GE Aviation, Ohio’s leading exporter with thousands of employees in the Greater Cincinnati region, needs highly qualified engineers with specific experience in order to keep pace with changing workforce needs and to meet the demands of rapid industry growth.
Engineering students at the University of Cincinnati need the right type of hands-on experience, coupled with their academic training, if they are to land jobs in the highly competitive aerospace industry.
The University of Cincinnati needs first-in-class facilities and cutting-edge research if it is to attract the best minds from around the world as students and faculty.
Ohio needs to strategically and effectively develop and manufacture technology if it is to continue to build on its rich history of success in the aerospace industry and create high-paying and lasting jobs for its citizens.
All of these needs came together in a historic partnership between GE Aviation and the University of Cincinnati Research Institute (UCRI).
The collaborative partnership, announced at the end of October, will create the GE Aviation Research Center in Evendale, Ohio, and offer students and faculty the opportunity to tackle the next generation of material and engineering challenges in state-of-the-art facilities.
GE Aviation is investing nearly $100 million in the joint research project, and an additional $6 million to fund 19 student and six faculty researchers. UCRI is committing $1 millon over the next three years to purchase the necessary equipment.
David Linger, president and CEO of UCRI, said he is excited about this important and critically needed collaboration between higher education and business.
“Business investment and collaboration in the past has tended to be rather ad hoc, with alumni connections and other relationships playing a key role,” Linger said. “This partnership, in contrast will focus investment in a specific area in terms of talent, infrastructure and expertise. This long-term strategic focus is then something GE and the aerospace industry can count on in their planning and not worry about duplicative investment.”
Rick Kennedy, GE Aviation media relations manager, said this is the talent pipeline his company needs.
“Our industry is highly competitive and our growth means an even greater need,” Kennedy said. “We view this as great way to train engineers who not only have an excellent classroom education but also the direct experience of working in the lab on real world GE projects.”
Both sides reap the benefits.
“There is nothing like being able to drive down I-75 and be in the lab talking to students and faculty face to face,” said Linger. “Students will be embedded in facilities, working on equipment and addressing challenges that companies like GE Aviation are facing right now. This is invaluable experience that will allow UC students to hit the ground running. That is a powerful asset in the job market.”
UC has developed an approach that seeks out businesses to better understand the skills and talents they are looking for in order to better align training and experience with real-time demands and challenges. The university’s long history of co-ops has helped it to foster relationships with the business community and to be proactive in seeking input. And it is paying off.
“This incredible collaborative agreement will allow the university to develop state of the art labs and facilities which will have an impact beyond the work being done by GE,” said Dr. Teik Lim, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Cincinnati. “At the same time, it takes our already powerful relationship with GE to another level.”
The state of Ohio also recognizes the importance of the aerospace industry to the state’s economy. UCRI received a Third Frontier grant in 2012 that will be used to purchase equipmentfor this initiative. And the work of UCRI has the potential to serve as a model for research, technology development and transfer, as well as education, training and workforce development. Its flexibility and adaptive structure makes it easier to forge relationships and reach agreements similar to this one.
“This project is already bringing a great deal of media attention and prestige to our university, our region and the state of Ohio,” Dr. Lim said. “It has the potential to position the region as the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the Midwest for the aerospace industry.”
The collaboration between GE and UCRI expands and bolsters an already successful aerospace industry in Ohio. Ohio’s “Aerospace Arc” runs from Cincinnati, including the University of Cincinnati, UCRI and GE Aviation, north through Dayton, with further collaboration between GE and the University of Dayton, as well as Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and over to The Ohio State University, which hosts GE-funded engine fan and materials research. Ohio is the number one supplier for aerospace companies such as Airbus and Boeing and the sector’s workforce includes more than 36,000 Ohioans.
Public-private partnerships involving businesses, higher education and state investment are increasingly critical components of economic growth and development at the local, state and regional levels.
The partnership between GE Aviation and the University of Cincinnati is an example of how collaboration can bring state of the art research and facilities to the higher education community, meet the workforce and research and development needs of industry, and bring high-paying jobs and investment to the region and beyond.