BY: JESSICA GUTMAN
Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, the regional economic development initiative led by the Knoxville Chamber, announced today at the JEC International Conference on Automotive Technology the launch of the Composites Coalition.
Composites Coalition is a statewide initiative that aims to capitalize on Tennessee’s unique assets including Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Carbon Fiber Technology Facility, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, the headquarters for the Institute for Advanced Composites Materials Innovation (IACMI); the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s leading composites research, and several recent composites-related economic development announcements across the state.
The primary objectives of the Composites Coalition are:
- To raise international awareness of Tennessee’s composites-related assets and opportunities
- To host quarterly composites-related existing industry cluster meetings
- To identify workforce training needs of composites companies and to enhance training programs to fill those gaps, as well as to raise awareness of composites career opportunities
- To aggressively target and recruit composites-related companies to locate research, manufacturing and distribution operations to the State of Tennessee
The advanced composites industry is growing steadily at nearly 15 percent per year in the United States, accounting for 300,000 new, high-paying jobs over the past five years. The next decade promises even more robust growth as advanced composites materials are utilized in the automotive, aerospace and energy sectors.
A composite is created when two or more different materials are combined to create a superior and unique material – most commonly Fiber Reinforced Plastics. These workable materials are as strong as metal with a much lighter weight, and they are commonly used to manufacture products through 3D printing.
Here’s what the supporting partners had to say:
IACMI-The Composites Institute:
“Tennessee’s advanced composites resources are catalyzing economic impact through workforce development, capital investment and technology innovation,” said John A. Hopkins, interim CEO of IACMI. “IACMI – The Composites Institute is pleased to support future positive impact for our headquarters’ home state and its partners by expanding this strong regional innovation ecosystem through the Composites Coalition. Just like the materials we are developing, we are stronger together.”
“Bringing economic development together with private industry and powerhouse research partners is a perfect combination to help us grow upon the strong momentum in the composites sector in our region and state,” said Doug Lawyer, vice president of economic development for the Knoxville Chamber.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory:
“At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, we value our partnerships with industry to enable breakthroughs in composite materials and processing technologies by leveraging our world-class expertise in materials science and manufacturing,” said ORNL’s Craig Blue, director of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. “Establishing the Composites Coalition ensures that advanced technology innovation will continue to drive economic growth and job creation across Tennessee.”
University of Tennessee:
“The Tennessee Composites Coalition ecosystem has the unique ability to engage undergraduate and graduate students in composites technologies of the future. About 30 undergraduate and 25 graduate students are involved in composites R&D at UT and IACMI,” said Dr. Uday Vaidya, UT/ORNL Governor’s Chair in Advanced Composites Manufacturing and chief technology officer for IACMI. “The aerospace, automotive, energy, infrastructure, marine, sporting goods and other emerging industries are in exponentially growing need of skilled composite engineers with practical thinking and problem-solving skills. The ability to develop a niche workforce by the Composites Coalition has an enormous positive impact on a national and global scale.”
Tennessee Valley Authority:
“TVA is proud to partner with IACMI, Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, and Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to announce the Composites Coalition and is excited to support the growth of this innovative industry in the region,” said TVA Senior Vice President of Economic Development John Bradley.
Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development:
“It is great news that East Tennessee is taking advantage of the growing composites industry and launching its new Composites Coalition in Knoxville,” TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe said. “Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, IACMI and ORNL are some of Tennessee’s greatest assets and have been great partners in attracting new and expanding businesses to Tennessee. I want to congratulate Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, IACMI and ORNL on the launch of the Composites Coalition and I look forward to seeing it succeed in our state.”
Learn more: go.knoxvillechamber.com/composites-coalition