University of Akron officials and local government leaders broke ground Sept. 14 on a $13 million National Polymer Innovation Center.
It'll be a catalyst for new wealth creation, UA President Luis Proenza said at the groundbreaking ceremony, which was held inside the university's downtown Akron campus.
Site preparation actually began in mid-August for the roughly 43,000-square-foot center, which is set to open in July 2010. The center will be adjacent to UA's Polymer Engineering Academic Center and its Department of Polymer Engineering.
Housing 10 laboratories and a high-bay manufacturing area, the National Polymer Innovation Center will collaborate with industry on health, energy and environmental research, officials said.
Faculty, students and industry partners will conduct research at the facility in emerging areas such as biopolymers, biosensors, bio-devices, nanotechnology and the fabrication of photovoltaic and membrane materials.
Center staff and students will work with the university's Austen BioInnovation Institute, a partnership between UA and three local hospitals, to develop new medical technologies.
Both educational centers will position the university as a leader in biomaterials, Proenza said.
He said companies in bio-based fields will want to be close to the body of expertise available at UA which should benefit the economy of northeastern Ohio.
Research at the school already has helped develop an artificial pancreas, polymeric drug-delivery technology and wound-healing bandages, he said.
Proenza said the polymer center will help create high-paying jobs in Ohio and elsewhere. He said 28 new companies have started in the last five years using research developed at the university. Other firms have licensed technologies developed by UA's polymer program.
Stephen Cheng, dean of UA's College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering, said the university is holding its own during an economic downturn that has forced other schools to cut positions.
We work very, very hard to make [the polymer] program No. 1 in the United States and the world, Cheng said, over the din of workers operating earth-moving equipment inside the fenced-off construction site.
The groundbreaking closely followed the first football game at UA's new InfoCision Stadium, which recently was completed at a cost of about $62 million.
The polymer center will be the 16th new building to be constructed on the campus in about 10 years.
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