JANUARY 21, 2009

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Oklahoma EPSCoR Receives $20 Million for Biofuels Research

The Oklahoma Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) has received $20 million in new funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The combined $4 million in annual support is renewable for the next five years and enables Oklahoma EPSCoR to support research under its new theme area, “Building Oklahoma’s Leadership Role in Cellulosic Bioenergy.”

Specifically, the funding supports a collaborative project led by Dr. Ray Huhnke, director of the Biobased Products and Energy Center at Oklahoma State University; Dr. Lance Lobban, director of the School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering at the University of Oklahoma; and Dr. Kirankumar Mysore, associate professor at the Samuel Roberts Noble Research Foundation.

During the five-year project, the researchers will explore: molecular mechanisms and tools for biomass development, the molecular basis and mechanisms underlying efficient microbial conversion of biomass to liquid fuels, and new catalytic/thermochemical conversion processes of cellulosic biomass.

“OSU is so glad to play a major role in this pivotal area of research,” said OSU President Burns Hargis. “As many in our state and nation deal with fluctuating fuel costs, it is encouraging to know that researchers - not only from OSU but also from throughout the state - are hard at work developing alternative solutions to our country's energy needs.”

“There is already a great amount of momentum in the state right now about the production of non-food based biofuels,” said Dr. Jim Wicksted, principal investigator of this NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) award and associate director of the Oklahoma EPSCoR program. “This theme area and project will build on that momentum by developing an infrastructure that supports Oklahoma’s biofuels initiative. We’re so pleased that NSF and the State Regents are willing to provide the resources that enable this work.” The co-principal investigator is Dr. Frank Waxman, state director of the Oklahoma EPSCoR Program.

Originally developed by NSF 28 years ago, EPSCoR is designed to enhance the research competitiveness in states that have traditionally received less funding in federal support for university research. The RII awards are used to help build the research competitiveness of universities through strategic support of research instruments and facilities, research collaborations, new faculty hires, integrated education and research programs, and high-performance computer networks. Oklahoma became a member of the EPSCoR Program in 1985 and is now one of 27 states and jurisdictions throughout the country.

The Oklahoma EPSCoR offices are located on the campus of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and at the State Regents Office in Oklahoma City.