In 1956, Elvis Presley released his first hit, Prince Rainier of Monaco married American actress Grace Kelley, and the Federal Highway Act was signed into law promising 41,000 miles of road improvements across the United States.
Under the radar, another milestone occurred: The University of Dayton Research Institute was born.
Starting with just 20 sponsored projects, those seeds have born tasty fruit. Today, the institute has grown to more than 1,000 sponsored projects, 400 employees and more than $96 million in research expenditures this year.
The university now ranks second among all American colleges in the amount of federal and industry-funded materials research it performs. It also ranks first in Ohio and among the top 30 universities for federally sponsored engineering R&D.
All the while, it has managed to do something no other university has done, according to UDRI Director John Leland: remain a not-for-profit arm of the university.
"There have been a lot of university research institutes," he says, "but all have spun off into separate corporate entities. The University of Dayton never spun this off," instead keeping full-time researchers on university staff, which "gives them the ability to give full-time attention to customers."
Projects can run from the simple -- analyzing why a part broke on a piece of machinery -- to complex -- analyzing how a bird brought that plane down in the Hudson River.
Besides its work helping companies develop new materials and scale them up for production, UDRI is also conducts research related to energy and the environment, aeropropulsion, structures, mechanical systems, sensors and how to improve the interface between human beings and complex systems.Source: John Leland, UDRI
Writer: Gene Monteith