Administrators, faculty and staff of The University of Texas-Pan American joined Texas Governor Rick Perry Jan. 5 as he announced the awarding of a $3.25 million Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF) Research Superiority Acquisition Award that will go toward helping the University hire top-notch researchers who will enhance the establishment of a world-class advanced manufacturing center.
This monetary award is part of a larger pool of funding allocated by the state legislature this past year as part of the state's efforts to invest in emerging technology and boost the economy with new jobs. The emerging technology funds will be leveraged by the University and a private company bringing the total UTPA investment to more than $9 million.
The TETF awards, which were created to develop and diversify the Texas economy by expediting innovation and commercialization of research and bringing world-class researchers to the state, will go toward expanding the endeavors of UTPA's Rapid Response Manufacturing Center (RRMC). The RRMC is a university center devoted to the research and talent development in rapid response manufacturing and has assisted more than 20 companies since April 2008.
"The Rapid Response Manufacturing Center is the kind of facility where new ideas take place," Gov. Rick Perry said. "This investment is intended to create a culture of innovation in the Rio Grande Valley and the state."
UTPA President Dr. Robert S. Nelsen said the award establishes the University as a major player and contributor to the economic future of Texas.
"The University is committed to developing advanced technology in the state of Texas. Receiving this TETF award is a major achievement," Nelsen said.
Dr. Miguel Gonzalez, principal investigator of the grant and associate dean of the College of Science and Engineering, said the funds will be used to establish the foundation and infrastructure to establish a world-class hub for advanced manufacturing.
"The execution of this project will basically provide the resources needed to achieve a superior level of research in an area that is of the utmost importance for the competitive edge that the United States has had for a long time but is, at best, not maintaining. Success of these endeavors will go a long way in establishing a competitive edge for advanced manufacturing for the region, the state and the nation," Gonzalez added.
The TETF award will be used toward the recruitment of two world-class researchers who will oversee the RRMC and work closely with University faculty, upper-level students and representatives from ALPS Automotive, Inc. - a leading global manufacturer of electronic devices - among other companies, to come up with new technology that will help corporations improve operations and productivity. The corporation has already committed to the partnership and is relocating its North American operations to the Rio South Texas Region.
"The students will also benefit as there will be increased opportunities for research and learning in areas that are of great importance to the region and the community-at-large will benefit as this will make the region that much more attractive to companies. In addition, an environment that will also create technology-based companies and entrepreneurial activities will be developed and expanded," Gonzalez said.
Edi Sanjoto, engineering manager for ALPS Automotive, said he is excited to be partnering with the University because of the students.
"Twelve years ago we hired students from UTPA and they are still at our company. There are such great students here," Sanjoto said. "The students have a tremendous drive, they want to learn and they want to grow professionally. They are very open-minded and we really like working with them."
The University of Texas System Assistant Vice Chancellor for Commercial Development Cathy Swain said the investment will build UTPA's research capacity and stature.
"Manufacturing in the Rio Grande Valley is one of Texas' many great strengths. This investment is an opportunity for UT Pan American to build on its capacity in rapid response manufacturing and in engineering education to lead in developing economic and employment opportunities for Valley residents," Swain said.
Other individuals responsible for securing the TEFT award include Dr. John Lloyd, RRMC director and research professor of manufacturing engineering at UTPA; Dr. Douglas Timmer, manufacturing engineering associate professor; Dr. James Li, manufacturing engineering assistant professor; Dr. Wendy Lawrence-Fowler, vice provost for research and sponsored projects; and Jacquelyn Michel, director of innovation and intellectual property.
The RRMC is one of several strategies, including workforce recruitment and training, of the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research Initiative (NAAMREI), a network of 47 partners from K-12 and higher education, business, economic development, industry, finance and government focused on offering manufacturers across North America, and globally, access to proprietary, world-class advanced and rapid response manufacturing.
To learn more about the RRMC and its services, visit www.utpa.edu/rrmc .