AUSTIN, Texas — The National Science Foundation has awarded funding to The University of Texas at Austin to lead an alliance of industry partners, academic research institutions, and nonprofit organizations and national laboratories to lay the groundwork for a new regional innovation engine in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico to help bridge the gaps between research, entrepreneurship and job creation in the region.
The funding reflects a new focus on helping places thrive — especially places that have not fully participated in the tech boom of recent decades. The three focus areas are conducting advanced energy research and deployment, educating the next generation of energy professionals, and supporting energy-intensive communities and the natural resources on which they depend. The two-year planning grant is the first step toward a possible 10-year, $160 million NSF investment through the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.
“UT Austin has long been a leader in energy innovation, and this is a fantastic opportunity for UT to relate our use-inspired research, and that of our regional partners, with expanding the economic development and well-being of people in our state of Texas and our neighbor New Mexico,” said Brian Korgel, the Rashid Engineering Regents Chair Professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering and director of the UT Energy Institute. “We want to ensure that the Permian Basin region fully participates in the next energy technology boom, and laying the foundation for this regional innovation engine is one important step towards that happening.”
The award’s region of service includes a 66-county area in and around the Permian Basin. The Permian Basin region encompasses eastern New Mexico and West Texas, and it includes urban centers such as Midland-Odessa. The region’s economy is uniquely and deeply tied to the fossil fuel industry, yet its communities are diverse, each with distinct cultural values and distinct specialties in energy production. The program prioritizes community engagement to help address regional societal challenges and will include comprehensive workforce development such as initiatives to train and educate technicians, researchers, practitioners and entrepreneurs to meet regional workforce needs, laying the foundation for new high-wage jobs.
In addition to UT Austin, participating institutions listed in alphabetical order are The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, GTI Energy, Midland College, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Tech, Odessa College, Sandia National Laboratories, Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at El Paso and The University of Texas Permian Basin.