In order to address these areas of focus in a comprehensive manner, the MATS UTC program will include two components – one to competitively solicit innovative collaborative projects from the multidisciplinary set of MATS UTC associated researchers, and the other to allow member institutions to pursue higher-risk, core research that will push the state-of-the art and allow for the innovation necessary to significantly improve transportation environmental sustainability. These components are further described below:
Collaborative, Competitive Program
Many MATS UTC projects (58% of MATS UTC federal research funding) were collaborative projects selected in this competitive program. There were two rounds of solicitations, the first being issued in August 2014 and the other issued August of 2016. The request for proposals was crafted based on guidance from the MATS UTC advisory panel and invited both (i) faculty generated ideas for projects that met the goals and focus areas identified above, and (ii) proposals that responded to a set of regionally significant project needs as identified by the advisory panel. All proposals were required to include 2 or more MATS UTC member institutions, and they must have included the required matching funds. In an effort to ensure that only the highest quality research is conducted in this program, all proposals were peer-reviewed by national experts, with the reviews informing the advisory panel as they recommend specific projects to center leadership.
Core Research Program
A challenge to most transportation research programs is that the vast majority of funding available is driven by the applied research needs of transportation agencies designed to solve an immediate problem. This is extremely valuable, and appropriate, however, it does tend to result in projects that are generally short-term in nature. Given that environmental sustainability is at such an early stage in its development in the transportation industry, there is a need to conduct higher-risk, core research to lead to high-potential applied research. In this component of the program, each MATS UTC member institution will utilize federal and match funding to conduct core research that supports the goals and focus areas identified above. Given the need to rapidly initiate this component of the program in order to make early progress in the center, the members have identified projects. Most of these are underway right now. It is important to note that the vast majority of these projects are collaborative, and include a wide variety of disciplines.