CHAPEL HILL – UNC President Margaret Spellings announced the University of North Carolina’s Research Opportunities Initiative (UNC ROI) will provide three new grants worth a total of $6.2 million to teams from six universities in the UNC system.

The grants are funded by the North Carolina General Assembly to promote innovative and potentially game-changing research projects within the UNC system. Priority research areas for the UNC ROI program are pharmacoengineering, advanced manufacturing, energy, data science, marine sciences as well as the military and other security-related issues.

“The research produced by our institutions continues to positively impact the lives of all North Carolinians through advancements in areas such as healthcare and clean energy,” said President Spellings. “We’re grateful to state lawmakers for their strong support of UNC ROI’s important work.”

This year’s winners include:

·         Data Science: Infohub for Rare Diseases. Lead investigator: Alexander Tropsha, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Partnering institutions: North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. This project will leverage recent developments in the state’s strategic areas of data science and rare diseases to create a data hub that will improve the understanding of diseases and accelerate the development of novel therapies.

·         Solar-Enabled Green Liquid Fuels: On-Demand Carbon-Neutral Liquid Fuel Production from Biogas. Lead investigator: Debasish Kuila, North Carolina Agricultural and State Technical University. Partnering institutions: NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill. Researchers aim to develop a sustainable technology that will convert a biorenewable energy source into carbon-neutral gasoline. The technology would provide significant economic benefit to the state as well as lower the environmental footprint of the farming enterprise.

·         Center of Hybrid Materials Enabled Electronic Technology. Lead Investigator: Jinsong Huang, UNC-Chapel Hill. Partnering institutions: North Carolina Central University, NC State, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This project will capture the unprecedented opportunity brought by the revolutionary discovery of a new class of hybrid perovskite materials – a type of low-cost, efficient solar cell. The project could potentially result in innovations in clean energy, imaging, and radiation sensing. The team’s goal is to establish a center for these technologies that will accelerate the commercialization process of the technologies developed and have a major impact on the state’s economy.