The state’s legislative auditor is recommending the reauthorization of a state funded research collaborative designed to serve the aerospace industry.
The Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation was established by the Legislature in 2012 and given a $3 million biennial appropriation to fund seed grants for research at state universities. Since then, $9 million in total state funds have leveraged $7 million from industry partners participating in funded research projects and more than $22 million in additional extramural funds to support research. Some 109 projects with 64 aerospace companies have pursued advancements in areas such as aviation biofuels, power systems, composites manufacturing, space systems and more.
Aerospace companies in 13 Washington counties have participated, with at least one on each project, involving a total of 392 students.
Supportive of the legislation at the outset, WSU has been a heavy participant in funded research. Mary Rezac, Dean of the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, is also a member of the JCATI Board of Directors.
The center is scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2020. Before the Legislature considers reauthorization, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee is required to conduct a sunset review. A draft of the report was shared with the committee Wednesday in advance of a final report in December. Committee staff is recommending reauthorization.
The draft report indicates the center is meeting legislative intent by funding research, enhancing student education and working with Washington aerospace companies. It further states the center is unique, efficient and economical.
“In my seven years on JLARC, you don’t see too many reports that we checked every single box,” said Sen. Mark Mullet, an Issaquah Democrat who chairs the committee.
He reminded the committee that part of its charge is to make sure effective programs don’t get terminated and that its members are uniquely qualified to speak to JCATI.
“If we don’t speak up for that program it will get terminated. We have to carry that forward. I hope everyone keeps that in the back of their head as we approach the January session.”
You can watch Wednesday’s hearing here: