The Game-Changing Research Incentive Program (GRIP) was originally initiated in 2016 by the Office of Research and Innovation (ORI) to catalyze new, interdisciplinary research programs that are focused on societal grand challenges. On the heels of this successful program, ORI implemented the GRIP4PSI initiative to encourage the NC State community to collaborate on integrated research/outreach projects that are focused on one or more of the Research Platforms that comprise the NC Plant Science Initiative (PSI).

The NC PSI was conceived by NC State and its partners to address local and global challenges, and is envisioned to be a world-class transdisciplinary research initiative that will facilitate a convergence of research and development of innovative discovery tools across a wide spectrum of disciplines including plant sciences, engineering, economics, modeling and data analytics. It is the vision of the PSI that a productive and effective research and technology agenda will be the result of a portfolio of projects that are complex, highly integrated, driven by data and informatics, and that result in sustainable food and agricultural systems that are predictive and proactive.

Award Process

The GRIP4PSI call for proposals was intended to attract a wide-breadth of disciplinary faculty to the field of plant sciences and catalyze the formation of effective and collaborative interdisciplinary teams that will challenge conventions, explore new ideas and open-up new avenues for sustainable research funding. ORI envisioned that GRIP4PSI project teams would span multiple colleges at NC State, include external partners, develop from the full range of technical capabilities at NC State and beyond, and boast world‐class junior and senior faculty with clear potential for sustained success.

A three-stage (pre-planning proposal stage, planning proposal stage, full proposal stage) submission and review process was employed for this large-scale seed funding initiative.  Pre-planning proposals were reviewed by ORI and senior NC State faculty with guidance from the CALS Dean and the PSI Launch Director to ensure alignment with NC PSI research platforms. Planning proposals and full proposals were each reviewed via a two-stage process beginning with ORI and senior NC State faculty and ending with leadership from funders of the GRIP4PSI initiative.

Award Information

Funding for GRIP4PSI was committed by ORI, the Provost’s Office, the Kenan Institute for Engineering, Science and Technology, and the NC State Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), Engineering (COE), Natural Resources (CNR), Sciences (COS), Textiles (WCOT) and Management (PCOM). Teams awarded GRIP4PSI funding will be considered, as a whole or in part, to be occupants of the new Plant Sciences Building to be constructed on Centennial Campus.

GRIP4PSI teams will receive up to $650,000 over 3.5 years to complete research and outreach objectives.

GRIP4PSI Metrics

Metrics from each of the review stages are now available for review.

GRIP4PSI Winners Announced!

On February 14, 2020, the Office of Research and Innovation announced the teams who were selected as winners of GRIP4PSI awards. The response to the GRIP4PSI call was exceedingly positive: Research and Innovation received 20 pre-proposals that spanned all 10 NC State colleges, included more than 187 NC State faculty, and involved talented collaborators from key external partners.  Following the oral presentations by the five team finalists, the GRIP4PSI review panel deliberated and debated the merits of each proposal team. It was a difficult decision, but in the end, the following four project teams were chosen:

FUN-CROPS: Foliar Fungal Endophytes for Enhanced Crop Sustainability and Resilience

Lead Principal Investigator: Christine Hawkes, Professor, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology

Co-Investigators: Nathan Crook, Jason Delborne, Kevin Garcia, Josh Gray, Ross Sozzani, Lindsey Thiessen, Gina Brown-Guedira, Peter Balint-Kurti, Ryan Heiniger, Michael Kudenov, Anna Locke, Cranos Williams

Synopsis: This interdisciplinary team seeks to harness plant fungal symbionts towards improving crop resistance to drought and disease. Fungi that live inside plant leaves are known to moderate plant physiology and to antagonize pathogens, but to translate these into useful tools requires understanding the underlying drivers of how they do so. The team will (1) determine the scale at which fungi can be manipulated across the landscape from host to site to region, (2) identify highly beneficial fungi and the genes associated with those benefits, then test the function of those genes, (3) develop the spectroscopic methods needed to detect leaf-associated fungi in the field, and (4) explore the potential policy implications and stakeholder responses to fungal manipulations on crops.

