2012 EPA Research Progress Report
Innovative organizations recognize the importance of tapping the collective expertise of their staff and encouraging everyone to contribute ideas and submit possible solutions that support the organizational mission. EPA’s Office of Research and Development has embraced this concept to harness the talent and energy of its scientists and engineers.
The Agency’s Pathfinder Innovation Projects (PIP) encourage staff researchers to try bold ideas that could produce transformational advancements in environmental and human health protection. PIPs reward the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of Agency scientists and provide seed funding for proof-of-concept research.
Like EPA’s extramural granting programs (see previous stories on the STAR grants and the P3 student competition for sustainability), the PIP program employs a competitive review process to identify and support the best, most innovative proposals.
External panels evaluate proposals on several criteria, including the potential to dramatically transform how EPA solves environmental problems and the potential for significant progress toward sustainability.
Teams selected for their PIP proposals receive funding and time to work on the research. Although the awards are for internal EPA studies, some scientists do work across disciplines and garner external support. For instance, an Agency research team collaborated with the Naval Research Laboratory and NASA on the International Space Station to test a novel proof-of-concept satellite system that can monitor coastal water quality.
In 2012, ten new PIPs—on topics that range from building a toxicity screening system that more closely mimics air pollution exposure in human lung cells, to making risk assessments of waterborne viruses more reliable—joined the growing list of projects that cultivate innovative solutions to support EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment.