Salt Lake City, Utah – The University of Utah announced today that it has received a $4 million dollar grant from the Department of Defense (DoD), Office of Economic Adjustment, to assess and improve the complete supply chain for Utah’s DoD- focused carbon composites and advanced materials industry. The overall objective of the grant is to make Utah’s advanced materials industry more globally competitive and capable of diversifying into new markets in which industry contracts can be secured and state jobs increased.
The grant is expected to strengthen Utah’s composite material industry, which has long been a solid economic cluster for the state since the international space race of the 1950s. At that time, two Utah-based explosives companies, Hercules (now Hexcel) and Thiokol (now Orbital ATK), developed the expertise that significantly improved space rockets by using carbon fiber. Since then, the industry has expanded to over 100 Utah businesses, each of which deploys unique skills and services to produce the very specialized components of the advanced materials industry.
“Utah has moved well beyond the early applications of carbon composites to now using these advanced materials in aerospace/defense, outdoor products, transportation equipment and medical products. Advanced composites are key to sustaining the military’s air fleet, improving medical products, creating innovative recreational products and contributing to widespread innovation across a range of industries and markets,” said Dr. Greg Jones, Associate Director of the Scientific Computing and Imaging (SCI) Institute at the University of Utah and the grant director.
“Advanced materials range from composites such as carbon and glass fibers, to ceramics and polymers that are made using advanced manufacturing techniques, including filament winding, automated fiber placement and automated tape laying,” Jones added.
Building on Utah’s Long History of Advanced Materials
With this rich history of over 50 years, Utah has gained a worldwide reputation as one of the leading centers of innovation in the development of advanced materials. However, for this regional industry to expand and stay competitive, improvements are needed in how Utah’s advanced materials supply chain and ecosystem actually work, which is the purpose of the grant.
“The supply chain consists of all those companies, large and small, that contribute in some way to the final advanced materials produced,” said Kevin Jessing, SCI Institute Project Manager.
“The key components of an integrated supply chain include the manufacturers, raw material suppliers, service-based companies and, of course, the trained workforce. And when they all come together, they produce the real magic that is found in today’s advanced materials industry,” Jessing added.
Mapping Utah’s Carbon Composites Supply Chain
Through this DOD-OEA grant, an extensive analysis will be undertaken to map Utah’s entire carbon composites supply chain. OEA is the Department of Defense’s field organization responsible for supporting state and local government response to defense program changes, such as base closures, base restructuring or realignment, growth issues surrounding compatible land and air use for the military base and community, and other issues that can impact the economy of a region.
The supply chain mapping will extend to the personal relationship level among professionals who work at various positions within the industry.
“This is a unique effort to map the entire supply chain, which will yield worthwhile results not only for Utah but the entire industry,” said Dr. Jones.
“Along with identifying all the companies engaged in the supply chain, we will also be able to track how they partner with each other. We want carbon fiber lay-up specialists in a company to be able to connect with their peers doing similar work somewhere else and share best practices,” he concluded.
The mapping tool will enable manufacturers to find local Utah companies with the expertise and equipment to supply their most demanding materials and manufacturing requirements. The expected results are enhanced sharing of knowledge, the expanded capacity of Utah companies, greater integration among businesses and increased competency, all of which will help Utah companies gain a stronger foothold in the global advanced materials market and prepare the industry for future growth and further diversification, thereby resulting in a stronger and more resilient supply chain.
Although the program is still in the beginning phases, it has already defined the outcomes as:
- Mapping the entire Utah advanced materials and composites industry supply chain to know which companies provide what services and their relationships to one another.
- Identifying gaps in the supply chain that need to be addressed.
- Determining how to access future workforce and workforce development efforts.
- Increasing contract opportunities for Utah manufacturers, in both the defense and commercial sectors.
- Training supply chain members to promote more robust participation within the regional supply chain.
An Invitation to Get Involved
To accomplish these objectives, project organizers will reach out to, and engage with, as many advanced composite companies and professionals as possible. There are also ways for the industry to get involved:
- Registering for the industry newsletter to stay informed and become aware of new opportunities (register at UAMMI.org).
- Participating in supply chain mapping discussions (any company or professional wanting to be involved should contact the project director for more information).
- Attending project events (informal opportunities to network with other industry members.
Related Efforts to Bolster Utah’s Advanced Materials Industry
Although this grant will certainly help bolster Utah’s advanced materials industry, it is just the most recent in a string of developments that have occurred within the state. Other developments in Utah include:
- The US Department of Commerce recent designation of Utah, among only a few communities across the country, as a manufacturing leader in its Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) program. This program facilitates collaboration among advanced material and manufacturing communities across the country that are working together to solve common challenges in workforce, recycling, materials science and new markets.
- The October 2016 $1.6M grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to determine the feasibility of using Utah coal to produce low cost carbon fiber. If successful, this program will help create new jobs in rural communities in Utah that have been hard hit by the decline of the coal industry and provide a low cost material to help open new markets for Utah composite manufacturers.
- The formation of UAMMI, supported by the state legislature. UAMMI is the joint effort of industry, government, military and academic leaders who are committed to strengthening the supply chain and ecosystem that supports this vital industry in Utah. The Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative (UAMMI) brings together public, private, community, industry and educational partners to assure the growth and sustainability of Utah’s advanced composites industry.
A Utah-Based Team of Specialists
A team of specialists has been organized to manage the grant under the direction of the University of Utah. This team of professional service providers was competitively selected to perform the various tasks that are a part of this complex undertaking. All represent Utah-based businesses and bring an invaluable familiarity with Utah and this industry. They are:
- Logistic Specialties, Inc., (LSI), is a world leader in consulting, logistics and engineering support. LSI provides both government and commercial entities with creative solutions. Based in Layton, Utah
- Redirect is a full-service digital marketing agency, combining strategy and creativity to develop measurable campaigns and daring ideas that move people from now to next. Based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Grow Utah is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship and the expansion of emerging economic clusters across the state. The organization connects clusters with valuable resources that foster startup growth in Utah. Based in Kaysville, Utah
- Quatere is a non-profit engaged in online platform development across a range of areas, including a peer-to-peer entrepreneurship education model and an ecosystem map for entrepreneurs in the State of Utah.
For more information about the grant, supply chain mapping and UAMMI, please visit www.UAMMI.org
About the University of Utah – SCI Institute
The SCI Institute is an internationally recognized leader in visualization, scientific computing and image analysis. Our overarching research objective is to create new scientific computing techniques, tools and systems that enable solutions to problems affecting various aspects of human life.