Research & Development

October’s Academic Highlight

Technology-based economic development, recognized as an important economic driver in the Governor’s Energy Roadmap, should be considered a potential growth area for Mississippi’s energy economy.

The Mississippi Polymer Institute (MPI) at the University of Southern Mississippi is one model of success. By connecting research, development, and testing capabilities with industry demands, MPI has established itself as a unique and value-adding asset to the state in the ever-growing, high-tech polymer arena.

In July, MPI became an accredited laboratory through the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation by meeting the transitioning their laboratories to ISO / IEC 17025 compliant spaces. This accreditation is important and beneficial to industrial clients seeking lab services. This makes MPI one of the few mechanical testing labs in the Southeast that is fully available for commercial testing with the ISO / IEC 17025 compliance, providing a platform for advanced testing.

With this accreditation, MPI increases its attractiveness as an industry partner. To learn more about MPI, click here.

Mississippi IHL Now Accepting Applications for SMART Business Act Rebate Program

The SMART Business Act (Strengthening Mississippi Academic Research Through Business Act) was established during the 2013 Legislative Session and was created to stimulate private business investment into university research. Applicants who are approved by the Mississippi Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) will be eligible for a rebate equal to 25 percent of the total qualified investment cost, not exceeding $1 million.

The application period for the first round will be open from September 9th, 2013 through November 7th, 2013. Any person, business, limited liability company, association, or other business entity is eligible to apply after entering into a new research agreement with a Mississippi Public University. Priority will be given to applications focusing on the areas of healthcare, energy, and advanced manufacturing.

Applications and more information can be found here.

Energy-Focused High School Curriculum Seeking Expansion in State

We fully support the expansion of Mississippi State University’s high school curriculum courses designed to encourage students to pursue energy sector careers. Bureau of Labor Statistics data confirms that energy jobs are quality jobs in Mississippi – they paid an average annual wage of $63,456 in 2010. The curriculum developed by Mississippi State will not only promote the creation of jobs, but will also encourage the generation of “high quality” jobs. Read more about the energy-focused high school curriculum developed by Mississippi State here.

State University Conducting Methane Hydrates Research

The Mississippi Energy Institute will highlight one academic institution and the research it is conducting in the energy field each month. This month, we took a look at the University of Mississippi.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal covered the prospects of methane hydrates as a future, significant source of energy. Methane hydrates are molecules of natural gas trapped in an ice-like cage of water moleculas and are abundant under the ocean floor. Did you know the University of Mississippi is active in researching this horizon energy opportunity? The University’s Mississippi Minerals Research Institute (MMRI) has access to the only research reserve in the Gulf of Mexico. This hydrates observatory on the seafloor is located less than 10 miles from the Deepwater Horizon and can provide access to existing hydrates at the surface and in the sub-surface. This access has led to a significant area of research for the University, and as this resource is potentially developed, the University of Mississippi is positioned to be a leader in commercialization.

The MMRI has also recently compiled extensive Mississippi gas and oil data free for use to researchers, geologists, energy companies, and others interested in Mississippi’s energy resources. This information is provided as is, with no guarantees as to its accuracy and validity. The site is designed for use by researchers and companies looking to develop prospects in Mississippi.The well log database is organized by County, Township and Range and allows a user to download the scanned logs in the collection as a single file. Access the logs today at meis.mmri.olemiss.edu

For more information, contact Greg Easson, Director and Professor of MMRI, at geasson@olemiss.edu.

HB 826 Enriching State’s Commercialized R&D

Over the past several decades, Mississippi has been home to very little private R&D and technology commercialization activity in the state’s energy sector.  While many major corporations have branch operations and a presence in the state, no major corporations (Fortune 500) are headquartered in MS, which may explain, in part, the lack of private R and D investment in the state.  Therefore, the role of Mississippi’s research universities as innovation engines is critically important.  With the passage of HB 826, the state recently took an important step to both attract private R and D capital and encourage more public/private research activity at the four research universities – Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi, Jackson State University, and University of Southern Mississippi.

Under the new law, a corporation collaborating with a state university for research and development purposes, including energy-related research, is eligible for a 25 percent rebate of the total research costs. Hopefully, this incentive will encourage companies to tap into the of energy related expertise and resources available within Mississippi’s research institutions.

