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Texas A&M School of Innovation Calling For COVID-19 Proposals

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The Texas A&M University School of Innovation’s Innovation[X] program has made a special call for proposals addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Innovation[X] program provides grants for interdisciplinary research teams focused on complex, real-world problems. Fall of 2020 will be the second year of the Innovation[X] program, according to the School of Innovation website. Selected projects will consist of a team of interdisciplinary faculty members and a multidisciplinary team of 10-20 students from the undergraduate and graduate level across the University.

Proposals should display a team-based approach to complex problems, said Associate Dean of the School of Innovation Bob Shandley. The diversity required of teams within the Innovation[X] program translates into multiple viewpoints, better able to lead to solutions for global problems, Shandley explained.

“Innovation[X]’s main goal is to get faculty and students, who would not normally work together, to come together to solve big problems,” said Shandley. “A lot of the big problems of the world aren’t easily solved with just one kind of discipline. We get students and faculty with different disciplines and different points of view to come together and provide a broader array of possibilities to solve that problem.”

Some Innovation[X] proposals have already been chosen to receive grants from the School of Innovation for 2020-2021. This special call offers an opportunity for research teams to address problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that go beyond scientific research.

Dean of the School of Innovation and Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, Andy Morriss, said proposals already accepted for the 2020-2021 academic year will still receive grants. Morriss encouraged teams to gear new proposals toward community and social effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“[A proposal] certainly can involve scientific research, but it doesn’t need to,” said Morriss. “There’s a whole lot of problems we are going to have to address as we go forward and it’s just as important to be thinking about social impacts of the virus as it is the scientific impacts.

“Science can definitely play a role in these projects, but we want to think about how this is affecting our community and how we can remedy some of the problems,” said Morriss.

Associate research scientist at the Bush School of Government and Public Service and assistant director for the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs, Dr. Leslie Ruyle, is a current Innovation[X] team leader. Ruyle’s research focuses on conservation, entrepreneurship and how these two can be combined to help solve human-wildlife conflict.

While doing research in the Congo, Ruyle and her team had to work around an Ebola virus outbreak. Programs such as Innovation[X] allow for deeper understanding of global issues, she said.

“When you start studying at the level offered by Innovation[X], you get really good results,” said Ruyle. “The same thing that is happening now happened with Ebola — you get bombarded with all these different things on the news.

“When you start studying it and getting a bit more critical and digging deeper, you really think about it in a different way, though,” said Ruyle. “Students who have worked on my team are viewing COVID-19 very differently than if they hadn’t been in the program.”

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