AIChE Officially Launches RAPID Manufacturing Institute

National public-private consortium brings companies, universities, government laboratories and agencies together to take on manufacturing challenge.
March 27, 2017

SAN ANTONIO, TX — Leaders of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) formally launched the Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Manufacturing Institute here today at AIChE’s Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety. Late last year, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected RAPID to help businesses of all sizes solve their toughest technology challenges and unleash major savings in energy-intensive sectors, including chemicals, oil and gas, pulp and paper-making and other industries. Since that announcement, RAPID has been working with DOE to finalize its operating plans. Those negotiations are now complete and an initial list of priority projects has been developed and they are ready to move forward.

In addressing the kick-off meeting of RAPID’s corporate, academic, national laboratory, and other partners, AIChE President T. Bond Calloway, Jr., the Associate Laboratory Director for Clean Energy at Savannah River National Laboratory, said, “investment in this cross-cutting technology is an investment in the future of manufacturing in the United States.” He added that, “The Manufacturing USA network is working to strengthen domestic manufacturing and assure its competitiveness.” “RAPID is an example of the early-stage applied energy research and development where a strong Federal role is appropriate,” Calloway explained.

RAPID Chief Executive Officer Karen Fletcher said “the RAPID team is thrilled and energized to be getting its work underway.” “We’re confident we can make contributions to manufacturing productivity and efficiency by developing next-generation, modular process equipment that can be broadly deployed,” she explained. Fletcher came to RAPID from DuPont, where she was, most recently, chief engineer and vice president of engineering, facilities and real estate.

To date, RAPID has enlisted 75 companies, 34 academic institutions, 7 national laboratories, 2 other government laboratories, and 7 non-governmental organizations from all regions of the United States. These partners have committed to cost shares that leverage DOE’s $70 million contribution over 5 years, with total project spending exceeding $140 million. RAPID’s partners come from energy-intensive industries and range from small to large enterprises. Fletcher urged interested organization to join the effort.

Fletcher also took the opportunity to introduce Jim Bielenberg, RAPID’s chief technology officer, to meeting attendees. Bielenberg came to RAPID from ExxonMobil, where he most recently worked in Corporate Strategic Research, developing technology roadmaps and research strategies.

Fletcher and Bielenberg outlined the technology focus areas that DOE and RAPID together identified since the December announcement of RAPID’s formation. They are: Chemical and Commodity Processing, led by Tom Edgar (University of Texas at Austin) and Ramanan Krishnamoorti (University of Houston); Renewable Bioproducts, Robert Brown (Iowa State) and Shri Ramaswamy (University of Minnesota); Natural Gas Upgrading, Mike Matuszewski (University of Pittsburgh) and Levi Thompson (University of Michigan); Module Manufacturing, Brian Paul (Oregon State) and Ward TeGrotenhuis (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory); Intensified Process Fundamentals, Dionisios Vlachos (University of Delaware) and Jim Ritter (University of South Carolina); and Modeling and Simulation, David Sholl (Georgia Tech) and Stratos Pistikopoulos (Texas A&M).

Fletcher emphasized that RAPID will work closely with the other Manufacturing USA Institutes, which have common goals but distinct concentrations, to assure cooperation and share approaches to commercializing “step-change” innovations. To that end, she said RAPID will leverage AIChE’s substantial educational resources to train students and the workforce in the application of the new modular process intensification tools.

In further comments, Calloway praised RAPID’s progress and cited DOE’s thorough and efficient work that resulted in kick-off within three and a half months of the announcement of RAPID’s selection. He said: “I want to salute Karen Fletcher’s leadership and the expertise and professionalism of DOE’s staff. Such rapid progress in setting up ‘RAPID’ would have been impossible without them.” He added: “The progress we’ve made in such a short time makes me even prouder to be part of the RAPID effort, in which chemical engineers are contributing hard work and expertise to advance American manufacturing.”

Additional information about the RAPID Manufacturing Institute and its objectives can be found at www.aiche.org/RAPID.

About AIChE

AIChE, founded in 1908, is a professional society of more than 53,000 chemical engineers in 110 countries. Its members work in corporations, universities and government, using their knowledge of chemical processes to develop safe and useful products for the benefit of society. Through its varied programs, AIChE continues to be a focal point for information exchange on the frontiers of chemical engineering research in such areas as energy, sustainability, biological and environmental engineering, nanotechnology, and chemical plant safety and security. More information about AIChE is available at www.aiche.org.

About RAPID

On December 9, 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the establishment of the 10th Manufacturing USA Institute, the Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Institute. Leveraging up to $70 million in federal funding and an additional $70 million in cost-share commitments from more than 130 partners, RAPID is focused on developing breakthrough technologies to boost energy productivity and energy efficiency by 20 percent in five years. RAPID will leverage approaches to modular chemical process intensification used in a variety of industries. In the chemical industry alone, these technologies have the potential to save more than $9 billion annually. For further information, visit www.processintensification.org.