29 April 2024

Associate Professors Donatella Puglisi and Jens Eriksson have been awarded funding for the first cooperative research activity between Sweden and the United States under the prestigious NSF Convergence Accelerator program, Phase 1. 

Two researchers from liu and a man from NSF
Jens Eriksson, Donatella Puglisi and Dr. Douglas Maughan, the inaugural Office Head for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Convergence Accelerator.

The program aims at advancing research and innovation to develop novel technologies and solutions to challenges posed by hazardous chemicals. The Swedish Research Council, Vetenskapsrådet, and the Sweden’s Innovation Agency, Vinnova, in collaboration with the US National Science Foundation (NSF), are investing 3.8 MSEK in the two Swedish researchers to lead the project HEADLINE – Health Diagnostics Electronic Nose.

The research aims at the development of a hybrid and modular electronic nose system for early and non-invasive cancer diagnostics applications. The international team consists of academic and industrial partners from Linköping University and VOC Diagnostics AB for Sweden, and from University of South Florida and University of Texas at Dallas for the United States.

Using a convergence approach and innovation processes like human-centered design, user discovery, and team science, the Convergence Accelerator program seeks to transition fundamental research into practice to solve high-impact societal challenges and accelerate solutions for real world problems in a very limited and intensive timeframe.

"In this initiative NSF doesn't care about conventional performance metrics such as the number of publications or citations, but rather they are looking for products and societal impact. That is a big change from how NSF usually operates", says Jens Eriksson, associate professor in applied physics at LiU and CTO of VOC Diagnostics.

AI found the swedes

The researchers teaming up for the project did not know each other beforehand but the project coordinator Associate Professor Arash Takshi, from University of South Florida, decided to use an unconventional method to find potential collaborators.

"He asked Chat GPT who was doing research in sensor systems in Sweden and my name and Donatella's came up first," says Jens Eriksson.

At LiU, researchers have worked on so-called electronic noses for a long time and they had the scientific credentials to be a part of this new initiative.  

"In addition to this, our reviewers reported that our project demonstrates a clear commitment to driving forward not just research but also education, training, and workforce development, contributing to STEM education at several levels and highlighting the impact of leadership and project management skills training as well," says Donatella Puglisi.

Hopeful for continuation

Phase 1 finances one year of research. The most promising projects will continue to Phase 2, with 5 million dollars over a period of two additional years. NSF’s challenge to the teams is to move from idea to proof-of-concept, from low- to high-fidelity prototype and then commercialization.

This is an exciting opportunity to gain knowledge and competence in go-to-market strategy, as well as in human-centered design, team science, communication, storytelling, and pitching, says Donatella Puglisi.


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