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Calling All Innovators
NASA's proposed FY 2011 budget could include new opportunities for academic collaborations in technology research and development.
One element of the NASA's proposed Space Technology Program (STP) - the Early State Innovation element - will be of particular interest to the academic community. If the President’s budget is approved, it may well be that a response to the NASA STP opportunity will be a very rapid-turnaround activity for FY11. (Please note that the President’s budget proposal has yet to be approved and, even if approved, the details of the NASA STP plan are subject to change.)
There are two components of the Early Stage Innovation element that deserve highlighting. First, the NASA Office of the Chief Technologist plans to sponsor as many as 500 U.S. citizen graduate student fellowships. The details are still being worked at NASA headquarters, but indications are that they will encourage high risk/high payoff innovative research in which the student will perform their research at their home university with their faculty advisor and will additionally be matched with a technically relevant researcher at a NASA facility. This new program looks very exciting with emerging plans that include summer internships at one or more NASA centers, dedicated sessions at aerospace conferences, and web technologies to facilitate interactions between all students and mentors. We anticipate that the fellowship applications will be student initiated and will specify the NASA Center and mentor. This is a tremendous opportunity for graduate students to receive research fellowships to work on NASA-related research and interact closely with researchers at JPL and other NASA Centers.
Second, the Early Stage Innovation element also plans to fund research efforts with funding of several hundred thousand per year and several years in duration. Given the focus on low technology readiness level (TRL) technologies, collaboration between JPL and other NASA Centers with university researchers is a good strategy to consider with benefits to both sides.