Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies (CIMS) has been awarded $1.1 million in federal funding as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
The funds specifically are designed to support industries that are suffering from the pandemic and will uplift the Rochester region’s manufacturing economy, with a goal of retaining and creating hundreds of jobs over the next decade.
“When my colleagues and I passed the CARES Act last year, we made an investment in supporting our local economies and uplifting businesses impacted by the pandemic so they can bounce back stronger than ever. That’s exactly what this funding will do,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Morelle (D-Irondequoit). “The Rochester region — and RIT in particular — is a national leader in advanced manufacturing, and this funding will help create much-needed jobs and ensure we remain competitive in the global market. I look forward to my continued work with Majority Leader (Charles) Schumer and Sen. (Kirsten) Gillibrand to provide our community with the tools and resources to revitalize our economy, support our families and put this crisis behind us.”
The $1.1 million Economic Development Agency investment supports CIMS at the Golisano Institute for Sustainability at RIT with the implementation of its Industry 4.0 Transition Program. The program is designed to help the Finger Lakes and Central New York regions in their recovery from the impacts of the pandemic through technical assistance provided to affected businesses. Once completed, the project will advance economic resiliency, create new job opportunities and attract private investment in designated Opportunity Zones, officials said.
“A strong, globally competitive manufacturing sector will ensure communities in the Finger Lakes and Central regions of New York state are economically viable,” said Nabil Nasr, director and associate provost of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability. “Adaptability, agility, connectivity and supply chain resilience is the new hallmark of a sustainable, competitive company. This program gives manufacturers the right knowledge and advanced tools to be more competitive, thus increasing business and in turn expanding their workforce needs.”
The REMADE Institute will award $43 million in new technology research and has selected 24 new projects as part of the institute’s latest round of funding.
REMADE CEO Nabil Nasr said he expects the results of the projects to move the U.S. closer to the nation’s energy conservation and emissions reduction targets, both of which have received renewed national attention in recent weeks.
“Our mission is to reduce energy consumption and decrease emissions while increasing the U.S.’s manufacturing competitiveness,” Nasr said. “Our experts are working diligently to reach these critically important goals and, in the process, accelerate the U.S.’s transition to a circular economy.”
The $43 million investment is cost-shared between REMADE and the funding recipients. The 24 research projects are expected to result in numerous positive impacts, including:
• Increase the recycling of materials by as much as 20 million metrics tons per year — a nearly 15 percent increase per year in all recycled materials in the U.S.
• Save up to 640 petajoules (PJ) of embodied energy per year — the equivalent of conserving 100 million barrels of oil per year, or the amount consumed in the average workweek in the U.S.
• Decrease greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 30 million metric tons per year — erasing the GHG emissions of roughly 1.9 million people per year in the U.S.
Of the 24 projects, many involve new partners for REMADE, including the Ford Motor Co., BASF and Case Western Reserve University. They join more than 90 existing partners, including industry innovators and academic researchers with Caterpillar, John Deere, Michelin, Nike, MIT, RIT, Yale University and many more.
REMADE officials noted that efforts are ongoing worldwide to move from today’s linear economy, where we “take-make-dispose,” to a circular economy, where we “make-use-recycle.” Reducing energy consumption and decreasing GHG emissions are major components of that transformation.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, manufacturing accounts for one-quarter of U.S. energy consumption at a cost of roughly $150 billion. Based on data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, industry is the third-largest contributor to GHG emissions in the nation at 22 percent.
“REMADE and its partners are determined to reduce those numbers significantly while creating new clean economy jobs,” Nasr said.
REMADE Chief Technology Officer Magdi Azer said the institute’s research examines the circular economy as a whole and focuses primarily on four materials classes in which the institute can make the most impact: metals, polymers, fibers and electronic waste.
“REMADE’s projects address multiple aspects of the circular economy, including remanufacturing, recycling, and recovery,” Azer said. “These latest projects will, for example, explore ways to advance sustainable automotive manufacturing and address issues related to plastics recycling in food packaging — one of the fastest-growing and most pressing sustainability issues in the U.S.”
The selected initiatives include large-scale transformational projects, which are led by industry and address issues across the supply chain.
The REMADE Institute is a public-private partnership established by the U.S. Department of Energy and the first institute in the U.S. dedicated to accelerating the nation’s transition to a circular economy.
The latest round of funding, REMADE’s fourth, brings the institute’s total number of research projects to more than 60, representing a total combined value of $63 million since the institute’s founding in 2017.
Nasr said a fifth round of funding, valued at an additional $50 million, is expected to be announced in late spring. Projects that address education and workforce development will be considered in the fifth round, in addition to the transformational and traditional research projects that REMADE prioritizes.
