BATON ROUGE, LA. — A consortium of researchers has put Louisiana’s growing advanced manufacturing and materials industries into the national spotlight after being awarded a highly competitive $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant will establish the Consortium for Innovation in Manufacturing and Materials (CIMM), a research collaboration among five of Louisiana’s state universities: Louisiana State University (LSU), Louisiana Tech University, Grambling State University, Southern University in Baton Rouge, and the University of New Orleans.

"This significant NSF award contributes directly to the higher education goals we have set for the state," said Dr. Joseph C. Rallo, Commissioner of Higher Education. "It is particularly noteworthy that our institutions and the business community are partnering in initiatives critical to the future economic well-being of Louisiana." 

The 5-year Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-1 award from the NSF’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) will have a tremendous impact on the State, launching the next level of research and development for the materials and advanced manufacturing industries. Researchers will address the fundamental building blocks of metal and alloy materials on a scale ranging from millimeters down to nanometers. The overarching goal of CIMM is to accelerate manufacturing technology development by combining supercomputer modeling and simulation with physical experimentation in a shared specialized research lab hosted at LSU. The computational research will be conducted through the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative (LONI) network and has tremendous advantages because many of the preliminary experiments can be conducted virtually on each campus, greatly speeding up discovery time and testing of novel materials.

Strategic investments over the past 20 years in experimental and computational materials research and infrastructure have yielded significant opportunities for long-term growth in Louisiana. CIMM directly capitalizes on the successes of Louisiana’s 2010 NSF RII award, which established the successful Louisiana Alliance for Simulation-Guided Materials Applications (LA-SiGMA) and wraps up this fall.

“LA-SiGMA was a huge success and paved the way for the launch into advanced manufacturing. The long-term state investments and intercampus collaborations leading up to this timely NSF award have been invaluable,” said Dr. Michael Khonsari, project director of Louisiana EPSCoR and Associate Commissioner for Sponsored Programs at the Louisiana Board of Regents. “CIMM will be critical to boosting Louisiana into an internationally competitive position in the advanced manufacturing and materials industries.”

Partnerships will be forged with Louisiana businesses to further leverage the State’s assets to educate and train the specialized workforce needed for this growing industry that heavily relies on computer technology to produce high precision products. CIMM researchers will engage with Louisiana students in all grade levels to encourage them to explore disciplines in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Outreach activities will range from hands-on public demonstrations to summer research experiences with university mentors. In particular, CIMM researchers will focus on broadening the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines by directly involving students from community colleges, the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired, and the two minority-serving collaborators, Southern University and Grambling State University.