Creating the knowledge that drives economic growth

Research at Brown is helping to create the knowledge that can provide a foundation for future economic growth — and at the same time, helping to address issues of critical importance to Rhode Island communities. We cite here just a few examples.

The Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics (ICERM), launched in 2011 with a five-year grant of $15.5 million from the National Science Foundation, builds on Brown’s long history of strength in applied mathematics. It is one of only eight NSF-funded math institutes in the U.S., and the only one in New England. Researchers at the Institute use computational tools (including the University’s IBM supercomputer) to address problems in mathematics — many with practical implications in areas such as improving search engines and protecting secure communications. Companies that are partnering with ICERM include Google, IBM and Microsoft    

The Brown Institute for Brain Science (BIBS) conducts interdisciplinary research in basic neuroscience, brain health and neurotechnology. The Institute’s work in neurotechnology includes the development of technologies that can restore lost brain functions, and the development of “smart” machines that can mimic the working of the human brain.

Researchers at Brown and at several other universities and hospitals have developed a system called BrainGate, now in clinical trials, that could help people regain capabilities they have lost as a result of neurological injury, disease or limb loss. The system uses small electrodes implanted in the brain to read neural signals associated with intent to move a limb, and translate them into a series of instructions to external devices. The system can, for example, allow a person suffering from paralysis to move a cursor on a computer screen simply by thinking about moving it. 

Created in 2007, Brown’s Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale innovation is an umbrella group that supports research across multiple disciplines in three targeted areas:

  • Advanced materials research;
  • Using nanoscience and technology to develop new “soft” materials; and
  • Application of nanotechnology to problems such as improving drug delivery or the design of medical implants.

More than 60 Brown faculty members were involved in some aspect of the Institute’s work.

In 2010, Brown joined with the state and the University of Rhode Island to create the Rhode Island Consortium on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (RIN2). The Consortium seeks to enhance Rhode Island’s competitiveness as a center for nanotechnology research, and to promote increased collaboration between the universities and Rhode Island companies engaged in the development and use of nanotechnology.

Brown’s Superfund Research Program, established in 2005, conducts biomedical research on the human effects of chemical contamination, and engineering research on the development of new technologies for assessment and remediation of contaminated sites. Faculty, staff and students also work with affected communities on issues and concerns relating to contaminated sites.

Since 2005, the program has brought more than $43 million in federal funds into Rhode Island, and has worked on assessment and remediation of contaminated sites in Providence and Tiverton.