“REMADE is the leading circular economy institute in the U.S., and our manufacturing, university and national lab members are always open to working with new partners,” he said. “Our next round of funding will be an ideal opportunity to explore potential partnerships further.”
The REMADE Institute is issuing its fourth request for proposals to invest up to $35 million for research and development of transformational technologies to transition to the circular economy.
REMADE has made it a priority to focus on the plastic value chain by seeking proposals that will significantly increase the domestic recycling of plastics. Using recycled plastic instead of virgin plastic can reduce energy consumption by up to 79 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 67 percent, officials said.
The RFP is for technologies that will increase the recovery, reuse, remanufacturing and recycling of metals, polymers, fibers and e-waste. The funding will be matched by project participants, for a total investment of up to $70 million.
“With the challenges facing industry today, it is increasingly important to improve U.S. manufacturing competitiveness,” said REMADE CEO Nabil Nasr. “Our partnership of 100 industry, national laboratory and academic innovators are working together to reduce the energy and environmental burden of domestic manufacturing while delivering value to industry, the economy and the environment.”
REMADE has invested $20 million in projects to date. The organization was founded in 2017 and is a $140 million Manufacturing USA Institute co-funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. It is the only national institute primarily focused on the development of transformational technologies to support U.S. manufacturing in the transition to a circular economy. It is based in Rochester.
You won’t find Deborah Stendardi’s name on the buildings at Rochester Institute of Technology. She’s not listed on the mastheads of various centers and institutes at the university. But her imprint is just about everywhere in Brick City, playing a role as important as the mortar that holds the bricks together.
Stendardi, who began working at RIT in 1979, is vice president of governmental and community relations. What that means, basically, is she gets stuff done. Really big stuff.
When a professor or even a university president has a great idea for a new initiative at RIT, Stendardi works with staff to hone the idea into a sensible proposal. Then she shepherds that proposal and the people representing it through agencies and legislatures to find funding to make help make the idea a reality. Along the way she tutors the PhDs on how to promote their ideas in a trustworthy manner, and she continues building on decades-long relationships in government.
“It’s really keeping up with RIT’s evolution as a national institution,” Stendardi said during a visit to her office, which is somewhat hidden on campus. The office’s location is so obscured – much like the work she does – that a security guard offers one of her visitors a parking pass to a different building, assuming a vice president would be located in the main administration building. Nope. She’s tucked away in the University Services Center.
That sense of anonymity seems to be just fine with Stendardi, who spends much of her interview talking about and praising others instead. Some would argue that Stendardi’s work isn’t keeping up with RIT’s evolution, but having the much more central role of making that evolution possible.
“I give Debbie a lot of credit for the work I’ve done myself, the things the University has been able to accomplish,” said Nabil Nasr, who leads both the Golisano Institute for Sustainability and the REMADE Institute, a national research initiative based at RIT. “She did magical things for the university over the years.”
Stendardi said of the work, “It’s just energizing and fun to work with other people.” She takes on major community issues as a personal challenge, such as how to prevent the brain drain caused by young people going away for education and never returning, or coming to Rochester for education and leaving immediately afterward.
“Our students are enormously talented,” Stendardi said. Incubating entrepreneurship programs are starting to provide reasons for students to come to Rochester and then find a company that has spun off from campus into the community. She cited RIT’s MAGIC Spell Studio, as an example, describing it as “a convergence of film and animation and interactive gaming.”
“One of the things that makes it so much fun here is seeing how RIT can impact the community, having projects that are inspiring,” she said.
Stendardi is such an institution in the Rochester business and education community, it’s a little hard to believe she’s not from here. She started out in Ridgewood, a part of Queens, and moved to Garden City on Long Island when she was 12. She attended State University New York at Cortland, majoring in early secondary education with a concentration in French, but found that education systems were more interesting to her than the classroom.
After college she returned to Long Island, married her husband and then got work as an assistant to the president of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in Albany. When Ed Stendardi was hired to teach at St. John Fisher College, Debbie Stendardi started looking among her college contacts for work.
“I knew all the colleges” she said, because of her work on the commission. In 1979, M. Richard Rose was the president of RIT and looking to expand governmental relations, so he hired Stendardi to take that on. The title and level of responsibility have changed over the years, but governmental affairs have always been part of what she does. Stendardi said she works with every level of government, from town officials when physical campus issues are impacting the neighborhood, to state and federal funding opportunities.
But Stendardi’s job has also brought her into close contact with the area’s economic development leaders, particularly as RIT has grown into a major job-creating force. She chairs the board of the Rochester Downtown Development Corp. and currently sits on four other boards, including that of High Tech Rochester, the Catholic Family Center and The Children’s Agenda.
