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Innovation for Impact Fund

Innovation for Impact Fund

Use-Inspired Research Co-Created With Non-Academic Partners

Cornell Atkinson leverages our Innovation for Impact Fund (IIF) to build partnerships and consortia that co-create research agendas, execute unconventional projects between researchers and practitioners, and bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and action on the most important sustainability issues.

We support basic and applied research with a clear pathway to impact and an emphasis on actionable, near-term results. Our Strategic Partnerships team leverages the IIF to:

  • Run competitive funding programs for collaborative proposals co-designed with our partners
  • Facilitate strategic projects and initiatives co-designed with partners and executed by blended work teams of Cornell faculty, professional staff, and external collaborators
  • Enable participation in multi-stakeholder consortia, such as CPIC, TSC, and Field to Market

IIF-supported interdisciplinary teams comprising academics and practitioners collaborate to develop actionable insights, demonstrate new concepts, design useful tools, pilot applications of scientific discoveries, and implement practices that can shape real-world policies and outcomes.


How to Apply

Eligibility:

Calls for Proposals:


Current IIF Projects:

Investigating the Financial Impact of Extreme Weather on Midwestern Farmers over Time and by Farming System (EDF)

Investigating the Financial Impact of Extreme Weather on Midwestern Farmers over Time and by Farming System

Researchers will quantify the effect of variable weather and climate change on farm financial performance, using long-term local data from the Kansas Farm Management Association. The resulting analysis will inform the risk that agricultural lenders face from climate change and the role of lenders in supporting a transition to more resilient farming practices and systems. The researchers plan to engage agricultural lenders for feedback on their analysis in a conference panel on climate change and agricultural financial risk.

Cornell Investigators: Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, Dyson School
EDF Investigators: Maggie Monast, Director of Working Lands; Vincent GauthierDave McLaughlin, Economist
Other: Jenny Ifft, Kansas State University

Addressing Equity in the Army Corps Cost-benefit Analysis Methodology for Flood Protection Infrastructure (EDF)

Addressing Equity in the Army Corps Cost-benefit Analysis Methodology for Flood Protection Infrastructure

This research project will provide evidence on and solutions to the inequity created by applying a strict cost-benefit analysis in the provision of federal flood protection infrastructure. Environmental justice communities–communities with high-flood risk, increased vulnerability, and whose populations are often predominantly Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)—tend to have lower property values that are less likely to justify recovery costs within this strict application of a cost-benefit analysis framework. This project aims to protect some of our country’s most vulnerable residents and communities from the increasing risk of flooding. Research partners will convene a workshop with community leaders and academics to develop a revised cost-benefit analysis methodology that incorporates equity into federal flood protection programs.

Cornell Investigators: Todd Gerarden, Dyson School
EDF Investigators: Dave McLaughlin, Economist

Capturing Young Children’s Comprehension and Emotional Reponses to Climate Change (EDF)

Capturing Young Children's Comprehension and Emotional Reponses to Climate Change

Researchers will examine attitudes and behaviors among young children regarding global climate change (GCC), to assess their understanding and how it makes them feel. The researchers will then develop GCC curriculum guidelines for early childhood educators, in collaboration with Mom’s Clean Air Force and Co-Operative Extension – 4-H. These guidelines will describe what aspects of GCC young children can comprehend and how they respond emotionally to GCC.

Cornell Investigator: Gary Evans, Design and Environmental Analysis
EDF Investigator: Elizabeth Brandt Regional Field Manager, Mom’s Clean Air Force; Rainer Romero

Moving Cornell’s Carbon Budget Into the Red (IIF Momentum Funding)

CU Campus Energy Systems

Cornell has led higher education in the effort to achieve carbon neutrality. Thus far, this work has focused on emissions from campus facilities, energy use, and commuting. As we try to stop climate change, we now aim to reduce the whole carbon budget, including carbon emitted upstream of Cornell by purchasing and procurement. In addition, innovations in carbon dioxide removal technologies being developed here at Cornell could potentially improve the carbon budget, as well as providing a scalable set of technologies for the rest of the U.S. and the world. This project funds two young scholars to work with campus groups and external partners like The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) over the next year, to determine what pathways will best reduce carbon dioxide emissions on Cornell’s campus.

