The Wood-Based Composites Center based in the wood science department recently received a national Science Foundation (NSF) grant of $675,000 to create and support an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC). The grant will leverage industry for a greater research impact while attracting additional funding from industry as well as from federal and state government agencies.

The center functions as an industry-funded research consortium that has included Oregon State university, the university of Maine, and the university of British Columbia. Virginia Tech and Oregon State will serve as the official NSF I/UCRC sites, while all four partner universities will continue to provide wood materials research and education opportunities for the center’s students.

After enjoying record funding in 2008, the center was hit hard by the economic recession, losing 11 of its 17 industry members. The remaining members initiated a six-month strategic planning process in 2009 to reinvent the center for sustainable operation. Center director Chip Frazier and Managing director Linda Caudill implemented the resulting plans, which included pursuing the NSF grant to create an I/UCRC. This grant award, combined with rejuvenated industrial support, including two new industry members, breaks the former record for the center’s funding.

“We are excited and gratified. This award benefits our students and expands our service to the industry,” Frazier said. “Our industry members’ contributions will be leveraged for a much greater impact.”

“The center’s industry members seek efficient ways to accomplish the fundamental research that supports their business needs,” Caudill added. “The center can help them achieve that goal while giving them a first look at potential future employees. The collaborative nature of this NSF program is a win-win for all.”

In accepting this award, the center’s industry and university members agree to adhere to an NSF I/UCRC model of close industry/university collaboration in which students receive advanced, interdisciplinary training in the context of current industrial challenges and opportunities.