Engineering Research Centers have an important role to play in “Translational Research” (NSF, 2010). Translational research can be described as research that moves an idea past the basic discovery stage towards and through proof-of concept. It can take many forms but is often characterized by the following features:
- It leads to technology platforms and often takes the form of engineered systems.
- It requires the integration of multiple disciplines.
- It is developed in collaboration with industry or other practitioners.
Translational research may involve prototyping, proof-of-concept tests, or scale-up and implementation. Ideally, translational research is integrated with commercial functions such as market, finance, manufacturing, legal, labor, and other contributors, to realize the potential of the innovation. NSF has established multiple programs designed to support translational research, including (but not limited to):
- Engineering Research Centers (ERCs)
- Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRCs)
- Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI)
- Partnerships for Innovation (PFI)
- Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)
- Accelerating Innovation Research (AIR)
- Small-Business/ ERC Collaborative Opportunity (SECO)