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A University of Alabama at Birmingham-led proposal is in the semifinal round of a grant competition that could yield up to $160 million in funding per project.

On June 14, The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the 34 semifinalists in its first Regional Innovation Engines competition.

The Engines program is intended to harness the nation’s science and technology research and development resources, using strong partnerships to create economic impact within a geographic region, address societal challenges, advance national competitiveness and create local, high-wage jobs. The BIG PITCH proposal logo

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) leads an Engine proposal titled “Birmingham BIG PITCH: Biotechnology and Innovation for Growth – Post-Industrial Transition to a Commercialization Hub.”

The BIG PITCH Engine will usher in a biotechnology era focused on precision population health, which is the integration of a patient’s genetic, biological, social and environmental data to inform disease treatment and prevention efforts to improve public health outcomes.

The BIG PITCH aims to do so through generating innovations and interventions through the region’s existing expertise and research and development assets, establishing new start-up companies, and establishing equity-focused training programs to lead to new jobs at higher wages.

UAB is partnering with several key state and local organizations on the proposal, including Southern Research, the City of Birmingham, Pack Health/Quest Diagnostics, Alabama A&M University, Miles College, Alabama State University, Tuskegee University and ConnectionHealth.

“The BIG PITCH team is thrilled to have our proposal chosen as a semifinalist in this prestigious competition. We are excited to share our story with the NSF and hopefully earn an in-person site visit,” said prospective BIG PITCH Interim CEO Kathy Nugent, Ph.D., UAB Associate Vice President and Executive Director of the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“It’s truly a highlight of my career to work with so many tremendous organizations from across the state of Alabama on this project. We believe that this proposal has the potential to provide better health outcomes and positive economic growth for the Birmingham metro area, our state and eventually the Southeast.”

The BIG PITCH proposal was selected as one of 34 semifinalists out of 188 concept outlines received initially, according to an NSF press release. NSF officials will interview teams for each of the semifinal proposals to assess their proposed leadership's ability to rapidly mobilize in the first two years; their Engine’s competitive advantages; and budget and resources for the Engine’s planned research and development, translation and workforce development efforts.

Proposal teams selected to move to the final round will host in-person site visits. Finalists are expected to be announced in July.

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