New CIRAS Funding ‘Embeds’ Iowa Manufacturers in Major Industrial Research

CIRAS, Iowa’s affiliate of the federal Manufacturing Extension Partnership, will be working with co-members of the MEP national network in New York and Oregon to keep track of developments at one of the Manufacturing USA institutes. Together, the organizations will alert researchers to the real-world needs of small- to medium-sized manufacturers and assist manufacturers in taking advantage of any breakthroughs that occur. In Iowa, the project will pay for one half-time employee to monitor research being done at Iowa State University and to actively assess Iowa manufacturers to determine their ability to make use of any future advancements.

“We now have someone actively working to keep research grounded in the real needs of small manufacturers,” said Mike O’Donnell, CIRAS’ MEP program director. “We’ll be able to help manufacturing leaders take their first steps to prepare for the next generation of chemical manufacturing, and we’ll make sure that the right companies engage with the institute at the right time. This will help Iowa manufacturers have unprecedented access to biochemical technological breakthroughs.”

Manufacturing USA research institutes are a collection of 15 research partnerships between the federal government, universities and industry designed to drive technology leaps in key areas. One such establishment is the Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Institute, an entity that’s focused on rethinking industrial chemical production to make the processes less cumbersome, more productive, and more sustainable. The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that chemical producers could save more than $9 billion annually, for example, if ways could be found to combine production steps and reduce waste.

The RAPID Institute focuses on six key research areas: chemical commodity processes, modeling and simulation, natural gas upgrading, intensified process fundamentals, module manufacturing, and renewable bioproducts. Iowa State’s Bioeconomy Institute was named in 2016 as RAPID’s lead for the renewable bioproducts research area. Karen Fletcher, RAPID’s chief executive officer, said during a visit to Ames last year that Iowa State was chosen because campus researchers are “an extremely talented and well-known team that’s highly regarded in the industry.”

Robert C. Brown, director of the Bioeconomy Institute, last year described RAPID as existing “to take technologies – ideas that are well beyond basic research – and translate them into workable processes that can be demonstrated in the field.”

CIRAS, one Iowa’s largest economic development agencies working with manufacturers, was founded in 1963 as a corporate outreach arm of the Iowa State University College of Engineering. CIRAS provides services to Iowa businesses in five main areas: growth, productivity, technology, leadership, and workforce. Over the past five years, CIRAS and its partner agencies have worked with 3,922 distinct businesses. The companies later estimated that those projects generated more than $2.3 billion in economic impact, including 28,043 jobs either created or retained.


For more information, contract Communications Manager Jeff Eckhoff at or 515-393-1804.