As one of the nation’s 31 Tech Hubs, the Critical Minerals and Materials for Advanced Energy Tech Hub, led by Missouri S&T, will soon be considered for a range of $40 million to $70 million in federal funding.
The university is currently hosting workshops to strategize on how to make the strongest case possible.
“At our recent workshop at S&T’s Kennedy Experimental Mine Building, we had a large turnout from academia, industry, workforce development and all levels of government who are supportive of this initiative,” says Dr. Kwame Awuah-Offei, executive director of the Tech Hub.
“We are one of only two Tech Hubs focused on critical minerals and materials, and it is imperative that we make it clear to the federal government why our region of Missouri is best suited for this major investment.”
The hub’s first workshop, held in mid-December, focused on strategic planning, construction of a test-bed to facilitate process development, workforce development, and business and entrepreneur development related to critical minerals and energy manufacturing. The hub’s focus is on acquiring and processing critical minerals and materials for advanced energy applications.
Over 400 applications were submitted to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to be one of the country’s Regional Innovation and Technology Hubs (Tech Hubs) funded through the CHIPS and Science Act. In addition to being designated as a Tech Hub, S&T was also awarded a $500,000 Strategy Development Grant for local planning and coordination to further develop regional economic development strategies.
Fourteen Missouri counties are part of the Tech Hub’s official region, including Carter, Crawford, Dent, Howell, Iron, Madison, Oregon, Phelps, Reynolds, Shannon, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Texas and Washington.
As one of the applicants awarded the Tech Hub designation, the S&T hub will be considered for the tens of millions of dollars in funding after submitting a Phase 2 application. These applications are due by the end of February 2024, with the EDA selecting 5 to 10 awardees after that.
If supported by EDA, Awuah-Offei says the test-bed facility will help reduce the cost and time necessary for critical minerals and materials manufacturers to test new equipment and scale up their process designs from bench to pilot scale.
From there, the hub’s leaders expect to see members of the CM2AE Consortium, which is made up of the hub’s primary stakeholders, develop demonstration plants for manufacturing and processing critical minerals and materials, followed by the eventual construction of full-scale plants.
“This will be a significant economic boost for our region, and it will impact the entire country,” Awuah-Offei says. “We anticipate the broader economic impact of this Tech Hub to be in excess of $40 billion dollars, and having EDA’s support will be key for making this a reality.”
Awuah-Offei says Missouri S&T is uniquely positioned for several reasons to lead the Tech Hub.
First, the university has been a leader in the field of mining, mineral processing and extractive metallurgy for over 150 years. Beyond that, there is a large workforce ready to serve in the thousands of good-paying jobs that will come to the region as a result of the new manufacturing initiatives.
Awuah-Offei says the Tech Hub also makes sense at S&T since Missouri is home to 29 of the 50 critical minerals identified by the U.S. Geological Survey, and the CM2AE Consortium has multiple members who are ready to work with the hub and strongly support the initiative.
S&T also hosts an annual Resilient Supply of Critical Minerals national workshop that is supported by the National Science Foundation, and the university was awarded $16 million from the Missouri Department of Economic Development for critical minerals research.
The Tech Hub’s next strategy development workshops will be Jan. 3 at the Doe Run Clubhouse in Viburnum, Missouri, and Jan. 19 at Mineral Area College’s Fredericktown Outreach Center in Fredericktown, Missouri.
For more information about the S&T hub, visit criticalminerals.mst.edu.
Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is a STEM-focused research university of over 7,000 students located in Rolla, Missouri. Part of the four-campus University of Missouri System, Missouri S&T offers over 100 degrees in 40 areas of study and is among the nation’s top public universities for salary impact, according to the Wall Street Journal. For more information about Missouri S&T, visit www.mst.edu.