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Wichita Centre to Support Composites

12 December 2010

Wichita State University is establishing the Center for Innovation and Enterprise Engagement to provide the expertise and infrastructure needed to help accelerate development of the composites and advanced materials industry cluster in Kansas.

The centre will provide assistance with engineering support, workforce training and business planning. More than 200 companies are already part of the economic cluster.

Engineering Dean Zulma Toro-Ramos will direct the centre. It will be initially operated by Debra Franklin, who has previously worked with companies in this industry under a federal grant for expanding workforce training in science, technology, engineering and math. It will report to the Office of Research Administration, under Associate Provost David McDonald.

""The centre will expand the capacity of south-central Kansas companies to conceive, develop and produce new technologies,"" Toro-Ramos said. ""We will help them implement new manufacturing processes and improve on the processes that already exist.""

Toro-Ramos said the centres goal is ""to escalate the development and predominance of our local advanced manufacturing cluster in the world economy by connecting them with WSU's applied research and technical assistance.""

""Through this new innovation centre, we can help companies scale up their activities in composites and advanced materials and more effectively assess their operations and business opportunities,"" said McDonald. ""This can be a powerful force in the growth of the industry in Kansas, especially combined with university resources already in place, such as the National Institute for Aviation Research and the Center for Entrepreneurship.""

Franklin is already working with several companies. She expects the centre to primarily serve small and mid-sized firms of up to 100 employees and ""encourage national and international companies to fully utilize the expertise and resources available in south-central Kansas.""

The centre's creation is consistent with Wichita State's urban-serving research mission and its support of rapid commercialization and manufacturing, according to Gary L. Miller, provost and vice president for academic affairs and research.

""Our focus on applied research and technical assistance has grown beyond aviation, health care and network technology to include new uses for composites and applied materials,"" Miller said.

Miller expects WSU students and faculty to benefit from involvement with the centre and the companies who use it.

""These collaborations will produce new research opportunities, give us insights into industry needs, foster economic growth that will keep more of our graduates in the Wichita area and help us retain and attract outstanding faculty. It's a virtuous cycle,"" Miller said.

The centre will be funded through government grants and payments for services.





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