Cornell Investigators: Natalie Mahowald (ENG/EAS), Fengqi You (ENG/CHEME)
The Sustainability Consortium (TSC)

RuFaS (Ruminant Farm Systems) Dairy Model (IIF Momentum Funding)

Cows Feeding

Cornell researchers are conducting a thorough, scientifically sound evaluation of the Ruminant Farm Systems (RuFaS) model, which provides an evolving model ecosystem to guide dairy farm decision-makers on paths toward sustainable dairy production.

Cornell Investigators: Kristan Reed (CALS/ANSC), Fengqi You (ENG/CHEME), Johannes Lehmann (CALS/SCS), Dominic Woolf (CALS/SCS), Quirine Ketterings (CALS/ANSC), Curt Gooch (CALS/BEE)
Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) Investigator: Juan Tricarico
General Mills Investigator: Jim Eckberg
RuFaS Exec Team: Hector Hernandez (SDSU), Ermias Kebreab (UC Davis), Greg Thoma (U of Arkansas), Jennie Popp (U of Arkansas), Victor Cabrera (UW Madison), Jennifer Van Os (UW Madison), Peter Vadas (USDA), Kevin Panke-Buisse (USDA-ARS)
WWF Investigator: Melissa Ho
TNC Investigator: Kelly Racette, Steve Richter
Valley Ag Software Investigator: Jordan Kraft, Robin Jacobs
Cayuga Milk Ingredients Investigator: Kevin Ellis, Julia Smith
Producers: Doug Young (NY), Steve Maddox (CA), Bill Wavrin (WA)

Pandemic Prevention Policy Analysis (IIF Momentum Funding)

Illustration of COVID-19 Virus in front of world map

Building on the momentum of a successful 2021 joint event with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), “Emerging Disease, Wildlife Trade, and Consumption: The Need for Robust Global Governance—Exploring Ways to Prevent Future Pandemics,” Cornell Atkinson will fund a postdoctoral researcher with specific strengths in policy and legal analysis, to engage with WWF and other NGOs to assess high-level governance gaps inhibiting progress on this issue.

Cornell Investigator: Steve Osofsky
World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Institutional Investments in Tropical Forest Conservation and Restoration (EDF)

Institutional Investments in Tropical Forest Conservation and Restoration

This research project will focus on exploring new financing models that might motivate institutional investors to mobilize capital for tropical forest conservation and restoration. Although tropical forests offer great ecological and economic value, far too little funding is being delivered to protect and restore them. Institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance companies are increasingly paying attention to the environmental impact of their investments. Outcomes from this research could play a critical role in closing this funding gap.

Cornell Investigators: John Tobin-de la Puente, Dyson School
EDF Investigators: Ruben Lubowski, Chief Natural Resource Economist

Hotspots of Nitrogen Loss in River Basins (EDF)

Hotspots of Nitrogen Loss in River Basins

Researchers will examine nitrogen runoff in the watersheds of both the Upper Mississippi River Basin and the Chesapeake Bay. Nitrogen is a vital nutrient for agricultural production, but nitrogen runoff from agricultural systems creates an array of environmental problems. The researchers hope to identify hotspots of nitrogen loss, which are disproportionally contributing to water quality problems. By mapping the distribution of these hotspots, the researchers will be able to pinpoint areas where improvements to agricultural management can deliver the greatest environmental benefit.

