Indiana University has announced a $55 million investment into the second project funded through its Grand Challenges Program. The Prepared for Environmental Change initiative is led by IU Distinguished Professor of Biology Ellen Ketterson and supported by partners including Columbus-based Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI) and Citizens Energy Group in Indianapolis. It involves creating the Environmental Resilience Institute to predict climate change-related threats and develop solutions for businesses, agriculture and communities.

During a news conference Wednesday morning in Bloomington, Ketterson called the support "an extraordinary investment in Indiana’s future." The collaboration aims to respond with "the right investments" and expertise to work with stakeholders in ag, industry, infrastructure and public health and safety. "This group and I have worked together building a strategy and programs that harness our shared expertise and its an expertise that’s based on two campuses and nine departments or schools," Ketterson said. "We were motivated by the Grand Challenge held forth by President (Michael) McRobbie and driven by our commitment to research and service and we’ve created what we believe is a visionary plan."

Prepared for Environmental Change will focus on primary objectives including:

  • Forecast future environmental change and its impacts
  • Provide solutions to prepare for change
  • Engage the citizens of the state to build a future for Hoosiers to thrive for the next century and beyond

Ketterson says "making ourselves more resilient in the face of environmental change isn’t just about rising sea levels or droughts in some far away country. It’s about protecting Hoosier farmers from invasive species, stopping the spread of diseases with broad-reaching impacts for our children, conserving the plants and animals that sustain us, defending ourselves from serious weather disasters, and creating more livable towns and cities. We are facing very real threats to Hoosier livelihoods. If we’re going to be a ‘state that works,’ we need to be a state that’s prepared for what’s to come."

Grand Challenges is a five-year, $300 million investment by IU and is considered the largest single research investment in school history. A year ago, IU announced details of the Precision Health Initiative, which is targeting the cure for one cancer and one childhood disease over the next decade. It is supported with up to $40 million from the program and up to an additional $80 million from the IU School of Medicine.