The US Center for Automotive Research (CAR) announced Thursday that it will be the lead agency in a $1.47 million grant under the federal “Make It In America Challenge” to boost the use of bio-based materials in cars. Partners in the effort include the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, the Macomb-St. Clair Workforce Development Board and the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences.
“Our project, ‘Building Capacity and Capability in the Bio-Based Materials Manufacturing Sector,’ will build and expand on this distinctive combination of assets to support job creation and attraction of domestic and foreign direct investment in the agricultural manufacturing sector, as well as greater development of a supply chain for bio-material products to support the U.S. automotive industry,” said Kim Hill, director of the Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies group and project lead at CAR.
The federal grant will enable further development of a bio-based product manufacturing cluster as well as build potential ties and enhance existing relationships with the auto manufacturing sector. The Biotech Partnership proposes to provide specific and specialized technical assistance to firms within the sector, and provide skills training for unemployed, incumbent, and new entrants in bio-based materials development with automotive industry applications.
The project is also expected to provide technical assistance to Michigan companies through access to high performance computing tools for modeling and simulating bio-based materials. The project’s goals are to build employment and facilitate new investment in bio-based materials manufacturing — specifically targeting automotive supply chain small- and medium-sized manufacturers.
Further, the project will emphasize training strategies for Michigan workers along recognized career pathways. The project encompasses a contiguous 22-county area in southeast Michigan.
The history of biobased automobile parts begins early in the development of automobiles themselves. According to a research led by the US Department of Agriculture, “during the 1930s, automobile pioneer Henry Ford began developing soy-based automobile parts. Research in the development of biobased products was short lived. A focus on production of World War II related materials limited efforts to continue research. Today Ford and the other automotive manufacturers are demonstrating a commitment to create biobased car parts”.