New funding program to help advance living multifunctional materials


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Convergence Center for Living Multifunctional Material Systems (LiMC2) has announced the inaugural Living Multifunctional Materials Collaborative Research Seed Grant Program 2021. This seed grant program is aimed at advancing the discovery of sustainable materials that are biological or inspired by biological principles. Successful proposals will boldly cross disciplinary and institutional boundaries and integrate research expertise at both Penn State and University of Freiburg.

“This seed grant program is a big step towards advancing the joint strategic partnership with the University of Freiburg,” said Zoubeida Ounaies, director of LiMC2 and professor of mechanical engineering. “The collaborations are intended to leverage the strengths at both Penn State and the University of Freiburg to precipitate significant discoveries in the area of sustainable living materials.”

LiMC2 is supported by Penn State’s Materials Research Institute and the Institutes of Energy and the Environment.

Ounaies stressed that the vision of LiMC2 is closely tied to multiple components of Penn State’s Strategic Plan, including stewardship of the planet’s resources and the environment; advancing the arts and humanities; enhancing health and transforming education; and promoting equity and diversity.

The seed grant program will provide funds to faculty groups for 12 to 18 months, with the goal of fostering long-term collaborative and multi-disciplinary research integrating researchers and students from both universities. The objective is to generate proof-of-concept studies and preliminary results that will lead to larger externally funded projects involving increased external funding.

“Our role is to facilitate faculty connection,” said Jürgen Rühe, professor for chemistry and physics of interfaces at the Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg and spokesman for the Cluster of Excellence for Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS). “We are the catalysts that bring together scientists across the Atlantic to perform exciting research for a better society.” Ounaies and Rühe have been working closely together since February 2020, organizing listening sessions and webinars, with their efforts culminating in this joint RFP.

“This program is exciting not just because of the subject matter, but because we intend the outcomes from this to go far beyond what either institution could do individually,” said Rob Crane, associate vice provost for Global Programs. “This really is a case where one plus one will equal three — or maybe four or five! — and we are looking to this as a model for other strategic partnerships around the world.”

A webinar to address questions and comments will take place in mid-December. Proposals are due by 5 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2021. For more information and to apply for a grant, go to this link or contact Zoubeida Ounaies at


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Megan Lakatos