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Matteson receives Academic Venture Fund grant to promote sustainable growth of low- and middle-income countries


July 1, 2022

Improving indoor air quality, supporting equitable and sustainable development, and advancing offshore wind energy — those are some of the projects being supported by this year’s round of Academic Venture Fund (AVF) seed grants for research from Cornell Atkinson.

Nine projects were chosen for the 15th year of AVF grants, including Mapping Poverty, Natural Hazards, and Critical Ecosystem Services for Equitable and Sustainable Development, a project led by David Matteson, associate professor and Associate Department Chair of Statistics and Data Science.

“AVF projects are often the beginning of an innovation pipeline that justifies optimism in the face of urgent sustainability challenges,” said David Lodge, the Francis J. DiSalvo director of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. “They provide the seed money to bring faculty together to establish new high-risk collaborations.  They often lead to substantial external funding once ideas and early results show promise.  When all works well, and often several years later, new scalable technologies, practices, and policies emerge that sequester more carbon, produce more nutritious food with a lower carbon footprint, or increase environmental justice in communities subject to pollution.”

AVF grants bridge an important gap for preliminary data collection, which lays the foundation for subsequent federal grants, said Rong Yang, assistant professor in the Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and principal investigator of one of this year’s AVF grants. 

“AVF grants enable radical collaborations that have great potential for solving the most critical issues of our time but are too high-risk for federal grants,” Yang said. “This program is unique and invaluable.”

The awards total almost $1.4 million and support collaborations among 32 Cornell faculty from eight colleges and schools.

Mapping Poverty, Natural Hazards, and Critical Ecosystem Services for Equitable and Sustainable Development

Populations of low- and middle-income countries are growing faster than in high-income countries, and this growth requires support to ensure that new development is sustainable. Researchers will harness big data, machine learning, and advances in poverty measurement to inform policy and investment agendas supporting equitable and sustainable development, disaster risk reduction, and environmental conservation. The findings will inform the work of partners Conservation International, the Natural Capital Project, SPRING, and the World Wildlife Fund.

ResearchersChris Barrett (Dyson School: Applied Economics and Management), David Matteson (Cornell Bowers CIS and ILR: Statistics and Data Science and Social Statistics), and Stephan Schmidt (AAP: City and Regional Planning).

Read more about the awards and AVF in this Cornell Chronicle story.


Written by Krisy Gashler for the Cornell Chronicle.