Boeing selects Mississippi State for new research center

Contact: Jim Laird

STARKVILLE, Miss.--One of the world's leading aerospace companies has selected Mississippi's flagship research university to host its Stitched Resin Infused Composite Research Center.

The Boeing Company plans to relocate its stitched resin infused technology efforts to Mississippi State and the university's Raspet Flight Research Laboratory. The center will facilitate and promote research in the field of aerospace composite structures leveraging resin infusion and stitching technology.

U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker and Gov. Phil Bryant today [May 28] jointly announced Boeing's decision.

"Once again, I could not be more proud of the outstanding researchers we have at Mississippi State," said President Mark E. Keenum.

In another major research win, the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month selected the land-grant institution to lead a new National Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

"Our scientists and the research infrastructure and partnerships we have developed are paying significant dividends to economic development in our state, and also providing our undergraduate and graduate students with wonderful research opportunities that are making a difference," he said.

Mississippi State's chief research officer echoed Keenum's assessment.

"We are very pleased to see our collaboration with Boeing moving forward," said David Shaw, the vice president for research and economic development at MSU.

"It is the most recent example of the many profitable relationships we have fostered that provide opportunities for faculty, staff and students to work with industry to solve problems, create new knowledge and advance manufacturing excellence in the U.S.," he said.

In addition to its work with Mississippi State, Boeing has also signed a new master agreement with the University of Southern Mississippi to serve as a technology incubator of next generation composite material systems.

"The word that comes to mind with these developments is 'opportunity.' Mississippi State and Southern Miss have solid opportunities to collaborate with an industry giant to accelerate cutting-edge aircraft technologies, and students will have new chances to excel in a growing sector of our economy," Cochran said. "I'm proud that our research universities have built the expertise and capacity to attract jobs and investments to our state every day."

"I am pleased that Boeing is expanding its research and development capabilities in Mississippi," Wicker said. "Our state's world-class research universities make Mississippi an ideal setting for one of the nation's leading aerospace companies to develop cutting-edge composite technologies. I am confident that the partnership between Boeing and Mississippi State University, as well as a renewed commitment between the company and Southern Miss, will reap enormous benefits for our students, our workforce, and the industry."

"Boeing's decision to invest in Mississippi is a testament to the top-notch capabilities of our research universities and to our strength as a significant player in the aerospace industry," Bryant said. "Every commercial airplane in the world has at least one part made in Mississippi, and with Boeing's increased presence in our state, we will help innovate the next generation of technology. I have no doubt that Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Boeing and the state of Mississippi will all benefit from these partnerships."

Cochran, Wicker and Bryant have actively supported the universities' applications to partner with Boeing on research important to the future of aircraft and aerospace technology, and thanked the company for increasing its presence and investment in Mississippi.

MSU, which was selected through a competition with other universities, will now work with Boeing to finalize the decision to house the center at the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory.

Since its inception in 1948, Raspet has served as a unique university-based laboratory engaged in aeronautics R&D. A multidisciplinary team of MSU faculty members from several departments -- including aerospace, chemical, chemistry, mechanical, electrical, and industrial -- would bring world-class expertise in areas related to the new Boeing composites center, according to the flight lab's director.

"We envision several pathways to further develop the stitched composite out-of-autoclave technology for achieving fast and affordable manufacturing," said Ratneshwar "Ratan" Jha, who is also an associate professor of engineering in MSU's Bagley College of Engineering.

"The lab worked on a Boeing project in collaboration with Seemann Composites from 1999 to 2000 to fabricate a stitched composite wing skin with multiple stiffeners," he said.

The pending agreement, which would create opportunities for students to conduct research in this area, is intended to aid in accelerating advances in stitched resin infused composite structures and manufacturing technologies. As part of a final agreement, Boeing would provide equipment valued at $3 million for the center and fund two full-time engineers who are experts in this technology.

Raspet has a global reputation for composites research and has served as an incubation space for multiple composite manufacturers that now have permanent Mississippi homes. The lab has served as an incubator for Mississippi-based manufacturing operations of several aerospace companies, including Aurora Flight Sciences, GE Aviation, Airbus Helicopter and Stark Aerospace.

As the state's flagship research university, Mississippi State is a recognized leader in a number of fields, and well known for productive partnerships, real-world impact, and offering undergraduate and graduate students unique research opportunities. In FY 2013, MSU's research and development expenditures totaled $206 million -- representing nearly half of all R&D by higher education in the state, according to National Science Foundation data.

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