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The University of North Texas (UNT), along with a consortium of regional organizations, has been awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) program. This significant funding has been allocated towards transforming logistics within the Texoma Region, an area that covers 26 counties and stretches from the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the south to the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma in the north.
The consortium, dubbed the Texoma Innovation Engine (TIE), is led by UNT and consists of Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas Arlington, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Dallas College, and a network of 25 other participating organizations across North Central Texas and Southeastern Oklahoma. The TIE is one of over 40 teams nationwide selected for the inaugural NSF Engines Development Awards, which are designed to foster collaboration between partners to create economic, societal, and technological opportunities for their regions.
The TIE initiative will involve faculty from UNT’s G. Brint Ryan College of Business and College of Engineering, along with representatives from other regional organizations. The team will focus on promoting the logistics industry as a key economic driver in the Texoma Region through supporting use-inspired research, encouraging logistics innovation, and expediting the transition of technologies from laboratories to the market.
Terry Pohlen, director of UNT’s Jim McNatt Institute for Logistics Research and principal investigator for the NSF Engines Development Award, noted the importance of the project. “The Texoma Region, being the largest inland port and a significant bottleneck in our nation’s freight system, needs transformative change in logistics innovation for long-term global supply chain resiliency and agility,” Pohlen stated.
TIE is expected to advance the region’s workforce and mobility systems considerably. Andrey Voevodin, co-director of UNT’s Center for Integrated Intelligent Mobility Systems and co-principal investigator for the NSF Engines Development Award, described the project as a “unique opportunity to leverage scientific and technological innovations in autonomous vehicles, electrification, artificial intelligence and cyber to transform the logistics industry with a nationwide impact.”
Launched by NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, the NSF Engines program aims to catalyze robust partnerships, positively impact regional economies, accelerate technology development, address societal challenges, advance national competitiveness, and create local, high-wage jobs.
The Texoma Innovation Engine will solicit use-inspired projects from the logistics community, translating emerging technologies into innovative systems, practices, and workforce development programs through research hubs located in disadvantaged areas. These hubs will also incubate startups and facilitate commercialization, thereby fostering regional cooperation and nationwide opportunities.
The TIE’s collaborative network comprises universities, colleges, schools, public agencies, industries, and economic and workforce development agencies. Victor Fishman, executive director of the Texas Research Alliance, lauded the success of the initiative, calling it “a prime example of regional cooperation leading to national opportunities.”
With the NSF Engines Development Awards reaching geographic areas that have yet to fully benefit from the technology boom of the past decades, this initiative is set to create connections and develop local innovation ecosystems. This development sets the stage for these organizations to prepare robust proposals to become future NSF Engines, which could each receive up to $160 million.
The Texoma Innovation Engine’s pioneering work will undoubtedly serve as a significant milestone for regional collaboration, logistics innovation, and regional economic development. As UNT and its partners work towards transforming the Texoma Region, the possibilities for innovation and growth seem boundless.