Defense Department Awards $40M to Establish Tech Research Centers at 4 MSIs

The new minority-serving institution research centers will focus on science and engineering in machine learning, renewable energy, and other DOD-related technologies.
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Published on October 25, 2023
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  • The Department of Defense (DOD) announced a $40 million merit-based investment over the next five years in four minority-serving institutions.
  • The lead institutions are Arizona State University, Florida International University, Georgia State University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
  • Last year, the DOD gave $5 million to five college consortiums to help underrepresented students enter the STEM workforce.

The Department of Defense (DOD) is creating centers for advanced technology led by four minority-serving institutions (MSIs).

The DOD announced a $40 million merit-based investment over the next five years at the MSIs to create technology centers for engineering and scientific advancement and to increase the number of graduates from underrepresented populations in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The centers will focus on machine learning, renewable energy, and other DOD-related technologies.

"These COEs (centers of excellence) will boost the Department's ability to conduct transformative research in areas that are vital to safeguarding national security," Evelyn Kent, the DOD's historically Black colleges and universities/minority institutions (HBCU/MI) program and outreach director, said in the press release. "We look forward to them contributing stimulating ideas and innovations that could lead to the development of novel technologies and methodologies."

Arizona State University will collaborate with The Ohio State University to focus on wireless technology. Florida International University will partner with Pennsylvania State University to explore improvements to the DOD's operational readiness through renewable energy systems and storage.

Georgia State University will partner with Duke University to research artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, neural networks, human-AI teamwork, and trust in AI and machine learning systems. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University will also work with Pennsylvania State University to explore electronic warfare, radar, and communications in highly contested environments.

"Establishing the centers at minority-serving institutions also strengthens the STEM pipeline by improving the skillsets of future scientists and engineers, preparing them for careers that will help advance the Department's research enterprise," Kent said.

Other Federal Investments in Underserved College Students

Last year, the DOD gave $5 million to five college consortiums consisting of two-year and four-year institutions over three years. The consortiums can gain an additional $2 million for three years after the initial period.

Much of the funding went to help historically underrepresented students enter the STEM workforce.

"Two-year institutions and community colleges play a key role in educating, training, and transitioning students onto a path to a STEM career," Heidi Shyu, undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said in a previous release. "These awardees are not only preparing students for careers in the defense sector, they are also building transition pathways to four-year degrees."

Last January, the DOD awarded Washington, D.C.-based HBCU Howard University $12 million yearly for five years to establish the first university-affiliated research center (UARC) at an HBCU.

Howard's UARC, sponsored by the U.S. Air Force, focuses on tactical autonomy technology for the DOD.

Other federal departments and organizations have invested in HBCUs and MSIs. NASA awarded 14 two-year and four-year MSIs $14 million over five years to establish and enhance STEM programs.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program gave $268 million to HBCUs, MSIs, and tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) nationwide to boost network accessibility.