Penn State Materials Research Institute reaches out to businesses

bmilazzo@centredaily.comMay 7, 2014 

Dave Fecko, Materials Research Institute industry relations coordinator, speaks at the Millennium Science Complex Open House to Support Pennsylvania Industry on Wednesday, May 7, 2014.

CHRISTOPHER WEDDLE — CDT photo Buy Photo

— Phillip Laubaugh works for a Bloomsburg company that manufactures firearms and ammunition.

On Wednesday afternoon, he represented Tar-Hunt Custom Rifles, to get more information on metal printing and polymer materials at the second annual industry open house hosted by the Materials Research Institute at the Millennium Science Complex at Penn State.

“I think it’s all about expanding our knowledge and using resources offered to us,” Laubaugh said.

About 80 people from 50 Pennsylvania companies were in attendance to see how they could get more information on how their small or midsized firms can benefit from services offered by the institute.

The Millennium Science Complex houses the institute, which studies applications and materials, particularly functional polymers and nanosciences.

Dave Fecko, industry relations coordinator, said the objective of Wednesday’s open house was outreach to those companies and educate them on the kind of research done at the facility.

“We started a deep relationship with some companies,” Fecko said. “What we want to do is bridge the gap between what we do and can offer, with companies that can use our help. They just need to know about it first.”

The institute additionally offers grants to eligible businesses. This year, $9,500 is put toward a matching fund program. Fecko said that $7,500 was donated by FirstEnergy Corp. and $2,000 from the institute.

But those companies wanting a piece of the grant must fit the institute’s expectations, Fecko said.

“There’s a method behind our madness,” Fecko said about the selection process. “There are top target areas that we’re most confident with that can be successful.”

Last year’s open house drew about 60 people from 40 central Pennsylvania companies. From that open house, the institute later formed five partnerships with companies from the area invested in specific projects.

One included a collaboration with Actuated Medical in Bellefonte, which designs and develops medical devices. The institute allocated $15,000 toward a project through the medical manufacturer that included nanofabrication of medical devices, Fecko said.

To enhance its program, the institute is also working with PennTAP — a Penn State technical assistance program.

PennTAP Director Heather Fennessey said the program provides technical assistance to state manufacturers in IT; energy, environment and worker health; and product development and improvement.

“It’s a nice collaboration,” Fecko said. “One thing we’re excited about is only a handful of companies are here again from last year. The focus of the event is reaching out to new companies, and broaden our base and our outreach.”

The next public event at the institute comes with Materials Day Oct. 7 and 8, which will provide the latest progress in designing, synthesizing and testing new materials and devices from Penn State students, faculty researchers and industry leaders.

Britney Milazzo can be reached at 231-4648. Follow her on Twitter @ M11azzo.

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