“RIT Is involved in all the pillars of regional economic development,” Stendardi said, once again neatly omitting her own role. She noted that RIT played a significant part in LiveTiles’ decision to locate here, as more and more high tech companies are looking to set up shop in a place with the entrepreneurial and technical skills already available in a ready-made workforce.
Another aspect of her job is overseeing the university department that puts on special events, from robotics competitions to corporate events.
“We have a staff of folks who help these organizations with the planning and logistics of these events, and coordinating the RIT services and facilities that they need, bringing many visitors to the campus during the year,” she said. “Thanks to their efforts, RIT has become a true ‘venue of choice’ for these kinds of events, and it is an important part of our community outreach.
But she earns her greatest praise by helping to build up the still-expanding university.
“In my role for RIT, it’s about building long term relationships for the university that transcend individuals,” Stendardi said. “I try to ensure that our elected officials feel a strong connection to the university, what we are trying to achieve for our students as well as for the region, the state and the nation. Being responsive and understanding of their needs and interests and ensuring that the university appreciates them as well is just the right thing to do. I think we have been successful because they trust us to do what we say we will do, and we work very hard to share with them the results and outcomes of their investments in RIT.”
Nasr said Stendardi really works with a project’s participants to help them find a focus before presenting the proposal to potential funders among governmental agencies.
“She always pushes hard just to make sure what we’re presenting to any agency is correct and well thought-out,” Nasr said. “She teaches a lot of subject-matter experts.” Nasr said he learned from Stendardi to keep in mind that every grant application is part of a larger, long-term relationship. “She is very genuine about relationships, she cares about people.”
After working in government relations for 39 years, Stendardi has some deep relationships. Many of those people, including two US presidents (Clinton and the first Bush), are pictured with her on the walls of her office. One of the deeper relationships was with Louise Slaughter, the late congresswoman. It’s hard for Stendardi to talk of her without becoming emotional.
“Her impact on RIT was very significant,” Stendardi said. Slaughter had a greater than usual ability to “connect the dots” both on scientific and economic development issues, she said. “The legacy she leaves is understanding the assets (of the Rochester community.) Whoever wins the seat will have big shoes to fill.”
Liam Fitzsimmons, who served Slaughter as chief of staff until her death, said of the two women, “Debbie and Louise had a deep and lasting bond. They shared a commitment to strengthening RIT and worked together to create economic opportunities for the entire Rochester region. Neither shied away from a fight to do right by Rochester and no detail was too small. I can fondly recall the two of them poring over pages of Member target lists in Louise’s Capitol office as we worked to put together the successful coalition of support for the REMADE Institute.”
Landing the REMADE Institute at RIT was a huge accomplishment, Nasr said. The Golisano Institute for Sustainability is the lead entity of the partnership between 26 universities and labs, he said.
Stendardi is, characteristically, modest about her role in the initiative. “It’s not just a singular effort. I partner with development, philanthropy, research…, working together on the question of ‘How can we really optimize what we’re doing?’ ”
She has seen the university grow significantly in her 39 years. Upon her arrival, the school was largely focused on career-oriented undergraduate degree programs and catered to a local and regional audience. Now the graduate enrollment is significant, owing to the addition of doctoral and research programs. And Stendardi notes than 50 percent of the students come from outside New York State.
“RIT has evolved into a major university since I came here,” Stendardi said.
She won’t take credit for that but others will place a lot of the credit at her feet.
“Her fingerprints are on so many buildings around campus, so many programs,” Nasr said, even though she always seems more comfortable staying out of the limelight. “I give Debbie a lot of credit behind those several hundred million dollars we received over the years,” he said.
The Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute has selected 17 projects for its first public-private partnership to focus on driving down the cost of technologies needed to recycle and reuse materials in manufacturing.
The 17 projects have a total value of $10 million, comprised of cost-share contribution and $4 million in federal funding. The project teams represent partnerships from 30 organizations across industry, academia, national labs and trade associations.
“There has never been a more important time to address the technical and economic challenges facing U.S. manufacturing,” said REMADE CEO Nabil Nasr, who also serves as Rochester Institute of Technology’s provost and director of its Golisano Institute of Sustainability. “Together with our partners, these projects have the potential to significantly reduce the barriers that prevent greater material reuse, remanufacturing and recycling.”
One local project was chosen for funding. Within the remanufacturing & end-of-life reuse category, Caterpillar Inc. is teaming with RIT and CoreCentric on a project that involves the condition assessment of used electronics.
The Rochester-based REMADE Institute was founded last year and is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. The institute enables early-stage applied research and development of technologies that could dramatically reduce the embodied energy and carbon emissions associated with industrial-scale materials production and processing, officials said.
The REMADE Institute expects a second project solicitation later this summer.
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