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June 22, 2023 | Shannon Smith

IACMI-The Composites Institute leads the way forward on DOE priorities

“The composite world has truly descended on Knoxville this week,” said IACMI CEO Chad Duty. “We’re developing an incredible ecosystem around composites innovation and manufacturing.”

This is a guest article from Brittany Crocker with Piper Communications.

More than 300 composites industry leaders and technical specialists are attending the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) 2023 Summer Members Meeting at the downtown Knoxville Marriott.

“The composite world has truly descended on Knoxville this week,” said IACMI Chief Executive Officer Chad Duty. “We’re developing an incredible ecosystem around composites innovation and manufacturing.”

Since its launch in 2015, IACMI has built a robust network of 135 members, including universities, national laboratories, and industry and government agencies, Duty said. IACMI’s network of problem solvers seeks to transform materials manufacturing, develop new technologies and invest in the American manufacturing workforce.

The summer members meeting’s agenda included IACMI success stories, like the manufacture and installation of a composite bridge in Morgan County and the development of a composite liftgate for Volkswagen vehicles that led to Volkswagen opening an innovation hub in Knoxville.

It also included research and development working groups and presentations from key industry, academic and government leaders like Dr. Huijuan Dai, the next-generation materials and processes program director at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Office.

Dai’s office focuses on helping the United States “meet the moment” by addressing modern energy and economic challenges.

A group photo from the IACMI 2023 Summer Members Meeting. Credit: IACMI.

“We’re at this critical nexus between our nation’s manufacturing sector and the energy we need to power our economy,” Dai said in her presentation on DOE’s clean energy goals for composites manufacturing.

“We’re fighting a climate crisis,” she said. “We’ve seen a pandemic and supply chain disruptions. The world is changing and will continue to change.”

For this reason, Dai said the federal government has taken a strong interest in advanced materials and processes, and developing the next generation of the United States’ manufacturing workforce. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act, and bipartisan infrastructure legislation have signaled unprecedented federal investment in manufacturing.

DOE’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget maintains $90 million for next-generation materials and processes and more than doubles the budget for secure and sustainable materials. It would also increase funding for energy technology manufacturing and workforce development to $60 million – a $10 million increase over 2023’s budget.

DOE’s existing commitments include $30 million in renewed funding to support IACMI over the next five years, according to DOE and IACMI announcements earlier this year.

Those dollars will enable IACMI to support global grid decarbonization goals by promoting a circular and renewable manufacturing economy, investing in the manufacturing workforce, and developing practical, commercially relevant solutions to modern energy challenges, said Dale Brosius, IACMI’s Chief Commercialization Officer and Executive Vice President.

Some of these include safe, specialized hydrogen energy storage tanks, more efficient offshore wind turbine blades, and lightweight electrical vehicle components, he said.

Dai called the funding renewal a “big step for DOE’s next-generation materials and processes work.”

​​“The work that IACMI has facilitated is integral to the Department of Energy’s mission,” she said.

It’s also a boon for the Tennessee economy. In its lifetime, IACMI’s workforce development initiatives have resulted in more than 2,400 manufacturing job commitments in Tennessee, Duty said.

IACMI has supported more than 7,000 K-12 STEM students, more than 500 university students, and more than 400 adult composites training participants. It has brought a dozen of its members’ products to the commercial market and managed 34 Tennessee internships that resulted in a job offer or acceptance into a graduate program.

Additionally, seven companies credit IACMI with their decision to move to Tennessee or expand their operations to the state.

“IACMI has demonstrated proven, solid results and it’s time to scale that impact even further,” Dai said. “We look forward to continuing to work with IACMI to build momentum in these ongoing efforts.”

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