Warren Hunt

Last week, the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) turned two years old—a milestone that served as both a reason to celebrate the initiative’s building momentum and a time to reflect on what the ambitious public-private endeavor still needs to accomplish.

The White House kicked off the festivities with a press release and supporting fact sheet that highlighted a number of impressive accomplishments that have been and are continuing to be carried out across the materials community. Highlights include:

  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has committed $25 million over five years to establish a Center of Excellence on Advanced Materials to accelerate materials discovery and development. Especially beneficial will be the collaborative environment in which industry, academia, and government will be working together.
  • The University of Michigan, Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of Wisconsin-Madison have partnered together to “launch a national dialogue and begin work toward building a nationwide materials innovation accelerator network.”
  • A community-wide survey on access to materials data has been carried out cooperatively by the Materials Research Society (MRS) and The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS). Initial results indicate a willingness of the community to share data if “encouraged” as a term/condition for funding or publication.
  • NIST and ASM International have collaborated to establish the Structural Materials Data Demonstration Project (discussed in my previous blog post).

Another significant event—one that I was fortunate enough to attend—was the convening of the MGI Grand Challenges Summit. While taking the time to celebrate with a birthday cake in one presentation, this meeting focused largely on planning for the future of the initiative. Through our discussions, participants from industry, government, and academia identified the key challenges and opportunities where the MGI must focus its efforts in a number of integral materials domains, including catalysts, magnetic materials and superconductors, electronic and photonic materials, energy storage materials, and lightweight and structural materials. The perspectives gained at this summit will feed into the development of strategic plans that will guide the community over the next five to ten years.  Follow-up webinars and information sharing with the larger materials community is planned, as are future workshops focused on other materials domains, such as the soft materials and biomaterials workshop that is planned for the fall.

In a previous blog post I noted that the MGI’s deliberately decentralized approach could create a challenge if the materials community did not demonstrate an improved willingness to work together. Reflecting on the progress made at this two-year mark, I see some promising examples—such as the national materials innovation accelerator network and the data survey collaboration between MRS and TMS—but much independent activity is still continuing. The results of the Grand Challenges Summit and the emerging strategic plans should help to provide guidance and a force for coordination, both at the federal agency level and among the community at large. While this two year-old is showing great potential, it needs to employ even more collaboration in order to make significant progress by its next birthday.