Gen-4 Engineering Research Centers (ERC): Convergent Research and Innovation through Inclusive Partnerships and Workforce Development

Funding Agency:
National Science Foundation

The ERC program supports convergent research that will lead to strong societal impact. Each ERC has interacting foundational components that go beyond the research project, including engineering workforce development at all participant stages, a culture of diversity and inclusion where all participants gain mutual benefit, and value creation within an innovation ecosystem that will outlast the lifetime of the ERC. The logical reasoning that links the proposed activities to the identified goals for each ERC should be clear.


  • Required Letter of Intent Deadline Date: November 30, 2018

  • Required Preliminary Proposal Deadline Date: January 16, 2019

  • Full Proposal Deadline Date: July 12, 2019


Agency Website

Areas of Interest


  • The ERC program has placed greater emphasis on convergence. Convergent research approaches require the deep integration of knowledge, tools, and ways of thinking beyond engineering (for example, from the physical, mathematical, life/health sciences, computational sciences, and social sciences, among others). Purposeful team formation is needed for the convergent approach, supported by diversity and a culture of inclusion where all participants are recognized and derive mutual benefits. The convergent approach supports the strong societal impact expected of each ERC.
  • The ERC program has been re-envisioned to emphasize positive societal impact. ERCs will strive to enable society to have a better quality of life, and be more resilient, productive, and/or safe.
  • The ERC program has strengthened the requirement for demonstrable integration of foundational components. A strong strategic plan for each ERC outlines the interplay between the four foundational components of the ERC, including the convergent research project, engineering workforce development, the development of a culture of diversity and inclusion, and a focus on value creation within the innovation ecosystem. All these foundational components should together support the ultimate impact on society.
  • The ERC program calls for societal value creation: Value Creation has often been defined in relation to the business environment, commonly referring to the increase in revenue from products and services or growth in company worth (e.g., stock price). In the context of this solicitation, it is defined as the creation of societal value from innovations (e.g., inventions, goods, services, businesses) that benefit society in a sustainable fashion.
  • The ERC program and this solicitation provide opportunities for effective leadership, management and infrastructure approaches. Teams are encouraged to be strategic and creative.
  • The ERC program has updated the PI requirements to support the focus on convergence.
  • The review criteria have been updated to reflect the new ERC emphases.

Eligibility Requirements

Only U.S. universities that grant engineering degrees at the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral engineering level may submit proposals as the lead university. The lead university submits the proposal, and the award is made to the lead university. Support is provided to partnering universities and any affiliated faculty from non-partner institutions through subawards.

A university that leads two ERCs from the Classes of 2010 through 2017 and the Nanosystems ERC Classes of 2012 and 2015 may not submit a proposal in the lead role. However, the university can participate as a partner in an ERC led by another eligible institution.

Invited full proposals must meet all the following organizational requirements or they will be returned without review:

  • A proposed ERC must be multi-institutional, with a lead university and additional domestic university core partners.
  • To qualify as a core partner institution, there must be a minimum of three faculty participating in the ERC along with a minimum of three students.
  • The lead or at least one of the core partner universities must be a university that serves populations of traditionally underrepresented students interested in STEM (defined as minority serving institutions, women's colleges, or institutions where the majority of the students are students with disabilities).
  • Commitments from lead and core partner universities for cost sharing must be in place.

The Lead PI must be a tenured faculty member at the lead university. Non-Lead PIs are the PIs listed on the Cover Sheet after the Lead PI and may be from institutions other than the lead university. The Lead PI and the ERC Director are not required to be the same person, however both must be affiliated with the lead institution.

Amount Description

See full solicitation for details

Funding Type





Curriculum Development
Engineering and Physical Sciences
Social Sciences

External Deadline

November 30, 2018