Pittsburg, Kan. — The Kansas Polymer Research Center at Pittsburg State University received a $2.39 million federal grant to form the National Institute for Materials Advancement to study sustainable plastics processing capabilities and new uses of polymeric materials.
The research and development of renewable resources is focused on polyurethanes and electroactive materials.
Awarded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the grant will not only aid in developing new technology but help diversify the regional workforce, support business relocations and startups, and lead to new career opportunities, according to a university news release.
KPRC gives internationally recognized scientists from the industry access to academic laboratory resources in a state-of-the-art research facility in rural southeast Kansas. The scientists collaborate with industrial partners, state and federal agencies, and others to develop and commercialize intellectual property.
Students can work alongside the scientists as they pursue degrees in one of the first plastics engineering technology programs in the nation, which is now 50 years old.
The grant also will cover the addition of materials research experts and support the center's technology transfer efforts, which aim to have a positive impact on the regional economy, according to KPRC Executive Director Tim Dawsey.
"By moving new technologies into the marketplace, and by expanding our plastics/polymers skilled workforce, we expect to attract, and build, new technology-based manufacturing businesses throughout the region," Dawsey said in the release. "The ultimate goal is diversifying the economy of the Four State area with new, higher-paying job opportunities."
The area is where the states of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma almost touch.
Regional high schools and community colleges also will be pivotal in the initiative, Dawsey said.
"They'll provide the educational foundation for this desperately needed workforce, filling the pipeline with plastics and polymer students," he said.
The city of Pittsburg and surrounding communities also will be key partners as the KPRC looks to locate and launch new manufacturing operations. The long-range impact for the region is "incredibly energizing," according to Dawsey.
"I hope that every educator, parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle who hears about this will encourage those young people who look to them for guidance to consider the incredible breadth of career opportunities a degree in plastics and/or polymers offers them. And we have scholarships available," Dawsey said.
This is the second grant in two years that NIST has awarded to the university's plastics and polymers programs. The continued support from the federal agency brings significant recognition and strong credibility to the work done by the scientific team in polymer research, Dawsey added.
"I fully believe that 'success breeds success' and 'a rising tide raises all ships.' There is nothing similar to this at all in the Midwest, and a number of companies are already excited to hear about this potential," he said.
For more information, go to www.kansaspolymer.com.