By Jennifer Ferrero, APR

Innovations generally don’t happen by accident. In most companies, research and development is needed to create something new – and innovative. Often, innovations can be game changers; but most companies don’t have the resources to spend on development.

The rapid face of change in composites, aviation fuels, resins, unmanned aircraft, additives, and materials recycling, to name a few, have challenged industry to respond and improve. What industry needs are researchers.

Enter the The Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation (JCATI), a state-funded capital investment organization that works with industry, and university partners to conduct necessary research to move aerospace forward in Washington state.

JCATI started in 2012, in response to a need to keep Washington in the forefront in aerospace.
The organization now works with five of Washington’s universities to fund 12-15 projects per year.

Here’s how it works:

1. A company in Washington’s aerospace industry has a technology problem

2. A Washington public university with the expertise to solve the problem submits a proposal to JCATI

3. If the project is approved, the industry partner will financially participate, contingent on the overall budget for the project.

4. JCATI will award funding to the university for the project, from state granted funds, which will fund support for researchers, and for the program.

5. Students, from undergrads to PhD will have an opportunity to work on the industry-needed research project in the fiscal year.

The industry partner receives the newly minted technology to implement in their business (per a variety of licensing agreements).

According to Beth Hacker, program manager, JCATI is focused on industry growth, and helping industry partners to develop technologies. She noted that it can be difficult for industry to take time away from day-to-day production to develop a new technology. Industry is looking for support.

Western Washington University

Mark Peyron, Western Washington University (WWU), assistant professor of plastics and composites engineering is engaged with JCATI. Their industry partner is Zodiac Aerospace. They have 10-12 students currently working with JCATI and 50 students with affiliated research. JCATI awards money at the end of June for a university/industry project. Students are recruited to work on these projects as researchers in the summer. At WWU, they utilize almost all undergraduates, who then gain both work experience by working on real-life industry applications, to making presentations to their industry partner, and other industry stakeholders.

Students from WWU are getting great jobs in their fields because according to Peyron, “They are solving urgent problems in industry.”

Washington State University

Washington State University is also involved with JCATI, and in their case, they are working on solving an industry problem of what to do with materials and composites waste – recycling for the aerospace industry.

Karl Englund, WSU, associate research professor; WSU Composite Materials and Engineering center said that their industry partners, for the two projects they’ve had to-date, are Triumph Composites, and Boeing. Englund said, “The first project was from Triumph Composites, looking at their waste streams; turning those materials into something new.” WSU is also researching decommissioned aircraft and what to do with the old composites.

Englund noted about JCATI, “It’s a timely concept, and research need. The aerospace industry is getting more prolific, better design, models, materials that reduce the carbon footprint and materials is important. JCATI is there to provide assistance to see how it turns out.”

University of Washington

Dr. Chris Lum of the Aeronautics and Astronautics department said that their department worked with the Electrical Engineering deparment industry partner Insitu on “software defined radios for characterizing the wireless spectrum associated with UAS.”

They are currently working on a different project focusing on navigation and operation of UAS in GPS-denied environments.

The UW partners are Insitu, Hood Technology, Sagetech, and Advanced Navigation and Positioning Corporation (ANPC). Lum said they have 10 undergraduates in the current JCATI research programs.

Lum added that these projects are critical because, “GPS-denied navigation is a huge problem for the UAS industry right now since virtually all UAS rely heavily on GPS. Developing technologies that enable a UAS to operate in GPS-denied environments will give WA aerospace companies a significant technological advantage.”

It is because of JCATI that all of these research projects are possible. They provide funding and industry partnerships that bring resolution to some of aerospace’s biggest issues.

JCATI Award Recipient 
Cecile Grubb, Western Washington University 
Partnered with Zodiac Aerospace on Composites Project

Below are samples of the types of work being done with JCATI. In particular, the screen shot shows the benefits for Western Washington University through the partnership, which is also illustrated in the video.