The US Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has launched a new competition for high-risk, high-reward research funding under the Technology Innovation Program (TIP). The new TIP competition offers cost-shared funding for innovative research on “Manufacturing and Biomanufacturing: Materials Advances and Critical Processes.”
Approximately $25 million is available for first-year funding for an expected 25 new TIP projects. The goal of the effort is to inspire revolutionary materials advances leading to new products with advanced features and improved characteristics that will enter the market more quickly.
While new materials have the potential to open whole new markets for novel or dramatically improved manufactured products, a major challenge for manufacturers is efficiently moving new materials currently in the lab into production and the market, NIST says.
Materials performance is often a critical consideration and controlling factor in the innovation process. High strength alloys are used to build stronger, lighter and safer vehicles; superalloys are used to make higher efficiency gas turbines; composites make larger, more efficient wind turbine blades and provide improved performance in aerospace applications; and nanomaterials are finding their way into better performing batteries,
energy storage devices, electronic inks, high voltage transmission lines, and health care related applications (e.g. imaging and therapeutics). Ceramics have new uses in improving electronic and photonic devices, and glasses have many next-generation applications such as wireless communication, displays, optical telecommunication, integrated circuits, and ion exchange membranes for fuel cells.
—TIP White Paper
Improvements in critical manufacturing processes that reduce costs, save time, increase quality or reduce waste can dramatically improve the competitiveness of process-based industries, including biomanufacturing—the sector that produces vaccines and other biopharmaceuticals—chemical production and fuel producers, among others.
The 2010 TIP competition is open to research proposals in three areas:
Process scale-up, integration, and design for materials advances. New materials typically are developed in a laboratory setting, and then samples are given to end-users for alpha and beta testing. During this testing phase, it can take considerable time and experimentation to understand how the materials can be incorporated into a new product in a way that maintains and utilizes its unique functionality. Scaling-up from laboratory quantities to larger volumes, validating properties, and then incorporating the materials into product manufacturing lines is often non-linear and does not follow straightforward scaling laws, due to the unique functionality that has been obtained from the materials advances.
Predictive modeling for materials advances and materials processing.
Predictive modeling capabilities are key to developing new processes, scaling-up these processes, and understanding how to utilize a materials advance’s unique functionality.
Critical process advances. As the availability of new materials increases and the modeling of their behavior becomes more refined, there is a complementary need to improve processing or manufacturing methods. High-risk, high-reward approaches are needed to exploit the properties of the materials advances into new and more advanced products as well as support the processing of existing materials in new and different ways, resolving key bottlenecks or critical problems such as energy consumption, processing time, scrap rates, quality, and throughput.
Current methods of manufacturing often are not rapidly adaptable to making new or different products, and are often not optimized towards making existing products faster, more cheaply, and more sustainably. Improving processes used in the manufacture of new and existing products is an imperative for the continued global competitiveness of US manufacturers. Creation of agile, flexible, and increasingly interoperable systems are necessary enhancements to base manufacturing technologies in order to meet new productivity challenges.
TIP promotes technological innovation by providing funding support to challenging, high-risk research projects that address critical national needs. The merit-based, competitive program can fund R&D projects by single small or medium-sized businesses or by joint ventures that also may include institutions of higher education, nonprofit research organizations and national laboratories. TIP awards are limited to no more than $3 million total over three years for a single company project and no more than $9 million total over five years for a joint venture.
In December 2009, NIST announced up to $71 million funding for 20 new research projects under TIP. Selected projects ranged from unmanned, hovering aircraft for inspecting bridges to a high-speed sorting system for recycling aerospace metals to nanomaterials for advanced batteries, including two projects specifically developing advanced electrode materials for Li-ion batteries. The cost-sharing awards represent up to $146 million in new research over the next two to five years. (Earlier post.)
The due date for submission of proposals is 11:59 p.m. Eastern time, 15 July 2010.