Cutting‑Edge Carbon Science Centre Opens At Innovation ParkEven Centre County’s first major snowstorm of the season could not dampen the celebratory atmosphere of the 100‑plus university officials, business leaders, government representatives and community members who gathered at Penn State’s Innovation Park on November 15 to mark the grand opening of Morgan Advanced Materials’ new multi‑million dollar Carbon Science Centre of Excellence at Penn State’s Innovation Park. The new Centre of Excellence will pioneer research into carbon materials and technologies, drawing on the resources of Penn State and its faculty in a truly collaborative partnership that is the latest success in the University’s Invent Penn State initiative.

Connections Through Entrepreneurship And Innovation
Launched in 2015 by Penn State president Eric Barron, Invent Penn State is a $30 million dollar initiative “redefining the University’s land grant mission to include entrepreneurship and innovation programs, tools and resources that accelerate the movement of great ideas to the marketplace and make a substantial economic development in Pennsylvania and beyond.”
President Barron sums up the initiative’s mission, “Invent Penn State is aiming to drive job creation, economic development and student career success by connecting researchers with the people who help bring their discoveries to the marketplace.”


Through its Office of Industrial Partnerships, the University has sought to make these collaborations a solid reality by attracting research and development centres to Innovation Park. These partnerships give industry access to Penn State resources and faculty; and the presence of these centres helps keep Penn State on the cutting edge of innovation and development. The mutually beneficial dynamic of these partnerships are of particular benefit to companies like Morgan Advanced Materials, their chief technical officer, Mike Murray says, noting, “Penn State has an unrivaled reputation for innovation in this field, which we believe will add real value for our customers.”

 

Leaders In The Field
Morgan Advanced Materials was founded in 1856 by the Morgan brothers in London. The company’s initial success came from their use of graphite in a clay mix to produce a crucible that melted metal faster and lasted longer than any other product available at the time. Over the years, Morgan Advanced Materials has continued to grow, change and adapt. However, its focus remains where the same: engineering high‑performance materials and specialized products that offer reliable solutions to technical challenges and help customers achieve more with less.


Morgan’s CEO, Pete Raby, noted that an important component of Morgan’s business strategy for the 21st century was increased investment in research and development. To achieve this, Morgan began establishing research centres to refine current materials and develop new ones. These centres of excellence are dedicated to collaboration with academic institutions to develop advanced materials that are technically superior, cost‑effective and environmentally sound. The first centres were established in England in 2008 and 2015, and are focused on Morgan’s ceramic products. As Raby observed, the next logical step was to establish a centre for its carbon‑based materials. Through its Office of Industrial Partnerships and the Invent Penn State Initiative, as well as contacts with faculty involved in the study of carbon‑based materials, Penn State was well positioned to offer Morgan the facilities and support necessary for success, and Morgan was impressed with the quality and range of Penn State’s research into carbon‑based materials. As Andy Goshe, Morgan’s global technical director, noted, Morgan’s needs were a “good match with Penn State research.”

 

Built On Collaboration
As Jeff Fortin of PSU’s Office of Industrial Partnerships observed, “Relationships power these collaborations,” and the partnership between Morgan and Penn State was augmented by assistance from local government, and the Pennsylvania Governor’s Action Team, all of which worked together to advance the Carbon Science Centre of Excellence from a concept to a reality.


The reality came to fruition with the construction of 310 Innovation Boulevard. The 7.3 million dollar, 29,700 square foot building was designed and built by GLP Development Group, which is developing a number of sites in Innovation Park. GLP’s Robert Barron noted the single story, high bay building was designed to allow maximum flexibility for its occupants in configuring their space. Morgan is the first occupant of the building. They estimate the centre will create 25‑30 high‑tech positions once it's fully operational.


It was at this cutting edge facility that representatives of Morgan Advanced Materials, Penn State officials, local government researchers and business leaders gathered to mark the grand opening of the Carbon Science Centre of Excellence on November 15. The ceremony began with remarks from Morgan CEO Peter Raby.


Raby noted that establishment of the centre was the next logical step in Morgan’s investment in research and development, and that the Penn State partnership was crucial, not only in terms of location, but in the wealth of resources available, emphasizing that it was “a centre of collaboration.” He stated that the creation of the centre was not only an example of the benefits of such creative partnerships, but “for me, the opening of this centre is significant step for our company in the development of carbon‑based materials.”


Raby’s presentation was followed by remarks from Nick Jones, Penn State executive vice‑president and provost. Provost Jones echoed Raby’s observations about the benefits of collaboration between industry and academia. Reaffirming Penn State’s commitment to such creative partnerships, he observed such “partnerships are meaningful in advancing innovation and development.” Provost Jones’ remarks were followed up by Neil Sharkey, Penn State’s vice‑president for research, who praised the “ingenious power of partnership” in advancing technological and industrial development. He noted such collaborative business partnerships thrived best in a “fertile intellectual environment.”
Dr. Sharkey was followed by remarks from Morgan’s global technical director, Andy Goshe. Goshe emphasized that Morgan’s development of new materials had a positive impact on the world economy and environment. He noted that several of the products developed by Morgan have been used to provide potable drinking water in under‑developed areas in the world and reduce the carbon imprint on the environment. He observed that Penn State’s research into carbon‑based materials would be invaluable to their efforts and that Morgan was excited at the prospect of “filling this fantastic space with brilliant young minds.”


Closing remarks were given by Vern Squier, CEO and president of the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County. Squier reviewed the invaluable assistance provided by local business and the Governor’s Action Team in facilitating the partnership which resulted in the centre. He noted that bringing Morgan to Penn State not only benefited the partners involved, but the larger business community as well. He emphasized that business in the Centre Region was committed to assisting in the creation of these partnerships which have a “positive impact on our area, our businesses and our people.”


Following the formal remarks, a light‑hearted moment occurred when those on the speakers’ platform gathered for the ceremonial ribbon‑cutting. Morgan CEO Raby was presented with a large pair of ceremonial scissors with which to cut the broad ribbon. When the scissors failed to slice the ribbon on the first try, Raby quipped that the scissors “obviously weren’t made by Morgan.” Following the ribbon‑cutting, participants were served a light luncheon, followed by tours of the new centre. Those present were fascinated by the new facilities and the research that will be conducted. Despite the cold, inclement weather, the prospects for the future of the centre are bright and sunny, and the partnership that created it is a shining example of the positive global impact of such creative collaborations. As CEO Raby noted, the opening of the Carbon Science Centre of Excellence allows its collaborators to “seize the opportunity to advance the study of carbon‑based materials to better our world.” n