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City a composite ‘epicentre’

"ô Boeing to announce consortium "ô Will involve international partners

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Aerospace giant Boeing is hosting an event in Ottawa next Tuesday to announce a national advanced composites manufacturing consortium that will be run by Winnipeg's Composites Innovation Centre.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/05/2010 (4631 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Aerospace giant Boeing is hosting an event in Ottawa next Tuesday to announce a national advanced composites manufacturing consortium that will be run by Winnipeg’s Composites Innovation Centre.

CIC staff have been working on the project — called the Canadian Composite Manufacturing Research and Development consortium — for more than a year. It is part of the CIC’s efforts to expand its operations by bringing in more third-party players to work on research projects.

Last fall, the CIC announced $11.6 million in funding for the next four years from the provincial and federal governments, doubling the budget it had for the previous four years.

CIC’s executive director, Sean McKay, said the long-term plan was for the research centre to wean itself off public-sector funding.

This new consortium will be a step in that direction.

“Sean McKay has worked extremely hard at pulling this together,” said one Winnipeg business executive familiar with the CIC who asked that his name not be used. “He has an innate ability to identify where there are some potential opportunities and put forward the right process in place in order to bring it to fruition. He’s very good at that.”

The concept for the consortium was explained in a CIC newsletter issued after its annual general meeting last fall: “Its primary purpose is to develop and demonstrate composite manufacturing technologies for the aerospace industry with potential for spinoff to other sectors such as wind energy and ground transportation.”

The other members of the consortium have not been named, but one source said the companies are international in scope. According to information already released about the project, the National Research Council’s Institute for Aerospace Research will be involved as technology adviser.

The Boeing involvement is from its Boeing Defense Systems division and not Boeing Canada Technology, its Winnipeg division. Boeing has been an important partner with the CIC since it began in 2003.

The fact the announcement is being made in Ottawa may be an indication Boeing’s participation will serve to fulfil some of its regional industrial benefits commitment the company makes when the Canadian Forces purchase military hardware.

The Canadian Forces agreed in 2006 to buy four Boeing C-17 Globemaster heavy-lift aircraft for about $1.8 billion. As part of that deal, Boeing agreed to spend that much again for work and research in Canada.

The CIC will act as the co-ordinating body, but the research will not all take place in Winnipeg. Sources say the CIC would identify the appropriate partners that could do certain types of work around the projects that will be identified. “You need an epicentre,” said the source.

The creation of the consortium may well kick-start the CIC’s efforts to secure a larger space. It operates out of a 5,000-square-foot facility in Smartpark at the University of Manitoba’s Fort Garry campus. It occupies an additional 3,000 square feet in other locations around town and is even doing work out of a portable trailer. McKay has been looking to secure funding to build a 20,000-square-foot research centre.

One of Winnipeg’s best-kept secrets since its inception in 2003, the CIC has become a significant player — nationally and internationally — working with industry and academia to commercialize manufacturing technologies associated with composite materials.

Composites are lightweight, extremely strong materials made by embedding glass fibres, carbons and even bio-fibres into plastic resins.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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