Polymer Nanocomposites Manufacturing Partnership University of South Carolina Departments of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry & Biochemistry, and Management PI: Harry J. Ploehn Co PIs: Hanno zur Loye, William Sandberg, Harris Pastides NSF Award #IIP-0650186 3 Year Award Start Date: 1 March 2007 Brief Project Overview: The Polymer Nanocomposites Manufacturing Partnership (PNMP) is a joint effort of the University of South Carolina and polymer manufacturing companies located in or near South Carolina. The PNMP catalyzes the transformation of polymer nanocomposite research into polymer manufacturing processes and value-added plastic products fueling economic development in South Carolina. The PNMP fosters innovation in polymer manufacturing through • Basic research in synthesis and characterization of layered (nano)materials, routes to their incorporation in polymer nanocomposites, and accelerated methods for evaluating Multidisciplinary student-faculty-industry “Innovation Teams” serve as conduits for information, knowledge, and collabornanocomposite performance; ation on problems of technical and economic interest to partner • Joint University/industry development of polymer companies. nanocomposite technology for near-term commercialization; and, • Workforce development through involvement in Top Contributions: research, cross-disciplinary education, and 1. Establishes a new mechanism for collaboration industrial internships. Program Activities: • Interdisciplinary Education: “Entrepreneurial Commercialization of R&D” Year-long business school course offered only to PNMP students (more than 25 graduate students including IMBAs, chemical engineers, and chemists to date) Purposes: Engage students in business-oriented technology/market assessment projects proposed by corporate partners Expose business students to science-driven research Expose chemistry and engineering students to strategic business perspectives and management of corporate innovation processes identifying, analyzing, and resolving issues relevant to the commercialization of their R&D projects Improve oral and written communication skills in presenting sophisticated analyses and recommendations to corporate clients Develop skills in working as multidisciplinary teams on complex, time-sensitive projects that require research, analysis, and decisions Activities: Lectures and readings introducing corporate innovation processes and R&D commercialization Team-based, partner-driven research focused on specific business-oriented issues related to innovation, marketing, and product development • Technical Research MeadWestvaco Synthesis of “model” nanocomposite coatings containing highly exfoliated inorganic platelet materials; Evaluating the gas barrier performance of these materials 2. Novel vehicle for professional development of science & engineering doctoral students. 3. Startup company created to commercialize technology developed in this program. Top Challenges: 1. Successfully coupling technical research with Innovation Team technology & market assessment activities. 2. Partner funding for technical research and business school fellowships . 3. Integrating student project coursework into doctoral and MBA degree programs. Objectives: Assist the participating corporate partners in between science & engineering and business school units on questions of interest to industrial partners. Michelin Exploring fundamentals of reinforcement in polymer nanocomposites Synthesis of filler materials with surface chemistry tailored for elastomers Preparation and characterization of model nanocomposite elastomers PFI Partners: • Water and oxygen barrier coatings Polymer films, paperboard • Sustainable solutions Water-based coatings Non-petrochemical based Recyclability, degradability Understanding sustainability down the value chain • Reinforcement mechanisms in filled rubber • Elastomer formulations offering Lighter weight = fuel efficiency Improved wear Lower rolling resistance Traction (wet and dry) • Market impacts and economics of new formulations (no longer active partners) . Key Attributes of our Innovation Ecosystem: Questioning & Curiosity: • Partner companies can explore research and technology assessment questions beyond the scope of what they can justify with in-house manpower and resources. • Business school students learn about the realities of scientific research. • S&E students learn about the realities of real-world innovation and commercialization of R&D. Risk Taking: • Partner companies can explore high-risk, high reward research questions and over-the horizon technology assessment questions with low penalty for inconclusive or negative answers. • Students can get outside of their disciplinary comfort zones with minimal risk of jeopardizing their success in their degree programs or slowing progress towards graduation. Openness: • Non-disclosure agreements promote open sharing of information between partner companies and Innovation Teams. • Intellectual property agreements are problematic for some company partners. The most interesting questions are sometimes the closest ones to high value opportunities. Collaboration Across Fields: • While team-based, client-guided consulting projects are standard in the MBA curriculum, introduction of science & engineering students to the teams leads to different perspectives, team dynamics, and the ability to address a wider scope of questions of interest to the partner/client. • The Innovation Team methodology provides a novel vehicle for the professional development of science & engineering students. They learn about corporate innovation processes and R&D commercialization while using their own discipline – and even their specific research projects – as the motivating context. Placing Partners in “New Environments” & “Playgrounds”: • Partners with significant established R&D activity were most willing and prepared to engage in technical research and interaction with Innovation Teams on technology assessment questions. • The same partners were most likely to have established innovation processes and the willingness to teach them to the Innovation Team students. • Partners with low R&D activity were eager to ask market and technology assessment questions but were unprepared to fully engage in equal give-and-take with Innovation Teams or research groups. Leading/Inspiring for Surprising or Unexpected Results: • Collaboration between S&E and Business on the Innovation Team concept turned out to be the most engaging and attractive component to both the partner companies and the students. • The Innovation Team approach will likely serve as a model for sustained collaboration between Engineering and the Business School for not only the teaching of innovation, but also enrichment of university-industry research interactions. This holistic approach to the relationship is very attractive to the corporate partners. National Science Foundation Partnerships For Innovation Grantee’s Meeting April 25-27, 2010 Arlington, VA . .