U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright has announced that the National Science Foundation has awarded a $1 million Regional Innovation Engines Development award to Hazleton-based Vytal Plant Science Research for the development of an Industrial Hemp Engine as part of its newly launched Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) program.
Cartwright, D-Moosic, and Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, said the award will fund the further development of a Pennsylvania Industrial Hemp Engine that will support the manufacture and deployment of innovative, bio-based products for application in green building construction, packaging, fabrics, renewable energy and land remediation.
Vytal Plant Science Research (VPSR) is a non-profit biotechnology corporation that is partnering with Penn State University, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Luzerne County Community College, Lackawanna College, Emory University, DON Processing, the Team PA Foundation, and several farms and private industries throughout the state that are already cultivating, brokering, and manufacturing hemp-based products.
“It is essential that Northeastern Pennsylvania commercial concerns get every penny of our fair share of economic development dollars being invested, at work right here in our area,” Cartwright said. “This grant, made possible by the CHIPS and Science Act, will boost an industry that was once a staple of Pennsylvania’s economy and is again presenting opportunities for new businesses, farm income, good-paying jobs, and climate friendly, environmentally sound products.”
Cartwright said development of this NSF Hemp Engine will require genetic research, domestic propagation of industrial hemp seed, cultivation, harvest, and processing to build up a supply chain to meet the already existing and growing global demand for bio-engineered renewable and recyclable products needed to reduce greenhouse gases, eliminate plastic waste, and improve soil health and water quality.
Cartwright said this will require investment in research labs, greenhouses, commercial farms, industrial decortication facilities, bio-based product manufacturers, and workforce education programs.
“This engine will build upon and integrate the good work already underway by organizations that have been leading the development of this industry and translational research for the past several years,” Cartwright said.
This includes the work of the Pennsylvania Hemp Steering Committee members, the Department of Agriculture, agricultural extension educators, as well as the genetic research being undertaken by Penn State Harrisburg in partnership with Vytal Plant Science Research.
“We are very grateful for this NSF Engine Development Award and look forward to building this industry together with many partners,” said Tom Trite, CEO of Vytal Plant Science Research.
Vahid Motevalli, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at Penn State Harrisburg, the project will contribute to many applications of hemp research and provide important opportunities for students and faculty across Penn State University to engage in research with societal impact.
The U.S. National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines, program catalyzes and fosters innovation ecosystems across the United States to:
• Advance critical technologies like semiconductors, artificial intelligence, advanced wireless, and biotechnology.
• Address pressing national and societal challenges.
• Cultivate partnerships across industry, academia, government, nonprofits, civil society, and communities of practice.
• Promote and stimulate economic growth and job creation.
• Spur regional innovation and talent.
The NSF Engines program provides up to 10 years of funding to establish each NSF Engine, with the option to get two years of funding for planning before the official launch of an NSF Engine.
For more information on Vytal Plant Science Research and the Industrial Hemp Engine, visit — www.paihe.org.