DARPA Awards $15.3M in Basic Research Grants

Innovation requires latitude to experiment and freedom to explore without fear of failure. Strategic innovation requires experimentation with a purpose. Every year since 2006, DARPA has awarded grants to promising academic scientists, engineers and mathematicians to foster strategic innovation in a defense context and, in the process, enhance basic research at colleges and universities throughout the United States. Under the auspices of the Young Faculty Awards (YFA) program, DARPA hopes to develop the next generation of researchers in key defense-related disciplines and encourage them to focus a significant portion of their careers on defense issues.

This year DARPA welcomes 51 recipients, hailing from 18 states and 34 academic institutions, who will each apply $300,000 grants over two years to a wide spectrum of basic research in areas spanning physical sciences, materials, mathematics and biology. Though the sponsored research is not expected to feed directly into DARPA programs, faculty and projects are selected in part for their potential to seed future breakthroughs in defense-related research areas. In fact, members of the 2006-2010 YFA classes participate in 27 recent or ongoing DARPA programs.

The leeway granted to YFA recipients to pursue innovative ideas is given in recognition of the fact that technological breakthroughs often result from cross-collaboration among disciplines and operating outside of commonly accepted disciplinary boundaries. YFA is designed to support that business model.

Ideas nurtured through YFA have shaped research in six DARPA programs to date, on top of their contributions to advancing basic science. At the same time, grant recipients experience professional benefits in their academic careers.

A record 560 researchers applied to YFA in 2012, marking a 38% increase over the 2011 applicant pool; applicants represented 46 states and territories, and 150 universities. DARPA selected 51 applicants to receive grants totaling approximately $15.3 million, representing the largest class of awardees since the program began. Each grant recipient will receive approximately $150,000 per year for two years.

A complete list of the 2012 Young Faculty Award recipients and research topics is available at: go.usa.gov/Gxc

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