Cornell Investigator: Robert Howarth, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
EDF Investigator: Eileen McLellan, Lead Sr. Scientist; Alison Eagle, Sustainable Agriculture Program Scientist

Strategies for Climate-Ready Fishing Communities: Optimal Fishing Portfolios for Changing Ocean Ecosystems (TNC)

Strategies for Climate-Ready Fishing Communities: Optimal Fishing Portfolios for Changing Ocean Ecosystems

Climate change is shifting where marine species can live, particularly in high latitude oceans. As a result, fishing communities face increasing threats to their economies and cultural heritage while they also risk losing fishing access under changing marine management. How can communities maintain access to commercial fishing resources in the face of climate-driven ocean changes? Focusing on Alaskan fisheries, this team will seek to assess the amount of climate risk facing fishing communities, identify balanced community fishing rights portfolios that are responsive to climate-driven fishery changes, and create innovative finance opportunities to support climate adaptation strategies for fishing communities. The project will integrate ongoing conservation finance efforts at Cornell and TNC, in hopes of attracting capital for community-based lending programs to assist fishing communities with climate adaptation.
Cornell Investigators: Suresh Sethi, Natural Resources; Alex Flecker, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Carla Gomes, Computer Science; John Tobin-de la Puente, Dyson School
TNC Investigators: Adrianna Muir, TNC Alaska; Kate Kauer, TNC California; Rich Bell, TNC North America

Assessing Progress and Barriers to Ecological Restoration of State Property Buyout Programs (TNC)

Assessing Progress and Barriers to Ecological Restoration of State Property Buyout Programs

Nationwide, more than 13 million homes are located in floodplains and 2.5 million properties will likely be chronically inundated by 2100. After each disaster, pundits debate whether communities should “give parcels back to Mother Nature,” as Governor Cuomo said after Hurricane Sandy. Over the last decade, several states have developed buyout programs, but no studies have systematically compared and analyzed them. This team will study programs in five states (New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, and Washington) that have created buyout programs which are promising from community and ecological health perspectives. They will then work with state program officers, TNC staff, and Cornell faculty and students to jointly identify specific research goals, concerns, data needs, case study sites, and research outputs, enhancing the likelihood of success.
Cornell Investigators: Linda Shi, City and Regional Planning; Amelia Greiner Safi, Master of Public Health Program; Rebecca Morgenstern-Brenner Cornell Institute for Public Affairs, Jamie Vanucchi, Landscape Architecture
TNC Investigators: Anna Brown, TNC North America Climate Adaptation Lead; Christine Shepard, TNC Director of Science; Marci Bortman, NY Director of Climate Adaptation

Soil Health Assessment, Management, and Policy to Support Sustainable Land Management in China (TNC)

Soil Health Assessment, Management, and Policy to Support Sustainable Land Management in China

Compared to the United States, China has much less agricultural land, by area. China’s grand challenge is to sustainably feed more than 1/6th of the world’s population on less than 1/14th of the world’s arable land area, while resources diminish and the climate changes. In order to ensure future food, water, and energy security, the health of China’s soils must be improved. Soil assessment methods in China currently focus on production-oriented management, rather than sustainable ecosystem services. Cornell University is a pioneer in soil health education, research programs, and methodologies for soil health assessment. This team proposes to adapt the Cornell framework for Chinese production environments, which will be essential for the holistic assessment of soil functioning, identification of sustainable management solutions, prioritizing TNC program efforts, and informing policy for different stakeholders.
Cornell Investigators: Harold van Es, Soil and Crop Sciences; Rebecca Schneider, Natural Resources; Joseph Amsili, Cornell Cooperative Extension
TNC Investigators: Yi Ling, TNC China Program; Nan Zang, TNC China Program; Junling Zhang, China Agricultural University

Agricultural Burning in India (AVF Supplement)

Bending Agricultural Burning Trajectories in Eastern India

This project provides additional support for the 2020 AVF Bending Agricultural Burning Trajectories in Eastern India, enabling engagement with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to integrate a gender component in the research.

