Danto Engineering Development Center jump-starts Michigan's "new economy"

Wayne State University's College of Engineering today announced the official opening of the Marvin I. Danto Engineering Development Center (EDC). The $28 million, 82,500-square-foot facility for traditional university research also will provide engineering services to help companies accelerate their own R&D activities.  Detroit philanthropist and Wayne State College of Engineering alumnus Marvin Danto donated $3 million to augment state funds that made construction of the center possible.

According to Wayne State College of Engineering Dean Ralph Kummler, the EDC's opening is timely given that recent advances in alternative energy, nanotechnology, biotechnology, smart sensors, advanced propulsion and other "translational" research areas are emerging as potential antidotes to a faltering state economy.

"The Danto EDC represents the first interactive, academic-business model that has emerged to promote economic development in Michigan," said Kummler. "Given Wayne State's unique specialization in automotive engineering, we are confident in the EDC's ability to become a major part of Detroit's natural transition from a predominantly manufacturing-based to a new knowledge-based economy that leverages our automotive expertise into emergent sector technologies and applications." 

Kummler added that the EDC is a training ground for Michigan's future engineering workforce. At the EDC, graduate and undergraduate engineering students will work directly with chemists, engineers, physicians, physicists and a broad spectrum of scientists on multidisciplinary research intended to translate into job creation and economic development. 

"The center focuses our energies on high-promise industry growth sectors and gives the business community a tangible way to accelerate its current R&D activities as well as create new, high-tech companies," he said. "Through the EDC, the College of Engineering has a renewed sense of purpose as it strives to build an indigenous skilled workforce and the jobs that will support it."

Industrial research and development activity at the College of Engineering has exploded over the past decade, but space constraints limited the College's R&D potential, Kummler says. The Danto EDC will house several of Wayne State's top-ranked research programs in emergent sector technologies including:


Smart Sensors and Integrated Microsystems (SSIM) -- SSIM is a leader in the research and development of biotechnology applications that include micro-systems for artificial vision, real-time cancer detection and other biological and neurological implants and smart sensors.

Advanced Propulsion Alternative Energy (APAE) - The APAE labs seek to advance research in biofuels and diesel fuels, fuel cells, emissions and vehicle wear automotive systems. The APAE lab is partnering with the College's National Biofuels Energy Lab at NextEnergy to develop the best formulation for a standard "B-20" biofuel that consists of 20 percent biomass. B-20 biofuel has been hailed as one solution for reducing America's dependence on foreign oil. NextEnergy, a state-sponsored nonprofit created to forge academic and industry partnerships in alternative energy, is headquartered at Wayne State's TechTown business incubator.

Nanotechnology - The EDC's new Nanotechnology Lab will conduct advanced research in surface science, tissue engineering, drug delivery and biomaterials.

WSU Transportation Research Group - The EDC is ground central for 25 faculty and student researchers investigating ways to reduce traffic congestion and improve traffic and pedestrian safety.

Partnership for the Advancement of Collaborative Engineering Education (PACE) Student Teaming Center - PACE, a consortium of industry partners and universities, supports Wayne State's College of Engineering with more than $408 million in computer-based engineering tools. The EDC's PACE

Student Teaming Center is a hub for education-focused interdisciplinary research. In the EDC, students will have their own studios to design, build and test entries for engineering competitions. The current Formula SAE racecar team will soon take over this area, but it will be available for all future student design competition projects.

A sleek, modern window into the world of advanced research and technology, the three-story EDC facility features modular labs, "teaming" spaces and display areas. Architects used a large courtyard outside the College of Engineering to integrate the new building into the college's existing space, and sophisticated engineering research labs are visible to passersby on Warren Avenue.  "The open windows into the Danto EDC are intended to intrigue, excite and invite the curiosity of the campus community," said Michele Grimm, associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Engineering.

The facility's design, intended to facilitate collaboration among multiple engineering disciplines, is expected to earn a "silver" certification, the second-highest rating a building can receive for sustainable energy and environmental design, from the U.S. Green Council.      

"As Michigan's only urban research university, Wayne State is at the epicenter of Detroit's economic transformation," said Wayne State University President Jay Noren. "The Danto Center substantially increases our ability to help restore Michigan's reputation as a hub of research and development, train a technologically savvy workforce and make Detroit an example of renewal for America's other great cities to follow."

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