By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
The new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IACMI – The Composites Institute is very familiar with a number of its sibling programs that, like IACMI, fall under the Manufacturing USA banner.
“I’ve been involved with a number of these institutes,” Bryan Dods told us recently. “What Craig (Blue) has put together is the strongest of all of them.”
IACMI stands for the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, a consortium of global corporations and research enterprises that is managed by Collaborative Composite Solutions Corporation, a 501(c)3 organization within the University of Tennessee Research Foundation. The initiative, funded at more than a quarter of a billion dollars, was a significant win for the region when it was announced in early 2015.
The IACMI siblings include America Makes: The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, LIFT – Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, PowerAmerica, American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics (AIM Photonics), NextFlex America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), and Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute.
It was that familiarity with many of the other existing institutes and a long-term professional relationship with Craig Blue that convinced Dods to accept the offer to succeed IACMI’s Founding CEO. Blue has returned to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the role of Director of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
“I had the opportunity to be considered to lead other institutes, but this was the one for me,” he told us.
Dods is a 30-year manufacturing veteran who took the top leadership position at IACMI November 1. Prior to that, he was Chief Engineer of Manufacturing at GE Power where he was responsible for overall product manufacturability, manufacturing technology and strategic planning as well as serving as point person for the company’s advanced manufacturing initiative.
Earlier in his career, Dods led GE’s Wind Turbine Advanced Manufacturing team during GE’s first use of carbon fiber in a manufactured product, the 48.7 meter wind blade, which became one of GE’s best-selling wind turbines.
Those roles were clearly aligned with the goals of Manufacturing USA to enhance industrial competitiveness, increase economic growth, and strengthen U.S. national security
“I became involved with helping set-up three or four of the institutes before IACMI,” he said. As indicated by their distinctive names, each has a specific technology focus, but they complement each other and are part of a concept that could eventually grow to about 15 institutes.
“Craig and I have a 10-year working history,” Dods says, noting that the long-time ORNL R&D leader was part of “a small community of people championing recognition of the importance of advanced manufacturing. There’s a network of these champions underlying all of the institutes.”
Dods says he provided input to Blue and the proposal team that successfully bid on the opportunity that became IACMI.
One of the key roles that programs like IACMI play is to help connect technology leaders in various organizations. Dods explained that, as a GE Power person, he wanted to work with corporations like Ford Motor Company and Dow Chemical Company.
“ORNL connected us, and IACMI became a way to collaborate,” he explained.
With the initial U.S. Department of Energy funding, IACMI is focused on three sectors – vehicles, wind turbines, and compressed gas storage. Dods hopes to expand in the future to a diverse set of areas – from infrastructure to power generation, oil and gas, and recreational equipment.
“Long-term, we can have a broad impact across many industry sectors,” he says. “We’re an industry-driven institute.”
Dods is visiting with as many of IACMI’s partners as possible during his travels across the country.