Cornell Investigator: Andrew McDonald (CALS/CSS)
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

Antibacterial Resistance, Ithaca Drinking Water (AVF Supplement)

Antibacterial Resistance in Ithaca’s Drinking Water

This project provides additional support for the 2020 AVF Antibacterial Resistance in Ithaca’s Drinking Water, enabling the participation and engagement of three external partners, to explore more advanced drinking water treatment technologies, coordinate with external researchers, enhance local drinking water testing, and translate the research results and outcomes into a public-friendly format.

Cornell Investigator: April Gu (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow (SWIFT) Investigator: Charles B. Bott
Water Research Foundation (WRF) Investigator: John Albert
Ithaca Drinking Water Treatment Plant

Equipping K-12 schools in COVID-19 (AVF Supplement)

Reducing Healthcare Workers' Risk From Disease Spread

This project provides additional support for the 2020 AVF Reducing Healthcare Workers’ Risk From Disease Spread, to work with School in the Square (S2), and independent public charter school in Manhattan, as a test site to develop science-driven, school-specific strategies to mitigate virus transmission in indoor environments through an integrated monitoring and modeling approach.

Cornell Investigators: Max Zhang (Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), Nathaniel Hupert (Population Health Sciences)
School in the Square (S2)

Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation (IIF Impact Funding)

CPIC logo

The Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation (CPIC) manages over a dozen completed investment blueprints, many developed with support from the PwC consulting team working with CPIC thematic working groups per Cornell Atkinson a conservation finance grant.

Cornell Investigator: John Tobin-de la Puente (JCB/Dyson)
Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation (CPIC)

Reduction of Heavy Metals in Infant and Toddler Foods (IIF Impact Funding)

Heavy Metals in Baby Food: Cumulative Neurodevelopment Effects

Because of the health benefits of fruits and vegetables, there has been an increasing tendency to add fruits and vegetables into infant and toddler foods. However, the potential risk of high heavy metal contents in fruits and vegetables due to their natural exposure to soil/water, and pesticides, is a significant concern. The Baby Food Council, a collaboration among Cornell University and a group of infant and toddler food companies, seeking to reduce heavy metals in the companies’ products, provided primary support for a project to evaluate the best management practices to reduce harmful heavy metals in infant and toddler food. Cornell researchers will determine the contents of heavy metals, such as Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic, and Mercury; and assess the effects of processing and facilities on heavy metals in the final products.

Cornell Investigator: Rui Hai Liu (CALS/FS)
EDF Investigator: Tom Neltner (Chemicals Policy Director)

Insights From Localized Air Pollution Data: Integrated Mapping and Assessment of Urban Air Pollution (EDF)

Insights From Localized Air Pollution Data: Integrated Mapping and Assessment of Urban Air Pollution

Urban air pollution differs significantly across communities due to multiple emission sources, complex urban layouts, and local weather patterns. Assessing the variability of ambient air pollution and identifying its sources are critical to effective pollution control. Previously, analytical techniques have been developed by separate scientific communities. We propose a unified framework that integrates various data sources such as land-use parameters, ground-based fixed monitoring, and satellite remote sensing to inform targeted local emission control actions. The framework has the potential to become “transferable” from one community to another and the impact from the project can be amplified by EDF’s global efforts in tackling urban air pollution.

Cornell Investigators: Max Zhang, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
EDF Investigators: Ramon Alvarez, Associate Chief Scientist

Tracing Aquaculture Feed Sources to Guide Mitigation of Biodiversity and Pollution Impacts (EDF)

Tracing Aquaculture Feed Sources to Guide Mitigation of Biodiversity and Pollution Impacts

Aquaculture is the fastest growing source of animal protein to feed humanity. Its exponential expansion is fueled by harvesting of wild fish, which are reduced into fishmeal and oil that are critical ingredients in pelleted feeds. Intensive fishing has contributed to collapse of many stocks, yet market demand to feed both people and farmed fish is expected to continue growing, and could lead to widespread alteration of marine food webs. At the same time, intensive fish farming is creating further pollution of rivers, lakes, and coastlines. These diverse impacts of aquaculture require new mitigation strategies to safeguard marine biodiversity and human food security. Our vision is to use genetic tracking of fish sources and mercury isotope tracing of contaminants to reveal what types of intervention would most enhance aquaculture sustainability.

