General Electric has announced plans to invest $10 million with Purdue, in hopes researchers on the West Lafayette campus can help improve the company’s advanced manufacturing technology.
GE Director of Global Research Mark Little envisions a day where each part made in a GE factory includes sensors which communicate how well the part works. But that day is far in the future, he says.
It’s unclear what specific problems Purdue professors and students will try to solve in the short term, but President Mitch Daniels says he’s interested in the process of seeking funding from large companies to allow higher education to solve big problems.
“We are already hard at work, and this is just one of the better examples, at configuring ourselves so that we can be a superior partner for research sponsors like GE,” Daniels says. “And not leave it to chance from our end that the right person will make the right connections with the right external sponsor.”
Purdue Vice President For Research and Partnerships Suresh Garimella says the company has spent time identifying where Purdue researchers could be of the most help.
“What this particular center and the funding that goes with it will do is to have a coordinated approach towards addressing three or four key areas of GE’s interest,” Garimella says.
Little says it’s too early to say exactly what problems Purdue professors will tackle, but he says it’s almost certain that those from different disciplines – like various subgroups in the engineering school – will have to collaborate to solve the problems GE is trying to conquer.
Daniels says he hopes the partnership becomes and ongoing one, but Little says GE is developing benchmarks for the school to determine if ongoing investment is worthwhile for the multi-billion-dollar conglomerate.
A GE spokesperson says the project has been half-a-dozen years in the making. GE employs more Purdue students than any other company.