- University of Southern Mississippi officials announced today a
partnership with award-winning nanotechnology company Hybrid Plastics,
which is relocating from California to Hattiesburg in a move to
expand its research and manufacturing capabilities.
Under the agreement,
Hybrid Plastics will establish a 1,500-square-foot laboratory within
Southern Miss's Shelby Freland Thames Polymer Science Building,
allowing both parties to collaborate in the research, development
and commercialization of POSS® polymers and derivative nanocomposites.
The parties also expect to establish a Nanotechnology Center of
Excellence at Southern Miss that will focus on applying nanotechnology
to industry and government needs by improving agricultural products,
cosmetics, electronic polymers, coatings, paints and composites.
the technology of both parties, Southern Miss and Hybrid Plastics
will enjoy a strong competitive edge in their ability to secure
funding from grant sources such as the National Science Foundation
and the Department of Defense," said Southern Miss President
Dr. Shelby Thames. "Obviously, this partnership is mutually
advantageous, but there is a greater benefit to the community at
large - from our own graduates, to the city of Hattiesburg, and
to the multiple industries that will be affected by this move."
the Area Development Partnership (ADP) and the Forrest County Industrial
Park Commission, funded in part by the city of Hattiesburg, are
supporting the construction of a 26,000-square-foot manufacturing
facility at the Hattiesburg/Forrest County Industrial Park. The
facility will be built with money borrowed from the Mississippi
Development Authority and then leased back to the company. When
completed, it will allow Hybrid Plastics to manufacture and provide
technical support for its award-winning POSS® Nanostructured®
materials. Based on silicon-derived building blocks, these materials
represent a revolutionary new nanotechnology that improves the thermal
and mechanical properties of traditional polymers. Producing no
odor or air pollution, they are biocompatible, recyclable, nonflammable
and competitively priced with traditional polymer feedstocks.
chief operating officer of Hybrid Plastics, said his company's desire
to move to Hattiesburg was threefold. "We wanted to affiliate
with one of the top 10 polymer science programs in the country,"
Hagstrom said of Southern Miss' internationally renowned School
of Polymers and High Performance Materials.
we wanted the ability to build a pilot plant where we could scale
up R&D samples to true manufacturing quantities. To have this
kind of facility located where we are doing our research is ideal.
Finally, Mississippi is a business-friendly state, and we have all
the amenities in Hattiesburg that we can get anywhere else in the
country," he said.
currently employs about a dozen scientists. However, once its manufacturing
facility is completed, the company's economic forecast suggests
it could create as many as 25 new jobs by 2006, said Gray Swoope,
president of the ADP, which helped negotiate the relocation to Hattiesburg.
These newly created positions would be "highly skilled, next-generation
jobs," Swoope said.
is so different from anything we've ever done," Swoope said.
"Nine Ph.D.s are moving in, with their spouses, so it has a
huge economic impact immediately just based on that. Not to mention
the research dollars that will be coming in to Southern Miss because
of this company."
move is also the first step toward the university's goal of luring
high-tech companies to its proposed "innovation and commercialization
park," launched jointly with the ADP and funded in part by
a $2 million grant secured recently by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
Once completed, the park - to be built on part of the 500 acres
owned by the university near Classic Drive - would house a variety
of research-intensive projects with commercial viability.
Miss is a global leader in many fields of research, and we must
use this leadership position to attract high-paying employers, such
as Hybrid, to our region," said Dr. Ken Malone, chair of the
Department of Economic Development at Southern Miss.
A polymer scientist
by training, Malone praised the company's commitment to the area
and said it could result in polymer science graduates from Southern
Miss finding jobs here in Mississippi. With a dearth of high-tech
opportunities in the polymer profession in this state, many graduates
from Southern Miss must go far and wide to find employment, something
Hagstrom witnessed firsthand on a recent trip to San Francisco.
into a nurse from Hattiesburg," Hagstrom said, recalling an
incident earlier this year. "When I asked her what she was
doing in Northern California, she said her husband was a Ph.D. graduate
in polymer science from Southern Miss who couldn't find a job locally.
With our move to Mississippi, we're hoping to help change that."
Dr. Joseph Lichtenhan, Hybrid Plastics is a spin-off from the U.S.
Air Force Research Labs. Using a new chemical feedstock based on
Polyhedral Oligomeric Silsesquioxane (POSS®) molecules, Hybrid
Plastics provides a variety of property enhancements to existing
resin systems. These POSS® molecules are hybrid organic-inorganic
nanostructures averaging 1.5 nanometers - or one-billionth of a
meter. POSS® nanomaterials can be used both as direct replacements
for conventional plastics or as performance additives, making them
lighter, stronger and more environmentally friendly.
has won many industry awards for its research and innovation. Among
these awards are a $2 million grant from the Department of Commerce
acknowledging the significance of this nanostructured chemical technology
and its potential to significantly impact the U.S. economy; and
the 2002 Collaboration Success Award, presented by the Council for
Chemical Research for best collaboration among business, academia
synergy of efforts among Southern Miss, Hybrid Plastics and ADP
demonstrate with a concrete example how our university is committed
to driving research and innovation to the marketplace," said
Dr. Angeline Dvorak, vice president of research and economic development
at Southern Miss.
Plastics understands that this university is a very different animal
than most universities. We don't just speak about innovation and
economic development; we live it. They are here because of it. Our
local economic development alliance with ADP makes all of this possible."