In mid-July, we reported that the RAPID Manufacturing Institute underwent two different peer reviews by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). One was a closed DOE Peer Review held in Golden, CO; the second was part of the DOE's Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) Peer Review held in Washington, DC, whose results were released to the public this October.  

As we reiterated previously, the purpose of the closed DOE review was to evaluate the progress of the Institute and the merits of all the R&D projects that have been selected to date. At the peer reviews, RAPID CTO Jim Bielenberg gave an overview of the Institute Roadmap and how the selected projects covered the identified gaps. Project teams discussed their objectives and how their technologies fit within RAPID’s focus areas. The DOE panel questioned participants about the scope of their projects, budgets, projected outcomes, etc. Similarly, the AMO peer review’s goal was to determine the effectiveness and impact of its program. It looked at how RAPID has managed its operations, programs, project selection and outcomes, as well as education and workforce development initiatives.

Overall, feedback from the peer reviews was positive. In particular, peer reviewers highlighted the fact that “the Institute has been established well and accomplished an impressive amount of work in the first year,” and “the panel recognized AIChE as a strong academic organization and lauded the Education and Workforce Development offerings.” Reviewers also identified areas for improvement, including the need to attract more industrial members, particularly from the pharmaceutical and food sectors, and suggested that RAPID refine Focus Area Roadmaps to address pressing technical and market problems in industry segments where Modular Chemical Process Intensification could offer solutions.

In response to the feedback, efforts are currently underway to increase industrial membership and reach into new sectors (through small conference workshops, among others). RAPID CEO Bill Grieco added, “We are actively working to ensure that the results from fundamental projects, such as those that involve modeling, are integrated into other projects more aggressively and to create better communication across projects. To that end, we organized a workshop at Annual to engage the community at large to define best practices for portfolio management.”  

Bielenberg noted, “Peer reviews are definitely not a walk in the park. Our reviewers took their roles very seriously by asking some very pointed and tough questions about RAPID. We were well-prepared and responded in a detailed manner.”  He also added, “Now we are equally prepared to make measureable improvements based on the objective and knowledgeable feedback we received. As RAPID enters its second year, this will allow us to move forward from a position of strength and clarity.”