WKU supports launch of new Metals Innovation Initiative
- Innovation Campus at WKU
- Wednesday, October 26th, 2022
The Metals Innovation Initiative launched this fall after a two-day summit of metals industry executives, higher education leaders, government officials and other support organizations at the Eva and Jim Martens Alumni Center at WKU.
Western Kentucky University is a core partner in the launch of a new nonprofit organization with a mission to foster innovation in Kentucky’s growing metals industry.
The new organization, the Metals Innovation Initiative, is a Kentucky-based nonprofit that provides collaborative, industry-led executive leadership to attract and promote advanced research, sustainability, commercialization, and talent development in Kentucky’s metals industry–and, ultimately, for Kentucky to be seen as the preeminent destination for metals innovation.
The organization launched in September with a two-day summit of metals industry executives, higher education leaders, government officials, and other support organizations who will be involved with the new endeavors, held at the Eva and Jim Martens Alumni Center at WKU.
In his remarks at the WKU Faculty and Staff Convocation in August, WKU President Timothy C. Caboni highlighted the formation of MI2 and WKU’s support of the endeavor as a key example of WKU’s commitment to provide resources, attract talent, and nurture intellectual capital in the region.
“Kentucky’s metals sector has become one of the state’s most prolific industries, composed of more than 230 facilities across the Commonwealth and providing approximately 25,000 full-time jobs,” President Caboni said. “This initiative will provide our students, our faculty and our staff with experience and insights as they work on multiple MI2 and member-sponsored research projects at the Innovation Campus.”
President Caboni serves on the initial board of the new organization, alongside Matt Bedingfield, President of Recycling for Wieland North America; Mike Buckentin, President of Logan Aluminum; and Zak Chehab, Strategy Director for Novelis North America. The board is served by Secretary/Treasurer Laura Hagan, an attorney with Bowling Green-based law firm Kerrick Bachert.
MI2’s offices are based at the headquarters for the Innovation Campus at WKU, located at the intersection of Nashville Road and Campbell Lane in Bowling Green. Vijay Kamineni, CEO of the Metals Innovation Initiative, says that the Innovation Campus headquarters provides an ideal setting for this collaborative organization.
“MI2 is focused on providing a central meeting point for leading Kentucky metals companies to engage with academic researchers, students, entrepreneurs, economic development and workforce support organizations, and talented people throughout our Commonwealth working on the future of manufacturing as we incorporate new technologies in artificial intelligence, robotics, data analysis and other emerging ‘industry 4.0’ ways of working,” Kamineni said. “The collaborative environment of the Innovation Campus is the ideal setting for conducting this sort of collaborative work.”
MI2’s founding metals industry platinum members are Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products, Logan Aluminum, North American Stainless, Novelis, Nucor, River Metals Recycling, Tri-Arrows Aluminum, and Wieland.
In addition to WKU, the formation of MI2 was supported by:
- the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s KY Innovation;
- the Central Region Ecosystem for Arts, Technology, and Entrepreneurship (CREATE) regional innovation hub run in partnership with the Innovation Campus at WKU;
- the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC), a private, nonprofit corporation committed to the advancement of science, technology and innovative economic development founded on Kentucky know-how;
- AccelerateKY, a nonprofit organization also headquartered at the Innovation Campus at WKU and focused on unleashing the potential of Kentucky’s innovators and entrepreneurs, developed in partnership with the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP);
- and various other strategic partners such as the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council (CEOc), MIT REAP, ONSIDE, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Louisville.
MI2 is focused on five key areas of development: research and innovation, talent attraction and development, sustainability, grants and funding, and working with the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
At its founding, MI2 has already been part of one successful initiative that has received funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).
Announced in August 2022, the University of Louisville has formed a new Center for Organizational Readiness towards Enterprise 4.0 (CORE4.0) which aims to help companies prepare for smart and connected technology such as automation, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things. The Center is backed by a $500,000 grant from the EDA.
MI2 and Western Kentucky University were both core partners on the grant, which includes funding for a new workforce participation staff position to be housed at the Innovation Campus at WKU–an initiative that has received supplemental funding from the Warren County Fiscal Court and the City of Bowling Green, and that will be managed in partnership with the South Central Workforce Development Board, headquartered in Bowling Green.
Currently, MI2 is already partnering on several other initiatives seeking federal grant funding in partnership with university, economic development, and industry partners throughout the state.
“The Innovation Campus’ goal is to provide an environment where subject matter experts and corporate partners collaborate with faculty, staff, and students to solve problems and create opportunities and jobs for this region,” said Buddy Steen, CEO of the Innovation Campus at WKU and Programs Director for CREATE. “MI2 is exactly the kind of mission-aligned, industry-led innovation organization that we want to support.”
Find more information about the Metals Innovation Initiative at https://mi2ky.org, and follow the organization on LinkedIn for regular updates at https://www.linkedin.com/company/mi2ky/.
Contact: Sam Ford, firstname.lastname@example.org
Western Kentucky University prides itself on positioning its students, faculty and staff for long term success. As a student-centered, applied research university, WKU helps students expand on classroom learning by integrating education with real-world applications in the communities we serve. Our hilltop campus is located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which was recently named by Reader’s Digest as one of the nicest towns in America, just an hour’s drive from Nashville, Tennessee.
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