Friday July 12, 2013

Brick and Mortarboard

WVXU-FM's Focus on Technology previews the opportunities for research at the new facility built by the University of Dayton and GE Aviation.

To build an “intellectual heart and soul,” you need a lot of bricks — 160,000.

The GE Aviation Electrical Power Integrated Systems Center will be “the intellectual heart and soul” of GE Aviation’s electrical power business with potentially 150 to 200 researchers in the next five years, said Lorraine A. Bolsinger, former president and CEO of GE Aviation Systems.

Construction of the center, on campus at Patterson Boulevard and River Park Drive, is on schedule for employees and equipment to move in this summer. A grand opening is being planned for December.

Those bricks — twice the size of residential bricks — tell a small part of the story that’s greater than the four stories or 139,000 square feet of office and lab space they enclose.

It starts with a partnership.

In 2010, the University and GE Aviation announced plans to build a new research center on University land, a former brownfield where NCR once built cash registers.

The partnership is bolstered by the University’s ties in the research community and by the strength of the region’s innovation infrastructure.

Vic Bonneau, president of Electrical Power Systems for GE Aviation, said that among the values of partnering with the University is location — central to GE Aviation Systems’ three existing Miami Valley business locations, its Air Force customer, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the GE Aviation engine complex.

Another value is the University of Dayton Research Institute’s reputation in aviation research and the nearly $100 million a year it attracts for funded research.

People and their talent are another benefit. “We are always on the lookout for new talent,” Bonneau said. “In this case, the talent that we are talking about generally comes from advanced degree engineers, people with master’s degrees and Ph.D.s. UDRI and UD are excellent sources of this kind of talent.”

Mickey McCabe, vice president for research at the University, also sees the benefits of this partnership extending to the people of the Miami Valley.

“Collaborative efforts between GE and UD through the EPISCENTER to develop new integrated electric power systems for aircraft will result in new jobs not only at the EPISCENTER and at UD, but also at the manufacturing facility in Vandalia (Ohio) where the R&D investment is returned as new products for GE to sell,” he said. He expects this “hub of activity” will attract other companies to the region.

Research at the lab will include computer modeling, simulation and analysis of advanced, dynamic electric power systems design and controls.

Inside, University of Dayton graduate students will work in the laboratory alongside GE Aviation engineering teams, doing design modeling and testing of aviation electrical systems.

“We plan to provide, through UDRI, over $1 million a year in R&D funding to pay for those students,” Bonneau said. “They’ll be part of our design teams for their master’s work.”

University professors, researchers and students will be tapped for their expertise on specific projects, and they will also participate in design reviews for GE Aviation customers“Our goal is to develop relationships with young researchers who would then want to work for us,” Bonneau said.

The economic impact of the lab is being felt before the first laboratory even opens. The $51 million building, owned by the University and leased to GE Aviation, has employed 17 subcontractors, plus designers and GE vendors. At the height of construction, the daily payroll of $35,000 helped support the families of 120 workers.

GE Aviation personnel are expected to move into the building in early August.

For more information, contact Teri Rizvi at 937-229-3255 or