teams may also wish to consider, as appropriate, incorporating individuals with expertise in manufacturing or social sciences.

While this solicitation is not restricted to a specific environmental engineering and sustainability research topic, the 2020 fiscal year solicitation emphasizes research topics related to: 1) greenhouse gas mitigation and 2) managing the nitrogen cycle. Assuming sufficient funding is provided in the NSF budget, it is anticipated this competition will continue annually. Research topic priorities are subject to change in subsequent years. Awards are expected to range from $1,500,000 to $1,700,000 over four years. Budgets should be commensurate with the scope of the proposed research. Pending the availability of funds, awards have the potential to be renewed once for a total of eight years of support. Renewal of awards will be subject to a competitive merit review process.

Eligibility Requirements

Proposals may only be submitted by the following:

  • Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) - Two- and four-year IHEs (including community colleges) accredited in, and having a campus located in the US, acting on behalf of their faculty members. Special Instructions for International Branch Campuses of US IHEs: If the proposal includes funding to be provided to an international branch campus of a US institution of higher education (including through use of subawards and consultant arrangements), the proposer must explain the benefit(s) to the project of performance at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be performed at the US campus.

PIs or co-PIs must hold primary, full-time, paid appointments in research or teaching positions at US-based campuses/offices of institutions eligible to submit to this solicitation (see above).

A minimum of one PI and two co-PIs must participate in each proposal. Each PI is expected to contribute distinct expertise relevant to the program clusters of the Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems. The four program clusters are: Chemical Process SystemsEngineering Biology and HealthEnvironmental Engineering and Sustainability, and Transport Phenomena. Information about programs belonging to each cluster can be found on the CBET website. Where appropriate, PIs with expertise in manufacturing and/or social sciences should also be considered.

If there are strong collaborations with industry, the Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) (NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) Chapter II, Section E.4) mechanism can be used in conjunction with this solicitation.



Amount Description

Awards are expected to range from $1,500,000 to $1,700,000 for a duration of four years. The budget must be commensurate with the scope of the project and thoroughly justified in the proposal. Pending competitive merit review and availability of funds, awards may be renewable for a total of eight years of support.

Anticipated funding amount is pending availability of funds.

Funding Type





Curriculum Development
Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences

External Deadline

February 12, 2020