The Center for Composite Materials was founded at the University of Delaware in 1974, and just four years later our consortium, Application of Composite Materials to Industrial Products, was established. Since then, we have collaborated with some 210 companies representing materials suppliers and end users in the aerospace, automotive, defense and durable goods industries.
Industry has provided more than $20 million in gift support to the Center in the three decades since we started the consortium, and we have used these funds to establish state-of-the-art facilities in our Composites Manufacturing Science Laboratory and our Application and Technology Transfer Laboratory as well as to support the work of our talented faculty, staff, and students.
However the private sector has always been far more to us than just a source of funding to augment government grants.
Our interactions have followed a number of mutually beneficial paths, including input to research direction, shared instrumentation, student internships, visiting industrial researchers at the Center, software development and use, industrial advisory board involvement, consulting, co-authorship of journal papers, technology transfer, and attendance at workshops, symposia and research reviews. Our sponsors have benefitted from the leveraging of more than 30 years of composites research and over 100 ongoing projects.
When we launched the consortium in 1978, many companies were looking to invest in the next generation of scientists and engineers, and consortium gifts were used to fund both undergraduate and graduate student research to meet this need. Industry was also seeking more relevance in academic research, and we knew that we could work with them to fill that gap. At the same time, industry saw CCM as a good source of students as future employees.
Since then, that relationship has been significantly enhanced via our strong commitment to technology transfer with member companies of all sizes. Along the way, we have incubated new businesses by providing our students with an entrepreneurial environment and our industrial partners with a broad and in-depth level of research expertise and facilities.
Although our industrial and government programs initially ran in parallel to each other, over the years they have developed a very productive synergy and are highly complementary. CCM has been an NSF and DoD Center of Excellence for 25 years, and we have routinely forged university-industry-government partnerships for the benefit of our consortium members. As we carry out fundamental research for our public-sector sponsors, we become involved with their private-sector contractors, enabling us to work together to transition technology into valuable applications.
A particularly successful role CCM has played is the support of small businesses that we team with to win SBIR/STTR proposals to transfer technology, accelerate commercialization, and create new jobs in the state and nation. We feel strongly that this is one of the most effective means to transition and commercialize technology. At any point in time, we have close to a dozen ongoing projects with small business.
We thank all of our government and industry sponsors for their past and present support, and we urge any and all companies with an interest in composite materials to contact us for more information about how we can work together to further advance the technology. Your problems are our research opportunities—by working together we can solve them.
An investment in the Center is an investment not only in research but also in the next generation of scientists and engineers who will contribute to the continued development of this increasingly robust, diverse, and valuable technology.
A member of a CCM Visiting Committee commented during a review of the Center that “CCM has been and still remains the top nationally and internationally recognized academic research center for composite materials.”
We couldn’t have achieved this recognition without our consortium members, and we hope we have your continued support as we continue to advance composites research and technology and as we educate new composites scientists and engineers.
John W. Gillespie Jr.
Director, Center for Composite Materials
Donald C. Phillips Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Delaware