Cornell Investigators: Peter McIntyre, Natural Resources; Nina Therkildsen, Natural Resources
EDF Investigators: Tim Fitzgerald, Oceans Program

Can Wind and Solar Save the Amazon? An Analysis of Energy System Feasibility and Economic Costs (TNC)

solar panels with wind turbines at sunset

While hydropower provides the majority of current renewable energy electricity production, and it is a reliable and mature renewable energy technology, it also has negative impacts on freshwater systems and livelihoods. This project will assess the feasibility to “repower” energy systems by integrating greater proportions of low-impact wind and solar renewable energy, create a country dashboard tool for low impact energy provisioning portfolios, and develop general principles for understanding thresholds of intermittent low-impact wind and solar to meet existing and future energy demands.

Cornell Investigator: Eilyan Bitar, Electrical and Computer Engineering
TNC Investigators: Joe Kiesecker, Lead Scientist – Global Lands; Sharon Baruch-Mordo, Spatial Scientist – Global Lands

Modeling Sound Attenuation and Individual Space Usage to Estimate Density of Animal Populations (TNC)

a Mullers Gibbon in Borneo

Population density is a common way to assess the health of a species in an area. Passive acoustic monitoring can provide reliable population density estimates for some species, but it often requires human interpretation of data. This project will further automate data analysis and incorporate new statistical models to improve density estimates of endangered gibbons in Borneo.

Cornell Investigators: Angela Fuller, Natural Resources and the Environment; Holger Klinck, Lab of Ornithology
TNC Investigators: Dr. Edward Game, Lead Scientist – Asia Pacific Region; Mohamad Rifqi, Primatologist – Indonesia Program

Soil-based Climate Mitigation Solutions in Developing Countries: a Case Study for Zambia (TNC)

Hands holding plant roots and soil

This project will assess the potential contribution of soils–specifically soil organic carbon–to the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) outlined in the Paris Climate Accord. This new information will fulfill the level of precision required by Zambia for greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting. It will also serve to raise the profile of soils, being the largest terrestrial carbon pool globally yet missing in INDCs, in the national inventory and projections of potential mitigation options.

Cornell Investigators: Ying Sun, Soil and Crop Sciences; Johannes Lehmann, Soil and Crop Sciences
TNC Investigators: Deborah Bossio, Lead Soil Scientist; Mundia Matongo, Zambia Office; Peter Woods Ellis, Forest Carbon Scientist; Anne Trainor, Spatial Scientist and Director of Smart Growth, Africa; Bronson Griscom, Director of Forest Carbon Science

Size of the Prize: Establishing Soil Carbon Sequestration Potentials (TNC)

Johannes Lehmann inspects soil

The role of soil organic carbon in global carbon cycles is receiving increasing attention both as a potentially large and uncertain source of CO2 emissions in response to rising global temperatures and as a natural sink for carbon that can reduce atmospheric CO2. This project will create decision support tools to help stakeholders–such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Guinea as well as the African Development Bank and The World Bank–to achieve their goals in optimizing soil carbon sequestration while improving other soil ecosystem services such as food security, energy production, and the availability of clean water. The researchers will initially target select countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Guinea as well as the African Development Bank and The World Bank.

Cornell Investigators: Johannes Lehmann, Soil and Crop Sciences; Jonathon Schuldt, Communications; David Wolfe, Horticulture; Dominic Woolf, Soil and Crop Sciences
TNC Investigators: Deborah Bossio, Lead Soil Scientist; Stephen Wood, Senior Scientist – Agriculture and Food Systems; Priya Shyamsundar, Lead Economist

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