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A first for nonwovens: NSF grant to NC State.

A First For Nonwovens: NSF Grant To NC State

The National Science Foundation has awarded one of its coveted research grants to the Nonwovens Cooperative Research Center at North Carolina State University, Durham, NC, a move believed to be a first in the nonwovens industry - and indeed in the entire textile industry. The landmark $100,000 grant, which will be matched by funds from industry as well by the North Carolina Governor's Board of Science and Technology, will be used to develop the growing nonwovens research capabilities at NC State.

Subhash Batra, who heads the nonwovens program at NC State, told NONWOVENS INDUSTRY the NSF grant, received in late August, in principle is renewable every year for four years up to a maximum of $250,000 from NSF a year. The NSF portion is primarily dependent on how much in terms of industry grants NC State is able to generate.

"The state of North Carolina has a pretty substantial number of nonwovens companies and suppliers and is actually the largest employer of nonwovens personnel in the U.S," he said in explaining the reasons why NC State was awarded the prestigious grant. "We had some credibility because of our already strong industrial support."

NC State was in an ideal position to apply for the NSF grant because of the Nonwovens Consortium it established two years ago. Among its members, which contribute an average of $10,000 a year each, are Collins & Aikman, BASF, Fiberweb NA, Freudenberg Spunweb, Du Pont, Hercules, Hoechst Celanese, Huyck Felt, Cotton Inc., Amoco Fabrics and Fibers, Albany International and Weyerhaeuser. The new Nonwovens Cooperative Research Center will be moving into the new College of Textiles building on the new Centennial Campus at NC State.

The next step for the school is taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the $300,000 additional funding this year, with the promise of more to come for the next three years as well. Dr. Batra said among the plans being considered:

* The development of a technology transfer program. This may include the establishment of an extension agent next year to advance education to the entire industry as well as the institution of a telephone consulting service to member companies on a limited basis. This hopefully will also lead to the establishment of an on-line nonwovens data base for the entire industry.

* Additional availability of laboratory resources, first to member companies and then to non-members, for product development work. This may entail the establishment of an associate member category.

*Soliciting of "non-core" projects from industry. This will enable companies to fund, within the framework of the consortium, specific research projects on a proprietary basis. If members are interested in research beyond the generic program, there will be the ability to fund an "enhanced program" to accelerate the pace or extend the scope of an existing project.

* Upgraded staffing and equipment. While the initial funding will not allow for any major capital investments, it will go towards adding two associates to oversee the projects and towards investigating additional equipment.

All of these ideas are being considered, Dr. Batra said, as the school upgrades its nonwovens program. "We sold the NSF board on the nonwovens industry as a new, vigorously growing segment of the textile industry, a business that has grown from |Handi Wipes' to sophisticated life sustaining medical products and heat shields on the space shuttle," he said.

"We were not able to give the work any specific theme because of the nature of the industry, something we had to explain to the NSF board," he added. "Some companies want very basic research and others need very applied, specific work. We are going to work to fulfill both of these needs."
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Title Annotation:National Science Foundation, Nonwovens Cooperative Research Center, North Carolina State University
Author:Jacobsen, Michael
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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