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Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program

2017 TRI University Challenge

Every year, thousands of U.S. manufacturing and other industrial facilities submit reports on their waste management practices of certain toxic chemicals, including the release of those chemicals into the environment. The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program makes data about management and releases of these chemicals available to everyone through a variety of online reports, search tools, and applications.

About the TRI University Challenge

The TRI University Challenge aims to increase awareness of the TRI Program and data within academic communities; expose students to TRI data, tools, and analysis; and generate innovative programs, activities, recommendations, or research that improve the accessibility, awareness, and use of TRI data.

EPA is looking to academic institutions to help build a diverse portfolio of practical and replicable projects that benefit communities, the environment, academic institutions, and the TRI Program.

This year, we’ll be prioritizing proposals that use chemical pollution release and pollution prevention data to promote collaboration, but students and professors may submit any project ideas that increase the knowledge, use, and understanding of TRI data and other related information. Example project ideas include:

  • Develop specific products that can be used by industry and community stakeholders to increase awareness and use of North American chemical release and pollution prevention data from TRI and from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation’s Taking Stock Online and develop a plan for distribution of the products.
  • Produce a replicable strategy and tools (e.g., Good Neighbor Agreements) for engaging community members and local reporting facilities in a productive dialogue.
  • Demonstrate the benefits of multi-stakeholder collaboration for reducing the use and releases of toxic chemicals as measured by chemical pollution data.
  • Bring together data from TRI and other data sources to show trends in environmental or human health outcomes in communities, either within the U.S. or across North America.
  • Identify pollution prevention successes achieved by facilities, and develop strategies for sharing such successes with communities and other facilities.


Anyone who is affiliated with an accredited college or university is welcome to apply. Proposed projects may range from one semester to multi-year research or coursework. Applicants may include, but are not limited to:

  • Academic faculty and researchers
  • Undergraduate/graduate students with faculty leadership
  • Ph.D. candidates

Benefits of Becoming a Partner

As a partner, you will receive direct support from EPA TRI staff experts to answer questions and assist you with TRI tools and data analysis. In addition, you can expect to:

  • Receive national recognition and promotion for your university, students and project activities by being featured on the TRI University Challenge website, and offered opportunities to speak at conferences and events;
  • Collaborate with EPA and peers to advance TRI-related research and knowledge;
  • Participate in special networking events and webinars;
  • Engage students to understand and solve problems relevant to their communities; and
  • Help students gain practical experience working on environmental issues with EPA.

While no major funding is available for these projects, existing EPA grant programs may be leveraged by participants, and we suggest that applicants reach out to their communities or other organizations for additional financial support, if needed.

Evaluation Process

EPA evaluates TRI University Challenge proposals based on the criteria listed below. Proposals will be assessed based on their technical merit and how completely the proposal addresses each of the following elements:

Clarity and Effectiveness of Proposed Approach (40 points)

  • Project innovation and effectiveness of the technical approach
  • Support of TRI University Challenge objectives
  • Clarity of project schedule and realistic milestones

Project Outcomes (40 points)

  • Project results and/or products developed
  • Overall project benefits (to communities, other colleges/universities, students) and ability to replicate in other communities and/or on a national scale
  • Advancement of TRI-related research and knowledge
  • Specific project-related metrics

Partner Capabilities (20 points)

  • Qualifications of the Project Team and/or Project Director
  • Availability of resources (time, departmental support, etc) to pursue project
  • Student or community involvement, if applicable

Post-Selection Process

Once EPA has selected and approved your project proposal, we intend to send you a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for your signature that describes project activities, deliverables and roles and responsibilities. After signing the MOU, you should:

  • Provide regular status updates to your EPA contact for the duration of the project.
  • Prepare a summary report at the completion of the project.
  • Present findings to EPA.

TRI University Challenge Schedule for 2017

Student Collaboration
  • March 21, 2017: Application period opens
  • April 11, 2017: Challenge informational webinar
  • April 21, 2017: Applications due to EPA
  • May 2017: Evaluation of project proposals by EPA
  • June 2017: Notification of decisions to applicants
  • August/September 2017: Launch new Partner Projects

Any reports, conclusions and recommendations created and submitted by academic institutions participating in the TRI University Challenge do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the TRI Program or the U.S. EPA, nor does EPA or any of its employees endorse the providers of such material. EPA is providing these materials for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of information provided by the academic institutions. Project proposals may consist of or include copyrightable or other proprietary subject matter (IP). Applicants grant to EPA permission to use all project proposals for purposes of evaluation. EPA and the winning applicant(s) will negotiate rights in project proposal IP and memorialize those rights in the MOU. Title to any project proposal intellectual property will remain with the winning applicant(s).