Close-up of fern

Plant-Aid: A Data-Driven and Sensor-Integrated Platform for Monitoring Emerging Plant Diseases

Lead Principal Investigator: Jean Ristaino, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Director of Emerging Plant Disease

Co-Investigators: Qingshan Wei, Yong Zhu, Anna Whitfield, Dorith Rotenberg, David Rasmussen, Inga Meadows, Kelly Zering, Robert Scheller, Chris Jones

Synopsis: The team will develop cost-effective sensor platforms for monitoring physical, chemical, environmental, and biomolecular parameters of crops that are signatures for disease or abiotic stress. The data generated from these field-portable and plant-wearable sensor platforms will be collected via wireless technology on smartphones and integrated with a bioinformatics and geospatial database to populate a cloud-based Plant-Aid database (PAdb) of biotic and abiotic plant stress in crop fields. This information will empower growers to respond to biotic attackers more rapidly with appropriate management strategies.

Harnessing (bio-) Electrochemical Technologies as Sustainable Sources for On-Demand Precision Agriculture

Lead Principal Investigator: Katharina Stapelmann, Assistant Professor, Department of Nuclear Engineering

Co-Investigators: Douglas Call, Luciano Gatiboni, Amy Grunden, Ricardo Hernandez, Jordan Kern, Anna Locke, Marcela Rojas-Pierce, Deepti Salvi, Chadi Sayde, Steven Shannon, Rachel Vann

Synopsis:  This team is rethinking how water- and nitrogen-based fertilizers are used in order to enable the next generation of sustainable and cost-effective farms. They have developed two game-changing bioelectrochemical technologies, which harness chemical and electrical energy to produce a more sustainable nitrogen-based fertilizer. Using advanced novel sensor and delivery systems, they will be able to precisely supply fertilizers for sustainable precision agriculture.

Aerial of tractor spraying fields at Lake Wheeler farms.

Improving Crop Productivity and Value Through Heterogeneous Data Integration, Analytics, and Decision Support Platforms

Lead Principal Investigator: Cranos Williams, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Co-Investigators:  Michael Kudenov, Mike Boyette, Anders Huseth,  Khara Grieger, Alessandra Scafuro, Natalie Nelson, Daniela Jones, Kemafor Ogan, Ross Sozzani, Edgar Lobaton, Craig Yencho, Ken Pecota, Jennifer Kuzma

Synopsis: This multidisciplinary team will develop a heterogeneous data integration, analytics, and decision support platform that will be used to improve crop productivity, quality, and value for North Carolina growers, producers, and distributors. Using the sweetpotato as a use-case, they will engage NC sweetpotato stakeholders, and develop custom imaging and sensing platforms to capture shape, size, surface texture, and internal composition, as well as the presence of rot, internal necrosis, or damage. They will also partner with Intero Life Sciences and SAS, Inc. to create a computational platform to integrate these and other heterogeneous data across the sweetpotato supply chain, provide data storage, fusion, analytics capabilities, and enable querying by stakeholders for optimized decision support.

GRIP4PSI Review Committee

The Office of Research and Innovation would like to offer special thanks to the scientific and administrative review panels for their participation in this program. Without their time and expertise, this effort would not have been possible:

  • Barry Goodwin, Professor, CALS
  • Christine McGahan, Dean, COS
  • Fred Gould, Professor, CALS
  • Gary Peter, Professor, University of Florida
  • Harold Freeman, Professor, WCOT
  • Heather Patisaul, Associate Dean for Research, COS
  • Jason Vogel, Assistant Professor, University of Florida
  • John Gilligan, Associate Dean for Research, COE
  • Jonathan Horowitz, Associate Vice Chancellor for Research Infrastructure and Development
  • J. Steward Witzeman, former Director, Eastman Innovation Center
  • Mandy Tetzlaff, Staff, CNR
  • Margery Overton, Senior Vice Provost for Institutional Strategy and Anlaysis
  • Marian McCord, former Associate Dean for Research, CNR
  • Mary Watzin, Professor, CNR
  • Michael Steer, Professor, COE
  • Owen Duckworth, Professor, CALS
  • Paul Ulanch, Executive Director, North Carolina Biotechnology Center
  • Pradip Pramanik, Director, PDU
  • Raj Narayan, Associate Director, KIETS
  • Richard Warr, Associate Dean for Research, PCOM
  • Ron Sederoff, Professor, CNR
  • Ross Whetten, Professor, CNR
  • Ruben Carbonell, Director, KIETS
  • Stephen Briggs, Launch Director, NC PSI
  • Steven Lommel, Associate Dean for Research, CALS
  • Terri Long, Associate Professor, CALS

GRIP4PSI Resources

The GRIP4PSI project team held two informational/town hall meetings to share more information about the GRIP4PSI program as well as take questions from attendees. There were two presentations given at those meetings.

Other Key Resources