Discovery Themes Initiative

Translational Materials and Innovation: Accelerating Global Sustainability, an IMR-led initiative was one of six proposals selected for funding in August 2014 through The Ohio State University’s Discovery Themes Initiative.


In an October 17, 2014 email to IMR members, IMR Director Steve Ringel shared the following:

OSU’s Discovery Themes Initiative is a comprehensive plan to target faculty hiring and stimulate interdisciplinary activity to address the grand challenges facing our society in the 21st century, namely, Energy and the Environment; Food Production and Security; and Health and Wellness. The Discovery Themes Initiative’s goal is to accelerate OSU’s rise from excellence to eminence by leveraging Ohio State’s special strengths to address the technological, social, and environmental stresses that define today’s global world. As you may recall, the first round of DTI funding was centered on the focus area of Data Analytics. On August 18, the university announced the results of the second funding opportunity, which included three focus areas: Emerging and Re-Emerging Diseases; Food to Improve Health; and Materials for a Sustainable World. Two projects in each of these 3 areas were selected to move forward, and I am pleased to report that the IMR-led proposal, “Translational Materials and Innovation: Accelerating Global Sustainability,” was one of them! Currently the implementation plans of each Discovery Theme program are being developed and the official announcement by the Executive Vice President and Provost can be found online here.

MIG Functional View Diagram


Currently the implementation plans of each Discovery Theme program are being developed, and IMR leadership is working closely with a core team of representatives from throughout the OSU materials community. Below is a brief overview of the IMR-led initiative, its goals and objectives.



Discovery Theme Initiative: Materials for a Sustainable World

Translational Materials and Innovation: Accelerating Global Sustainability



Global sustainability is a holistic issue requiring a holistic solution. This challenge presents great opportunity for materials innovation, because materials production, processing and manufacturing are dominant energy consumers, using approximately 30 percent of U.S. energy. At the same time, materials innovation provides the solution as it is the foundation for the advanced technologies needed for sustainability in manufacturing, clean/renewable energy, energy-efficient macro- and micro-systems and bioproducts. The societal and industrial needs and challenges span the realms of regional, national and international, and solutions must be “cradle to cradle,” making products that have a net positive impact on the environment through the entire cycle of manufacturing and use. In addition, materials innovation will require design and manufacturing; emergent materials; lightweighting; energy efficient systems; energy harvesting and storage; and policy, awareness and globalization.


Big idea:

To accelerate sustainable materials solutions, we will bring together stakeholders from materials science, engineering, business, design and policy for discovery, education and training and the end game – deployment.

We will create a Materials Innovation Greenhouse to with five critical component areas: discovery, clean energy, sustainability, systems and social-behavioral sciences with energy-environmental policy. The greenhouse will serve as to internally integrate university disciplines, colleges, departments and centers for a singular focus, building on established strengths and assets. The Greenhouse also will coalesce not only university experts and researchers but also industry partners, global partnerships, and regional innovators for creative ideation, rapid prototyping and modeling along with technology integrators who can translate science and technology into deployed products. Examples of expected impacts for improving global sustainability include affordable solar energy, biocomposite structures, buildings from sustainable materials, energy-efficient power systems, non-degrading components, ultra-light vehicles and improved urban mining.