Hot Topics at the Institute

Energy Intensive Manufacturing: The shale revolution has made America the most energy rich country in the world, when counting all domestic energy sources. Because of this advantage, energy intensive manufacturers worldwide looking to expand are looking in the U.S. and some are reshoring in the U.S. after stints overseas. With the myriad of interstate natural gas pipelines and robust electric power generation and transmission, Mississippi is uniquely positioned for manufacturing expansion. A reliable supply of energy is a critically important requirement for long-term investments, so how does Mississippi leverage its energy supply to attract industry? Related News:
http://www.kiplinger.com/article/business/T019-C021-S005-manufacturing-bouncing-back.html

Energy Workforce: Energy related jobs in Mississippi pay about twice the private sector average. While the national economy is sluggish, one of the bright spots is energy, and Mississippi has a good reputation as a place for energy investment. To keep up with workforce demand in an ever-changing and more technology-oriented energy sector, special attention to workforce development in the energy sector makes sense considering the high wages in this industry. If Mississippi’s goal is to expand its energy sector, including energy-consuming manufacturing, an adequate workforce pipeline system is required. Related News:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/realestate/commercial/houstons-boom-is-led-by-the-energy-industry.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1360880051-/o5Tz4gDAQuQV3NvcEGfwA

Nuclear Power Industry: In the early 1980’s, the federal government rightfully adopted a policy to establish a consolidated storage and management system for nuclear fuel used in nuclear power plants. Thirty years later, very little progress has been made. To position itself as a nuclear energy industry leader, Mississippi communities should consider the economic opportunities associated with consolidated fuel storage. Technology options today and on the horizon include fuel reprocessing, small modular reactors, and fast reactors or other advanced reactors. Wherever the location, consolidated fuel storage could attract tremendous investment and nuclear industry activity (i.e.high-paying jobs) and is worth serious consideration as a major economic development initiative. Related Commentary:
http://us.arevablog.com/2013/01/14/doe-adds-voice-to-choir-for-used-nuclear-fuel-management-reform/

Research and Development: While the four Mississippi research universities perform well in various energy related research fields, Mississippi as a whole has had very little private R and D or technology commercialization in energy. For sustainable economic growth, innovation is required, and if Mississippi can stake a reputation in technology development over time, a long-lasting economic impact will be the result. Related News:
http://ncbiotech.org/article/battelle-study-shows-strong-nc-bioscience-growth/3322

Shedding Light on the Strengths and Weaknesses of Mississippi’s Energy Economy

As Mississippi considers energy as an area of focus for economic development, we must understand Mississippi’s energy strengths and weaknesses in order to leverage our strengths and fill gaps in critical areas of weakness. Below you will find examples of one strength and one weakness.

In today’s cautiously expanding economy, the shale revolution has been a very bright spot in the economy, maybe the only bright spot. Oil and natural gas production from shale formations has truly been a game changer for the U.S. economy and without it over the past several years, who knows where the economy would be today? Possibly back in recession. One area of strength for Mississippi is the abundance of interstate natural gas pipelines passing through the state. Why is this a strength? Because it gives our state the ability to access enormous natural gas supplies needed for manufacturing. The shale revolution and abundant U.S. energy supply provides the opportunity to see a resurgence in manufacturing, especially energy intensive manufacturing. Hopefully, our leaders in Washington, D.C. will embrace this and not waste away the opportunity with onerous regulations and taxes that send jobs to our global competitors. Mississippi policy and development efforts should consider how to leverage our natural gas assets for manufacturing expansion.

As with most any area of the economy – telecommunications, healthcare, agriculture – technology in energy continues to change rapidly, offering more and better options to the marketplace. Technology development in energy is focusing not only on how we get energy but also on how we use it. The sheer size of the market drives technology development for those looking to capture a small share of an economic necessity. In 2010 dollars, the size of the world energy economy was $6.5 trillion, so capturing 0.1% of the market is a $6.5 billion proposition. The point is, with global demand ever climbing and a competitive economy always looking for better solutions and lower costs, technology development in energy is very active. The problem is, Mississippi has a poor record of attracting private R and D capital, and thus, has poor metrics in recent years for technology commercialization. Publicly funded research at universities has resulted in good public research capacity, but private R and D activity is quite low. If Mississippi is to play a significant role in tech-based economic development, the ability to attract private R and D and commercialization capital must be considered.

MSU-CAVS Design Team Lauded

MSU Chevy MalibuMississippi State University’s advanced vehicle technology student design team has created a re-engineered Chevy Malibu that earns more than 118 mpg and has a 60-mile all-electric driving range. The team’s ECOcar was on display in Washington, D.C. during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The festival highlighted accomplishments of land-grants around the nation and Mississippi State University was one of 17 universities represented on the mall.