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April 11, 2023 | Tom Ballard

IACMI funding renewed by DOE for continued composite research and development

IACMI will be receiving federal funding across five fiscal years, with a first-year investment of $6 million to further technological R&D and accelerate commercialization in the domestic composites manufacturing sector.

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation® (IACMI) is receiving a funding renewal from the Department of Energy (DOE) for five more years of advanced composites research and development (R&D). IACMI becomes the first clean energy institute to be renewed by DOE.

IACMI will be receiving federal funding across five fiscal years, with a first-year investment of $6 million to further technological R&D and accelerate commercialization in the domestic composites manufacturing sector. This federal funding builds upon initial institute funding of $70 million from DOE and over $180 million from IACMI’s member partners.

DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm delivers the funding news over recorded video.

“We can’t wait to see how this renewed partnership helps IACMI channel the collaborative spirit that it has into tangible innovation,” DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a video shown at IACMI’s announcement event in Knoxville Tuesday. “It is such an exciting moment for DOE  and a pivotal moment for American manufacturing. The ideas, the partnerships, the passion blooming throughout IACMI has made it an innovation incubator for some of America’s sharpest minds and most creative thinkers.”

Tuesday’s event also featured remarks from IACMI Chief Executive Officer Chad Duty, Acting Director of the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office at DOE Steve McKnight, University of Tennessee (UT) System President Randy Boyd, UT, Knoxville Chancellor Donde Plowman, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Deputy for Science and Technology Susan Hubbard, and Purdue Technical Area Director R. Byron Pipes.

“Composites have the power to improve everyday lives,” said Duty. “Composite technology will continue to play a crucial role as we develop more sustainable solutions to our country’s energy, transportation, and infrastructure challenges. DOE’s continued investment in IACMI will accelerate our progress toward achieving these goals.”

Since its establishment in 2015, IACMI, which has several locations but is headquartered in Knoxville, has emerged as a leader in advanced composite design, manufacturing, technical innovation, and workforce development. During this eight-year period, IACMI has:

  • Managed more than 60 collaborative and industry-led technical projects, representing more than $200 million in R&D investment
  • Catalyzed over 25 new composite-based products to commercialization
  • Supported the creation of 3,000 jobs at composite materials and parts manufacturers
  • Spurred investment of $75 million in five states for R&D and Scale Up Facilities

The new funding will be applied to the continued research and development of advanced composites technologies that support U.S. decarbonization and strengthen IACMI’S three strategic pillars: technology, economy, and workforce development.

“We don’t take this renewal lightly, we are putting our trust in you,” said McKnight. “The future is now, let’s get to work.”

Since 2015, IACMI, state economic development organizations, and DOE have invested in a shared infrastructure that collectively delivers a breadth and scale of open-access composites manufacturing R&D capabilities that stand unmatched in the U.S. These facility and infrastructure investments have been led by IACMI’s core innovation partners in Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Leaders and attendees join for a ribbon cutting at the IACMI facility in West Knoxville.

Today, these capabilities uniquely position IACMI, along with DOE and its industrial collaborators, to leverage their achievements thus far to advance composites manufacturing innovations that will de-risk and accelerate decarbonization efforts in the United States.

Examples of state-of-the-art scale-up facilities include:

IACMI has leveraged these facilities to undertake transformational R&D, such as helping Volkswagen of America redesign and validate a liftgate for the VW Atlas with composites, reducing its weight by 35 percent and lowering its cost by 9 percent compared with steel.  Another example is the scaling, manufacture, and testing of novel thermoplastic wind turbine blades that are recyclable and lower in cost.

Today, IACMI Working Groups provide a robust model to engage in R&D for high-rate aerostructures fabrication, digital twins, future mobility, wind energy, infrastructure and construction, and the circular economy through recycling and novel materials.

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