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April 11, 2023 | Tom Ballard

With renewed funding, The Composites Institute moving to Version 2.0 under new CEO Chad Duty

“Version 1.0 was a lot of setting up,” says CEO Chad Duty, explaining that key priorities focused on creating the now 124-member consortium, constructing scale-up research and manufacturing facilities, and more. “Version 2.0 is about leveraging those investments to expand our impact.”

Armed with a new five-year, what is expected to be $30 million U.S. Department of Energy agreement and a similar matching commitment from public and private sector partners, IACMI, officially known as the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation, is entering what its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) describes as Version 2.0.

“Version 1.0 was a lot of setting up,” says Chad Duty, explaining that key priorities focused on creating the now 124-member consortium, buying equipment, constructing scale-up research and manufacturing facilities, and establishing operating procedures. “Version 2.0 is about leveraging those investments to expand our impact.”

IACMI, also known as The Composites Institute, was announced with great fanfare in January 2015 (see article herewhen then-President Barrack Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden came to an event at Pellissippi State Community College. IACMI is managed by Collaborative Composite Solutions Corporation, a wholly-owned nonprofit subsidiary of the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Foundation.

Over the eight years that followed its founding, IACMI has helped catalyze the construction or expansion of a number of new facilities, several local but others in its key partner states. Tennessee-based facilities include the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility and Carbon Fiber Technology Facility, both at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); Fibers and Composites Manufacturing Facility at UT, Knoxville (UTK); and Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability at Vanderbilt University.

The out-of-state facilities include:

Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Duty (pictured right), a long-time leader in the advanced manufacturing sector on a national basis, was named CEO-elect in late October 2022 and began transitioning into the role over the period since then before assuming the top spot on April 1. He’s a Professor of Engineering in UTK’s Tickle College of Engineering and joint faculty at ORNL, roles that he intends to continue as he leads The Composites Institute.

“I will not be teaching during the spring semester so I can focus on transitioning into my IACMI responsibilities,” he says. Starting this fall, Duty will resume teaching one class each semester while also mentoring graduate students, a role that he relishes.

“I enjoy working with students,” he says, adding, “I really enjoy those relationships.”

We first met IACMI’s new CEO when we worked together at ORNL. He was hired as a Research Scientist in 2004 and later became a Group Leader before joining UTK’s Tickle College of Engineering in 2015. In April 2021, Duty was named as the Associate Director for Industrial Relations for UTK’s Center for Materials Processing.

With a non-teaching schedule this semester and through the summer, he’s traveling widely to meet with as many of the consortium members as possible. “I had been involved with IACMI as a researcher,” Duty says, but now he’s focused on building relationships with the many partners. “It’s hard to build those relationships over Zoom,” he explains.

Duty says he has a “passion for partnerships . . . seeing people come together and make something happen.” One of his goals is to make the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region the place that people think about when they think of carbon fiber and composites, so he’ll be working with various partners to develop the larger ecosystem in the region.

The new CEO has nothing but praise for the existing team, starting with Dale Brosius, IACMI’s Chief Commercialization Officer, who served as Interim CEO for a year after the departure of John Hopkins. And, as he plans for a future of wearing multiple hats, Duty says with a smile, “It should be fun . . . Besides, I don’t know what it is like to have just one boss.”

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