President Obama announced on Jan. 9 that the University of Tennessee (Knoxville, TN, US) will lead the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), a $259 million public-private partnership. The Institute reflects a $70 million commitment from the US Department of Energy (DoE) and $189 million from IACMI’s partners.

Supported by the Advanced Manufacturing Office in the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, IACMI joins four other institutes backed by the Obama administration in a recent push to accelerate advanced manufacturing.

The selected team, a 122-member consortium, connects the world’s leading manufacturers across the supply chain with universities and national laboratories pioneering advanced composites technology development and research.

Established as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) in Tennessee by the UT Research Foundation, IACMI has received a $15 million commitment from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development as part of an effort to facilitate breakthroughs in manufacturing and materials.

The Institute is regionally organized around five focus areas: vehicles (Michigan); wind turbines (Colorado); compressed gas storage (Ohio); design, modeling and simulation (Indiana); and composite materials and processing technology (Tennessee, supported by Kentucky).

“This project places the university and its partners in a unique position to strengthen Tennessee’s economy,” says UT chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “We are very honored to have been selected for this role in shaping the future of composites manufacturing through IACMI. This will build upon our deep collaborations with our consortium partners and spark innovation and growth within our nation’s industries.”

IACMI includes founding partners in Tennessee (University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Colorado (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), Indiana (Purdue University), Michigan (Michigan State University), Ohio (University of Dayton Research Institute) and Kentucky (University of Kentucky).

The Institute has received commitments from large charter corporate contributors such as those with critical connection to the automotive composites supply chain like Ford, Volkswagen, Dow Chemical Co. and DowAksa; premium members with national manufacturing impact like Boeing and Lockheed Martin; and small and medium enterprises like pultrusion specialist Strongwell Corp., and Local Motors, a leading 3D-printed car company. More than 90 companies across the supply chain support the project (see full list below) .

While advanced composites are used in selected industries such as aircraft, military vehicles, satellites and luxury cars, these materials remain expensive, require large amounts of energy to manufacture and are difficult to recycle. IACMI aims to overcome these barriers by developing low-cost, high-production, energy-efficient manufacturing and recycling processes for the composites sector. The Institute will focus on reduces the overall manufacturing costs of advanced composites by 50%, reducing the energy used to make composites by 75% and increasing the recyclability of composites to more than 95% within the next decade.

“This has brought together unprecedented commitment from state governments, industry and research institutions to develop the workforce, create jobs and increase global manufacturing competitiveness in advanced polymer composites,” says new IACMI CEO Craig Blue, a joint Oak Ridge National Laboratory-UT faculty member. “Our state partners include the top five states for automotive employment and companies representing 70 percent of U.S. automotive manufacturing.”