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Regional Partnership Reaches Semifinals for a $160 Million NSF Award

June 16, 2023

MOSCOW, Idaho — A U of I-led partnership of Columbia River Basin (CRB) participants was named a semifinalist for a new National Science Foundation (NSF) award, worth up to $160 million. The team wants to use the basin’s rich natural resources to develop innovative products, solutions and a skilled workforce that can build a resilient, climate-smart economy.

Their proposed project, Fueling an Innovative, Equitable and Resilient Climate-smart Economy (FIERCE), is part of the inaugural NSF Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) competition, which will support projects that tackle many of the technology areas and societal and economic challenges outlined in the “CHIPS and Science Act.” Each award would be spread over 10 years.

“The FIERCE project will not only support climate change mitigation, but it will also stimulate local economies using resources that are plentiful to the Columbia River Basin: our forests, our watersheds, our agriculture and our communities,” said CNR Associate Professor Tara Hudiburg, who is leading the collaboration. “We will be using scientific and Indigenous knowledge from our region to accelerate the research and the development of climate-smart commodities and products and make us a world leader in climate-smart solutions.”

Release of greenhouse gases from a fossil fuel-based economy has led to rising temperatures, which has impacted most aspects of society, such as economies, human health and water and food availability. FIERCE will support climate-smart solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to remove carbon from the atmosphere and to adapt CRB communities to climate change while improving the local economy.

“Here in the Columbia River Basin, we have the natural resources and the human capital to be able to tackle climate change,” Hudiburg said. “We need to build resilience into our forestry and agricultural industries, and we can do this while improving our economy through a climate-smart innovation ecosystem.”

The CRB produces 10-20% of the nation’s beef, dairy, wheat, wood products and wine, and more than 40% of its hydropower. The agriculture, forestry and energy sectors remain among the top five employers in most counties in this region. Climate-smart technologies and solutions are needed to maintain these industries, Hudiburg said.

Many of the projects the team plans to explore have to do with reducing or utilizing the waste from forestry and agricultural systems.

FIERCE would partner with companies and entrepreneurs across the region to deploy these climate-smart solutions and products and invest in the workforce development programs necessary to support the new techniques and technologies.

“The University of Idaho is extremely excited for Tara Hudiburg and all of the FIERCE partners that their proposal was selected as a semi-finalist in the NSF Engines competition,” said Chris Nomura, vice president for research and economic development at U of I. “We are looking forward to meeting with NSF and developing a transformative engine to catalyze a climate-smart economy within our rural and underserved communities in the Columbia River Basin in the Pacific Northwest.”

In a press release, NSF announced the 34 semifinalists. The Foundation anticipates declaring awardees in fall 2023. NSF’s next step is conducting site interviews with semifinalists.

More information can be found on the FIERCE website. A full list of partners can be found below.

FIERCE Partners

One Palouse
Bonneville Environmental Foundation
Coeur D’Alene Tribe
Nez Perce Tribe
American Forests
Manomet, Inc.
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Salish Kootenai Tribal College
Tri-County Economic Development
Port of Whitman
Washington State University
Green Diamond
Redox Bionutrients
C6 Forest to Farm
Tri-City Development Council
Columbia Basin College
Idaho Workforce Development Council
Spokane Public Library
Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians
University of Idaho

Media Contact: 

Tara Hudiburg 
College of Natural Resources Associate Professor

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The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at


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