This Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) project from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) focuses on the translation from research to realization in the field of specialty materials from renewable resources such as those found in clay, algae, waste plastics, paints and oils, and animal waste. CWRU and four small businesses in the specialty materials from renewables technology space will join together to explore a new model of cooperation with potential to change the way researchers and small businesses work together in this platform. This will result in more productive innovation capacity building to serve as preparation for enabling movement into the marketplace. The small business partners are located in N.E. Ohio and are a part of a synergistic cluster that will later serve to enhance opportunities for the development and commercialization of novel applications. Research teams include partner companies, CWRU faculty, PhD students, and Master of Engineering and Management students, who will bridge technology and business issues. An additional partner, SRI International, known internationally for its disciplined innovation process, will lead the research teams through collaborative activities key to their innovation training. Through this PFI, the small businesses will have the opportunity to collaborate on innovative technologies with each other and CWRU; two out of the four companies have not had significant prior interaction with universities. Moreover, the identified faculty members who will be working with them will be actively growing their research activities in this field. Consequently, this PFI is enabling the emergence of a cluster in specialty materials from renewable resources that will foster innovative and high impact research and development in the region.
The broader impacts of this research are as follows: (1) to train a new generation of PhD researchers to deeply consider market and societal needs in the context of their research and thus contribute more productively in a global innovation economy, (2) develop and sustain new and productive paths of interaction between a major research university and small companies, leading to the building of innovation capacity in the region and a model that can be widely utilized, and (3) enhance the development and deployment of technologies based on renewable resources which will contribute positively to both economic growth and national security.
Partners at the inception of the project are all part of the Knowledge Enhancement Partnership (KEP) unit, consisting of Case Western Reserve University (Departments of Macromolecular Science and Engineering, Civil Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and the Institute for Management and Engineering); four small businesses: Aeroclay Inc. (Beachwood, Ohio); Green Wave Innovation LLC (Valley View, Ohio); NuVention Solutions Inc. (Valley View, Ohio); and Vadxx Energy LLC (Akron, Ohio); and a private sector organization (not-for-profit): SRI International (Menlo Park, CA).
Overview: This Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) project from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) focused on the translation from research to realization in the field of specialty materials from renewable resources such as those found in clay, algae, waste plastics, paints and oils, and animal waste. Research teams include four small-company partners, and CWRU faculty, PhD students, and Master of Engineering and Management students, in an effort to accelerate innovation in this important technology area. Intellectual Merit: Significant progress was made in four broad areas, including an understanding of fire resistance of selected species of freshwater algae, the development of novel fire-resistant materials from renewable resources, an improved understanding of chemical compostions of fuels and biochar derived from renewable sources, and novel additives for windows and asphalt to improve sustainability of infrastructure (e.g., roads) and energy efficiency of buildings. Several of these projects are continuing after PFI funding expired due to continuing intellectual interest coupled with exciting commercial potential. Broader Impacts: In addition to potential commercial opportunities, a key broader impact is the deliberate encouragement of an innovation and entrepreneurial mindset among students and faculty. Innovation - the delivery of value in the marketplace - is a discipline in itself and involves much more than excellence in science and engineering. Needed key skills include communication, teamwork, project management, and an appreciation of tight timelines for project deliverables. An innovation mindset is a life skill, and there is a broad commitment to instill this in students across CWRU. The economic prosperity of the the U.S. depends on innovation, and hence this broad impact is expected to be significant.