In response to President Barack Obama’s recent announcement of a national Materials Genome Initiative, the University of Connecticut, in partnership with the State of Connecticut, is taking proactive steps to support the President’s vision of accelerating the discovery of advanced materials and innovative manufacturing techniques.
Those steps are part of the just-released mission for the new UConn Technology Park, whose creation was announced by university officials earlier this year. The mission – determined by a multidisciplinary committee of industry, state, and university partners and announced today – is closely aligned with the Materials Genome Initiative and related science and technology initiatives launched by President Obama, and is anticipated to directly benefit regional industries and entrepreneurs while simultaneously helping to increase the nation’s global competitiveness and strengthen the economy.
In June 2011, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report calling upon the nation to launch a new, advanced manufacturing initiative. The Obama Administration responded by announcing the launch of an Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, a national effort bringing together industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in the emerging technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs; reduce the time required to design, build, and test manufactured goods; and enhance America’s global competitiveness.
Also in June, the White House National Science and Technology Council released a separate report, Materials Genomics Initiative for Global Competitiveness, which cited the critical need for a new national infrastructure for data-sharing and analysis that will help scientists and engineers create advanced materials and address “issues of pressing national importance.”
UConn President Susan Herbst says the University is perfectly positioned to meet the federal government’s urgent call for new technologies and materials.
“UConn’s Tech Park will hit the mark by promoting academic and industrial partnerships and by providing the physical and intellectual capacity to foster discovery,” says Herbst. “Over the past 15 years, the University of Connecticut has built the necessary foundation for strong industry-university interactions by developing the core competencies needed to support our state economy. In addition, during this period UConn has achieved unprecedented academic successes – recruiting outstanding research faculty, doubling research grants, and increasing technology transfer activities.”
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy expects the UConn Tech Park to be the cornerstone of a new Connecticut research triangle that will revitalize the state’s economy.
“This is an exciting endeavor for UConn, but it is also exciting for our state,” Malloy says. “The research triangle concept has worked well in other states and there is no reason why Connecticut – with top talent, top universities and an entrepreneurial spirit and drive – can’t capitalize on new ideas.”
Cyrus Wadia, assistant director for clean energy and materials R&D at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, adds: “Advanced materials represent the future of manufacturing, and the Materials Genome Initiative will speed the discovery and development of many of those materials. But the federal government cannot by itself ensure that America remains the leader in this important sector. Success will depend on a wide range of stakeholders and efforts, including regional efforts like the one that UConn is launching with the State of Connecticut.”
The Connecticut legislature has approved $18 million in start-up funding for the park, with an additional $152 million state investment expected by the time the Tech Park opens in 2015. The park, being built on 300 acres with up to $1.2 million square feet of building space, is expected to foster new models of public-private collaboration and leverage millions of dollars in federal and private research funding.
“When it comes to net job growth over the last two decades, Connecticut has been treading water,” says Connecticut Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams, Jr. (D-Brooklyn). “The creation of a research-triangle is exactly the type of investment we need to create high-quality jobs and sustained economic growth. With the approval of start-up funding for the project, we have taken a significant step forward – and are ensuring that Eastern Connecticut will play a critical role in the state’s economic revival.”
The Tech Park’s inaugural building will house the Connecticut Collaboratory for Materials & Manufacturing (C2M2). The 125,000-square-foot building will feature flexible-use laboratories and highly-specialized equipment to support new public-private research partnerships. The compelling reasons for the manufacturing and materials emphasis are outlined in the recent report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology:
- “Manufacturing, based on new technologies, including high-precision tools and advanced materials, provides the opportunity for high-quality, good-paying jobs for American workers.
- “A strong manufacturing sector that adapts to and develops new technologies is vital to ensure ongoing U.S. leadership in innovation, because of the synergies created by locating production processes and design processes near to each other.
- “Domestic manufacturing capabilities using advanced technologies and techniques are vital to national security.”
C2M2 activity will be aligned with the call to action from President Obama in the Materials Genome Initiative through the following three emphasis areas:
- Serve as a foundation of materials and manufacturing innovations linking advanced research and industrial applications:
- Discovery of new materials and processes using advanced multi-scale computational tools integrated with high-fidelity experimental techniques;
- Modeling and simulation of material dimensions from nanoscales of crystal structures to mesoscales of components and time resolutions from picoseconds of molecular interactions to years required to assess durability and wear;
- Advanced informatics, data visualization, cyber-physical infrastructure (sensor networks, analytics, and robotics systems) and robust product design and manufacturing of new materials and devices.
- Enhance workforce training, and create jobs and new business opportunities for small to large corporations:
- Hire 20 to 25 new faculty members with expertise in the areas of advanced manufacturing and materials;
- Industry researchers in residence to lead collaborative projects with faculty and students;
- Entrepreneurs to advise industry partners, faculty and students in leveraging Tech Park innovations and identifying market needs that will drive the discovery-to-market process;
- Recruitment of undergraduate scholars and graduate fellows who will be trained through innovative industry-sponsored projects;
- Development of new undergraduate and graduate curriculum on materials genomics and high-precision, sustainable manufacturing.
- Collaborate with manufacturing partners to implement continuous improvement, materials and manufacturing innovations, and cost/resource reductions to compete in the global economy. Key emphasis will be placed on partnerships that will enable breakthroughs in:
- Sustainable Energy: fuel cells, energy storage devices, advanced power electronics, photovoltaics, smart building control, etc.;
- Human Welfare: regenerative medicine, advanced manufacturing of tissues, biomedical imaging, biomedical sensors, etc.;
- National Security: high-fidelity remote sensors, opto-electronic devices for terahertz communications, blast-resistant structures, high-temperature super alloys, in-situ resource generation, etc.