PSU receives $330,000 grant to help develop science and research park

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Pittsburg State University announced a $330,000 grant on Monday to help develop a science and research park. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The money will allow the university to develop a plan to find commercial products from the scientific and technical research already underway at the Kansas Polymer Research Center, based at PSU’s Tyler Research Center.

Research at the university includes using renewable oils such as soybean oil for the creation of polymers for use in floor tiles, flexible foams in car seats and furniture, and a temperature-sensitive gel in athletic shoes.

Securing the grant was a cooperative effort by the university; the city of Pittsburg; SEK, Inc., a regional development effort; and Project 17 — a 17-county economic development initiative started a few years ago in Southeast Kansas.

Shawn Naccarato, executive director of the Center for Innovation and Business Development at PSU, said the grant is a vote of confidence in the university’s role in the economic development of the region.

Pittsburg Assistant City Manager Jay Byers said Monday that the grant would help define and set priorities as the community searches for ways to develop commercial products based on the work underway or planned at Tyler Research Center. The city has set aside vacant land surrounding the center for economic development associated with it.

“The purpose is to not only take an inventory of what markets are there for the kinds of research we’re doing here, but to see where can we take this research and actually apply it to a market and commercialize it, turn it into a business,” Byers said. “That’s where it becomes interesting for Pittsburg and the region — to actually build a company based on that research.”

“Say we find some interesting material that can be developed using soybeans, then we could say, ‘How could that product be produced and taken to market ?’ We find local resources to invest in manufacturing that product and the next thing you know a plant is being built in our industrial park.”

Project 17 Executive Director Heather Morgan said the grant and the research park will have a dramatic impact on the Southeast Kansas economy.

 

The first step will be to analyze the region’s capabilities in areas such as advanced manufacturing, polymers, automotive technology, wood technology, construction technology, electronics and robotics, casting and metallurgy and graphics imaging and packaging — all programs that have been offered via the Kansas Technology Center for years, and at several area companies.

The study also will determine the scientific and technical nature of innovations likely to be generated in the region and will identify sites required for them to be tested. The plan developed from this information will include recommendations for how the public, private and academic sectors can work together to identify business opportunities.

In the final phase, a design consultant will create building and site plans, as well as recommendations and specifications for equipment. The design will use renewable energy and green design practices.

All three phases of the study are expected to be completed by September 2016.

 

“We would much rather grow a business that has local ties — people from here, people here to do research, people who are investing here — who really want to stay in region and aren’t going to leave us when their incentives are gone. We are trying to take more control of our economic development destiny.”

— Pittsburg Assistant City Manager Jay Byers