The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment (IE) recently joined the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) Schedule to offer environmental services to federal government agencies.
“The GSA Schedule is a different way of doing business with the federal government in the U.S.,” says Sarav Arunachalam, deputy director of IE and a research professor. “Historically we have done a lot of work with federal agencies through open grants with the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of Transportation and so on.”
IE has held two large contracts with the EPA for nearly 2 decades. Through both the CMAS (Center for the Community Modeling and Analysis System) and EMAQ (Emissions, Air Quality and Meteorological Modeling Support) contracts, IE has focused on developing, supporting and applying open-source, community-based air quality modeling and analysis software to study air pollution and further evaluate and support policy-making for the protection of environmental and human health.
“This is an important event for the IE and for the University as a whole,” says Michael Piehler, director of IE and professor of marine sciences and environmental sciences and engineering. “As the approaches used by the federal government to acquire services evolve, it is critical to keep all potential mechanisms available to compete for funding. With the support of UNC Research, Sarav and his team did great work in obtaining the only GSA contract at UNC.”
The GSA Schedule offers the federal government a centralized procurement portal for federal agencies to seek products, services and facilities to effectively and efficiently perform their functions. For example, now that UNC-Chapel Hill is a vendor for environmental services, a federal agency, such as the EPA, can seek services directly from the university.
“Once you are listed on the GSA website, multiple agencies who have the need for environmental research, environmental consulting or environmental services can see that we are listed there and they are able to tap into our expertise directly,” Arunachalam says. “We are now in a small pool of organizations in the U.S. that are able to take part in a specific opportunity from a federal agency.”
Not only can IE get selected for a contract, but anyone at UNC doing environmental work can now bid on and provide services for a federal agency seeking environmental consulting services. Once a contract is established with an agency, that agency can work directly with a UNC entity on-demand to perform research related to the environment.
“This gives us a much larger avenue in terms of securing federal dollars for conducting research at UNC. It allows us to continue to grow,” Arunachalam says.