KSU hopes to become a proposed manufacturing university

Grant McGimpsey

Grant McGimpsey

Jacob Runnels

Kent State has expressed interest in becoming one of 25 selected universities to receive funding toward engineering and manufacturing programs from a new bill proposed by Congress.

The Manufacturing Universities Act of 2015 would give selected universities each $5 million for four years — $20 million in total funding to promote the strengthening of engineering programs, specifically designated toward manufacturer needs, according to Senator Christopher Coons’ (D-Del.) website.

“It’s critical that our schools and universities equip students for success in manufacturing and contribute to the research and development that drives advanced manufacturing,” Coons said in a press release. “Although our economy has created more than 800,000 manufacturing jobs over the last five years, hundreds of thousands of jobs remain unfilled because we don’t have enough trained workers…This bipartisan bill would help us meet that challenge.”

Along with funding, selected universities will help create relationships between the universities and manufacturing companies.

Todd Diacon, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, said the university would be in really good company if it would receive the grant.

“Any time we can win a national grant, that’s an impressive feat for us,” Diacon said.

Grant McGimpsey, vice president of research and sponsored programs, said regional universities like Kent State should help promote economic development in their areas.

“Clearly, in this region, that means helping to promote new manufacturing technologies, new methods and new products,” McGimpsey said. “I think that’s why the idea of the manufacturing university kind of fits nicely.” 

McGimpsey also said Kent State is moving from one manufacturing paradigm to another, moving from steel and automobiles to “flexible electronics.”

Flexible electronics are plastic-based electronics that can be bent in ways that would cause normal technologies to break, McGimpsey said.

“What we’re hoping to do at Kent State is to bring together the assets this region has,” McGimpsey said. “(We hope to use our) flexible device research, workforce training and manufacturing and help establish a new manufacturing economy in the region.”

In addition, McGimpsey said the Liquid Crystal Institute would play a significant role in the production of flexible electronics manufacturing, and this bill would help create more support for this type of manufacturing.

McGimpsey said that more than a year ago, the Flexible Device Manufacturing and Commercialization Consortium (FDMCC) was established to help reinvent the manufacturing background to better qualify them to participate in the manufacturing effort this bill is promoting.

“We have all of these assets, we have great research… and we have a lot of new manufacturing know-how in the region,” McGimpsey said. “There’s a lot of stuff here in Northeast Ohio, and when you combine that with the manufacturing philosophy that people in Northeast Ohio have, it seems like a natural next step that we in this region would be leading a new manufacturing economy based on flexible electronics.”

Contact Jacob Runnels at [email protected]