07 Feb Composite Alliance of Rhode Island: A Year in Review
In 2017, the Composites Alliance of Rhode Island focused on strengthening our statewide sector. Tactics employed included a continued push in three key industry sectors that hold new-business opportunity for Alliance members, securing grant funding to develop a strategic plan, promoting the expertise resident in Rhode Island at industry events, building relationships both within and outside our organization, and cultivating a skilled workforce through training.
Below is an overview of the Alliance’s activities in 2017.
CONTINUED FOCUS ON KEY INDUSTRY SECTORS – Transportation Infrastructure, Defense and Architecture/Design were identified in 2015 as three areas that hold business opportunity for Rhode Island composites companies.
Transportation/Infrastructure: In 2016, the Alliance hosted a Transportation Infrastructure Workshop in partnership with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) and Polaris MEP. The daylong event drew composites and transportation experts and policymakers who together explored how composites have been used in infrastructure and the barriers and opportunities for increasing their use. A subcommittee of Alliance members and representatives from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) was subsequently formed, and the group has been meeting regularly. Their recent efforts are focused on a joint study by members of RIDOT and URI to look at potential uses in the Ocean State, with findings expected later this winter.
Architecture: This past summer, the Alliance worked with the Rhode Island chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIAri) to host a “Composites in Architecture” symposium, and local architects heard presentations by composites experts and academics about the use of composites in architecture. After the presentations, architects and composites experts took part in a lively question-and-answer session—and attendees came away with a better understanding of the composites capabilities resident in Rhode Island as well as the challenges of wider adoption of these materials. You can read our story on the Summit here. The Alliance now has an Architecture Subcommittee that focuses on this area.
Defense: In August, the Alliance and member companies also took part in Defense Innovation Days. Organized by the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA), this event brings together companies that are developing cutting-edge innovations with policymakers who are helping to steer the nation’s defense strategy. At the Alliance, we continue to follow SENEDIA’s activities closely and promote their programs to our members.
PROMOTING RHODE ISLAND IN THE GLOBAL MARKETPLACE – In 2017, the Composites Alliance organized a Rhode Island presence at JEC World in France, the world’s largest composites trade show that covers the whole composites value chain. This was the first time the Alliance organized a booth at the event, and the effort was coordinated with the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, in partnership with the Chafee Center for International Business, and the U.S Commercial Service in Providence and Paris.
STEP (State Trade Expansion Program) funding was used to offset the cost of the booth, making this a more affordable way for a handful of Rhode Island composites companies to exhibit and to establish a Rhode Island presence at the event. The Alliance is again organizing a booth for 2018 JEC World, which takes place in Paris in March.
FEDERAL PLANNING GRANT – In 2017, the Alliance teamed up with RIMTA (Rhode Island Marine Trades Association) and the Town of Bristol to secure a federal grant that is being used to develop a strategic plan for moving our Composites Innovation Cluster forward. Geographically efforts are focused on Bristol and the surrounding East Bay (Warren, Portsmouth, Middletown, Tiverton and Newport).
The grant has three phases, the first of which was an economic impact study of Rhode Island’s composites sector. This survey was already issued to Alliance members, and we do hope you participated; the resulting data will be a critical building block in our effort to gain a clear understanding of our sector’s economic impact on Rhode Island.
Phase 2 is conducting an infrastructure inventory of existing public and private assets, services and properties in the Bristol/East Bay area in order to better understand opportunities and possible constraints to economic growth for our sector. We are currently conducting this infrastructure survey, so if you are located in Bristol and the surrounding East Bay, please complete the brief survey here.
Phase 3 is a series of planning sessions with key partners to review results and identify needs, opportunities, and barriers to growth in order to create a strategic roadmap.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS – Building stronger partnerships and relationships both within and outside our organization is a critical piece of bolstering our sector. This year, we strengthened partnerships with a number of organizations, including AIAri, ACMA, RIDOT, Polaris MEP, and SENEDIA.
We also organize Catalyst Happy Hours for Alliance members. These are free, informal gatherings where you can meet other members, tour local companies, and update each other on the work you are doing. Our concentrated cluster of composites expertise sets us apart from other regions of the world, so we hope you will make it to one of these events.
Updates on the Composite Alliance’s activities are published in our monthly newsletter, which is sent to all members. We also post a handful of updates on our Facebook page each month, which you can find here. If you have any questions about the Composites Alliance of RI, please contact Wendy Mackie or Susan Daly.