UARF, UA partner to help Saudis establish elastomer training institute


The University of Akron, through The University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF), has been selected as an international partner to work with Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and affiliates of ExxonMobil Chemical, the Technical Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) and the Saudi National Industrial Clusters Development Program (NICDP) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to establish a world-class elastomer technology vocational training institute. The High Institute for Elastomer Industries (HIEI) will be located in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia.

The HIEI will train KSA high school graduate participants to establish and maintain a highly skilled work force for the elastomer conversion industry. The institute will welcome its first class of trainees in September 2012.

The UARF and The University of Akron (UA) have been selected to provide the education and training components of the project, which will all be in English. UA's location in the "Polymer Research Capital of the World" provides unique access to resources that will support the training program of HIEI. UA's globally recognized leadership through the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering will be valuable as the institute develops and delivers its work force training programs.

Partnership makes the most of UA expertise

"This partnership represents a significant footprint for UARF Global Ventures and UA's international outreach efforts," said Dr. George R. Newkome, vice president for research, dean of the graduate school and president of the UARF. "The project leverages the expertise of UA's College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering education and materials research to support strategic work force development for the evolving global rubber conversion market. This initiative helps to strengthen the state of Ohio's global leadership in polymers and advanced materials and utilizes interested local polymer companies."

UA is offering "train-the-trainer" instruction in elastomer technology to Saudi engineers and chemists to become HIEI instructor-candidates. The project began in 2008 and is under way with the participants in their second year of training. Upon completion of the program, these participants will return to Saudi Arabia to assume various roles at the HIEI.

The HIEI elastomer technology vocational training program is the first global venture of this magnitude for UARF/UA. It offers a range of opportunities to work in close collaboration with international partners in the KSA and follows the path of other leading U.S. universities that have established strategic links with educational allies in Saudi Arabia and across the world. The project serves as an example of how UARF/UA are solidifying their reputations and contributions in the global marketplace.

Regional strengths go international

"This international collaboration demonstrates how UA is leveraging its regional strengths to the international marketplace," said UA President Dr. Luis M. Proenza. "It highlights UA's world-class excellence in teaching, research and economic development, which positions the Greater Akron area as a global cluster of excellence in polymer/elastomer technology – quickly becoming known as the Akron Model. And, just as the strategies of some countries hold important lessons for the U.S., so, too, can The University of Akron and other American colleges and universities assist countries around the world in the pursuit of successful science and technology strategies for economic development."

Training aspects of the project are being led by UA's College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering and are being supported by the resources of the Akron Global Polymer Academy (AGPA), the educational outreach arm of the college; the Akron Polymer Training Center (APTC), which, as the work force development division of AGPA, provides consulting and training services to the polymer industry worldwide; the UA Applied Research Center; and the University's English Language Institute.

According to Dr. Mark Foster, associate dean of the College of Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering and director of the AGPA, the APTC has served clients from companies abroad since its inception.

"This marks the entry of UARF/UA into the collaborative expansion of work force development programs that systematically address the needs of a whole industry in another part of the world," Foster said. "It is our inaugural effort in the collaborative establishment of a work force training program situated abroad and confirms UA's leadership in international elastomer technology training."

About The University of Akron Research Foundation

The University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF) was established in 2001 to promote, encourage and provide assistance to the research activities of University faculty, staff and students. Incorporated in the state of Ohio, this not-for-profit organization provides a means by which discoveries, inventions, processes and work products of The University of Akron employees and our community can be transferred to benefit the public, the University and its stakeholders. UARF aids technology-based economic development through its status as a separate corporation, which serves to support and commercialize university research. For more information, visit UA Research.