$1.8 million jumpstarts fuel cell research

Jan 28, 2004

$1.8 million to fund fuel cell research

Kettering University will construct the Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration, thanks to a $1.8 million grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The $1.8 million EDA grant is the keystone of a funding package that totals $3 million and will allow Kettering to begin construction of the new Center for Fuel Cell Systems and Powertrain Integration. Kettering will combine the $1.8 million EDA grant with $500,000 previously received from the State of Michigan and another $700,000 from industry and Kettering sources to begin the building project.

The $1.8 million EDA grant announcement was made by federal representative David Sampson, assistant secretary of commerce for economic development Jan. 28. Ceremonies were hosted in Kettering's new C.S. Mott Engineering and Science Center, which will house the new fuel cell center.

Todd Brian from the Flint-Genesee Economic Growth Alliance served as the master of ceremonies for the grant announcement ceremony. Speakers were:

  • President James John of Kettering University,
  • Jeffery Mason, senior vice president of Emerging Business Sectors for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.,
  • Dr. Joel Berry, professor and head of Kettering's Mechanical Engineering Department,
  • John Northrup, chair of the finance committee for the Genesee County Board of Commissioners,
  • James Croce, CEO, NextEnergy, and
  • David Sampson, assistant secretary of commerce for economic development for the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Sampson personally thanked K. Joel Berry, professor and head of Kettering's Mechanical Engineering Department, for putting the EDA investment application together. "Today we can see first hand how a strong local partnership between the public and private sectors, working with the higher education community, can help a region create employment opportunities.

"This investment is based on regional cooperation and will provide substantial direct benefits for high-tech economic development in Genesee County and the surrounding communities," Sampson said. "The Industry Partnership Consortium supporting this investment includes Ford Motor Company, NextEnergy, Advance Measurements Inc., General Hydrogen, the U.S. Army Tank Automotive and Armaments Command, and General Motors. These institutions have joined together in a true partnership for regional economic development," Sampson added.

"This is great news for Kettering University and a tremendous investment for our University and our city," said Kettering President James E.A. John. "It creates a new incubator for research and development for Kettering and helps establish Kettering's first Research Center of Excellence. Kettering is well known for its ability to transfer hands-on experiences to professional business and industry environments. This new center will accelerate these hands-on experiences to apply theory and learning in the latest technologies."

Berry said Kettering's new center, and the collaboration with the State of Michigan, ensures that Flint and Genesee County are partners in the next transportation and power generation revolution. "This has been a long journey, and we are very pleased with the results and what it will mean for the reputation of the University," he said. "The Kettering community is very proud of this $3 million announcement and what it will mean for all of us."

Kettering will construct a new center that is approximately 8,600 square feet in the University's new science and engineering building. The EDA grant will specifically fund 5,452 square feet on the ground floor of laboratory space and another 3,150 square feet on the first floor to support business incubator office space for new and existing companies.

"The funds will provide specialized equipment, instrumentation and infrastructure required to meet the vision, mission and goals of the center," Berry said. The goals include:

  • excellence in fuel cell research, testing and evaluation,
  • attracting the world's leading fuel cell developers, manufacturers and suppliers to the region and
  • developing companies for the emerging fuel cell industry.

The center will include state-of-the-art laboratories and other areas for fuel cell testing and research, staff support and an assembly and project display area, and a combined teaching studio and control room. The incubator renovations include basic office cubical support for six companies.

Berry noted that the center holds promise to accelerate the development and commercialization of fuel cells for stationary and mobile applications. "It will also provide world-class fuel cell engineering education and help Michigan and the Midwest develop a trained workforce," he said.

"Our hope is to provide technological leadership in fuel cell R & D here at Kettering," Berry said, "leading to product commercialization and incubation for new and emerging companies that will spin-off and help create Kettering's Research and Technology Park."

Other aspects of the mission for the new center are:

  • Evaluation and testing of prototype fuel cell systems and validation for fuel cell codes and standards through collaboration with both professional engineering societies and national engineering research organizations.
  • Training programs for fuel cell testing, repair and maintenance through collaboration with local community colleges including Mott Community College in Flint, Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Baker College and professional engineering societies. These programs typically benefit unemployed, underemployed and dislocated workers.
  • Building and fostering alliances among the world's leading fuel cell developers, manufacturers, suppliers and customers as well as federal and state agencies to support industrial R & D, encourage technology transfer, overcome technical barriers, and speed the commercialization of fuel cell power plants for stationary and mobile applications.
  • Serve as an incubator for promising new technologies and companies that could benefit from and be accelerated by tapping into the Center's R & D, technical support and consortium expertise, eventually spinning off into Kettering University's adjacent Research and Technology Park, located across Chevrolet Avenue from Kettering's new Mott Center and along the Flint River in a tax-free Renaissance Zone.

"Through leading edge R & D, technology transfer, testing and evaluation of fuel cell systems, incubation of emerging fuel cell companies, and workforce skills development, the center will help make Flint the location of choice for the design and manufacture of stationary and mobile fuel cell systems," Berry added.

Written by Pat Mroczek
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