Science & Research

West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission


West Virginia Research Challenge Fund

Research Challenge Fund is critical part of State’s economic development strategy

The Research Challenge Fund supports research and development projects at West Virginia institutions of higher education.  Per statute, the Research Challenge Fund receives dedicated revenue of 0.5% of the state’s proceeds from racetrack video lottery terminal income.

Priorities of the Research Challenge Fund, as established by the Legislature, are to:

  • focus on research that builds on the state’s existing research strengths in emerging science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields
  • develop students and faculty
  • promote collaboration between Grades K-12 and higher education
  • recruit eminent scholars to strengthen research capacity and competitiveness
  • seek economic development projects that have significant potential to attract industrial, federal and foundation partners and funding.

The Fund is managed by the Higher Education Policy Commission’s Division of Science and Research, which also manages academic research funding from other sources, primarily the National Science Foundation’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

In implementing the program, the Division of Science and Research developed these objectives for the Research Challenge fund:

  1. increase the research capacity and competitiveness of institutions of higher education
  2. stimulate research that is directly applicable to improving the competitiveness of state industries and to developing new businesses
  3. leverage state resources with private and federal funds
  4. increase the production of undergraduate and graduate students in fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
  5. hold institutions more accountable for the success of research projects.

The Research Challenge Fund supports four different grants:

  • Research Challenge Grants, the largest awards from the fund, support the creation of research centers and foster economic development and workforce advancement at the state’s two primary research universities: Marshall and West Virginia
  • Instrumentation Grants fund scientific equipment for advanced undergraduate laboratories at primarily undergraduate institutions
  • Innovation Grants fund creative improvements in scientific equipment and facilities, curriculum, classroom instruction or delivery at primarily undergraduate institutions
  • Mini-Grants provide summer or semester stipends for faculty members to prepare research or research equipment proposals with the goal of obtaining larger external grant funding.

Five-year Research Challenge Grants have produced big results

With the second round of Research Challenge Grants in 2007, the State of West Virginia invested $7.7 million in five-year Research Challenge Grants to four research teams at West Virginia University and one at Marshall University. The five projects chosen for funding were selected competitively from 15 proposals submitted.

As the original funding for the five-year grants came to an end in 2012, those research teams had turned the state’s $7.7 million investment into an additional $44.6 million of research funded by external parties, supporting 193 research related employment positions and resulting in the creation of seven patents, plus the development of six intellectual property licenses.

Read the final report (as a pdf document): 2007-2012 Five Year Outcomes Report

A great return on the original investment also resulted from the first round of Research Challenge Grants awarded in 2002. During that funding cycle, the state awarded $8.4 million.  After the five-year period, six research projects leveraged external funding of more than $20 million, resulting in five startup companies, 10 patent applications and five patents.

Read news release: RCG first round five year report summary.
Read full Five-Year report: Five-year report Research Challenge Grants 2002-2007

2012 Research Challenge Grants (3rd round) have begun

In July of 2012, the Division of Science and Research awarded three Research Challenge Grants totaling more than $4 million.  Over the five-year period beginning in 2012, each of the following projects will receive $1,350,000. The projects will:

  • create a Center for Energy Efficient Electronics at Marshall University and West Virginia University to investigate and develop devices that will lead to next generation electronics that are smaller, faster, and more energy efficient than currently available technology. The principal investigators are Drs. David Lederman, Alan Bristow, Mikel Holcomb, and Tudor Stanescu, Department of Physics at West Virginia University, and Dr. Thomas Wilson of the Department of Physics at Marshall University;
  • establish a Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage at West Virginia University to conduct fundamental and applied research leading to the development of devices for storing electricity. Principal investigator is Dr. Xingbo Liu of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at West Virginia University; and
  • further develop and expand the West Virginia Cancer Genomics Network to involve Marshall University, West Virginia University, and Charleston Area Medical Center. Principal investigators are Dr. Richard Niles and Dr. Donald Primerano of the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology at Marshall University, Dr. William Petros of the Department of Basic Pharmaceutical Sciences at West Virginia University, and Dr. Todd Kuenstner, Department of Pathology at Charleston Area Medical Center.  

Read news release about 3rd round of grants: Research Challenge Fund awards grants for energy and cancer studies at the state’s research universities (7-12-12)

The Research Challenge Fund is not to be confused with the Research Trust Fund. Click here to learn about the West Virginia Research Trust Fund.