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Team led by UTEP Wins
NSF Regional Innovation
Engine Award

The U.S. National Science Foundation selected a proposal led by the Aerospace Center and W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation at The University of Texas at El Paso’s as one of ten winners for its inaugural Regional Innovation Engines Award. This transformative economic development investment by the NSF into the Paso del Norte Region is for up to $15 million over two years with potential to receive up to $160 million over 10 years. The winning NSF Engine: Paso del Norte Defense and Aerospace Innovation Engine will drive a manufacturing renaissance in the Paso del Norte region by creating a public innovation infrastructure to manufacture, commercialize, and deploy new aerospace and defense technology. The project will increase America’s competitiveness and create broadly shared economic prosperity in the region.

The Aerospace Center and Keck Center invested over two decades building their research preeminence and in building the coalition of local and regional governments, nonprofit organizations, and private companies that will power the NSF Engine: Paso del Norte Defense and Aerospace Innovation Engine. The steadily growing group of partners—working as the Innovation in Defense and Aerospace (IDEA) Engine Coalition—has a demonstrated track record of success. Smaller projects helped the group coalesce and develop their shared vision for the Paso del Norte region. In 2022, the coalition won a $40 million grant from the Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge program.

IDEA Engine Coalition

The NSF Engine: Paso del Norte Defense and Aerospace Innovation Engine will succeed because of the broadly shared support it has from across the Paso del Norte community: local and regional governments, academia, private industry, nonprofits, and community organizations. The Aerospace Center and W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation lead the coalition that includes these organizations.

 

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Paso del Norte Defense and Aerospace Innovation Engine

NSF Engine: Paso del Norte Defense and Aerospace Innovation Engine is working to fuel the growth of a dynamic aerospace and defense manufacturing sector in West Texas and Southern New Mexico. The collective vision of IDEA Engine’s collaborators is to leverage regional assets and strengths to:

  • Re-imagine the Paso del Norte region as an advanced manufacturing and knowledge-based economy.
  • Re-invent our economy to produce catalytic growth that increases the share of jobs in advanced industries in the region from 3.2% to 25%.
  • Re-deploy our manufacturing capabilities to support U.S. aerospace and defense industries.
  • Re-build our talent force with next generation STEM skills for aerospace and defense manufacturing.

The U.S. is lagging our strategic competitors in maturing and taking to market critical defense technologies. In addition, the U.S. innovation apparatus is highly concentrated with significant structural barriers to bringing applied research to market. Too often quality applied research that could advance aerospace and defense systems lies dormant in laboratories and research and development firms.

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The Paso del Norte Defense and Aerospace Innovation Engine will disrupt the traditional research and development process by creating broad and affordable access to innovation. With funding from the NSF, small and medium manufacturers, early-stage manufacturing businesses and engineering design firms in the Paso del Norte region will gain access to a Public Innovation Infrastructure that fosters engineering and manufacturing innovation with a creative, open innovation ecosystem. The infrastructure will empower these companies to drive an innovation process that responds to market demands. This model will also accelerate the impact of innovation in the marketplace through open and affordable access. This Public Innovation Infrastructure will include access to the research capabilities of the Aerospace Center and Keck Center, digital engineering technology and software and flight testing capabilities at Spaceport America.

Funding from the NSF will also create the Aerospace and Defense Technologies Training Centers that will prepare high school students and residents earning less than a living wage with a pathway to the middle class through employment in aerospace, defense and advanced manufacturing.

Contact

Be part of the Big IDEA!

 


Personnel

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Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President
Mr. and Mrs. MacIntosh Murchison Chair II in Engineering
Professor, Aerospace Engineering

Dr. Ahsan Choudhuri founded the Aerospace Center in 2001 as the Combustion and Propulsion Research Lab. The organization grew from its first $20,000 grant from the Department of Energy to its current  multi-million dollar research budget with support from the research capacity and infrastructure building MIRO grant from NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP). Dr. Choudhuri—an Associate Vice-president and Professor of aerospace engineering at UTEP—continues to lead the organization today, focusing on the Center’s strategic partnerships and growth. In 2022, he led a team to win a $40 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Build Back Better Regional Challenge program. Dr. Choudhuri is the Principal Investigator for the NSF Engine: Paso del Norte Defense and Aerospace Engine project.

 

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Ryan B. Wicker, Ph.D., P.E.
Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Mr. and Mrs. MacIntosh Murchison Chair I in Engineering
Director, W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation
Director, America Makes Satellite Center
Editor-in-Chief, Additive Manufacturing, an Elsevier Journal

Dr. Ryan Wicker is the executive director of the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation and a Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Wicker’s areas of expertise include additive manufacturing processes, applications and materials. Additive Manufacturing (AM -- more popularly known as 3D Printing) fabricates a 3D structure with complex geometries directly from a file defined by computer-aided design. The Keck Center focuses on research to enhance these technologies to include the ability to print multi-functional structures with electronics, sensors, antennas, fluidics, and thermal management to name just a few. Fundamental and applied research is required specifically in AM processes, materials and applications. Dr. Wicker is Co-principal Investigator on two transformative economic development grants: the NSF Engine: Paso del Norte Defense and Aerospace Engine project and a Build Back Better Regional Challenge grant from the EDA.

 


“This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. National Science Foundation.”

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