Kansas State University has announced plans to build a new facility in Salina, Kansas, dedicated to the study of bulk solids material handling.

The Bulk Solids Innovation Center will benefit companies that use bulk solid materials or manufacture the systems that convey, store and dispense them, according to a press release.

The university will be the key tenant in the projected $3.5 million, 13,000-square-foot facility. Two local companies, Coperion K-Tron and Vortex Valves, will be initial anchor tenants, conducting both their own research as well as collaborative research with the university.

The center will incorporate K-State faculty expertise from technology, engineering and agriculture programs. It will focus on the process industries of plastics, foods and chemicals and will complement the College of Agriculture's Bulk Solids and Particle Technology Lab and program housed on the university's Manhattan campus.

The project will use both public and private sector resources, including a $1 million-plus grant through the Economic Development Assistance Programs of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration. Such grants are designed to leverage existing regional assets to support the implementation of economic development strategies that advance new ideas and creative approaches to advance economic prosperity in distressed communities.

Support is forthcoming from the Kansas Department of Commerce, the Salina Economic Development Incentive Council, Kansas State University and the private sector facility users. Support includes funds for construction, land, donated fixed equipment and operating expenses.

"The center is another vehicle for Kansas State University to engage with industry by doing what it does best, and that's offering solutions and answers based on the best research," said Richard Potter, director of corporate engagement for the university.

A facility and programs for bulk solids research are greatly needed, said Todd Smith, general manager of K-Tron Salina and vice president of K-Tron Global Systems. Very few bulk solid research centers exist in the world and this would be the only university-level research center for bulk solids in the United States.

"Industry leaders all over the country recognize that formal education and research in this area are lacking, and they need the improvements that this center can bring," Smith said. "A number of them already have research projects in mind, and they like the idea of having an independent center where they can send their materials for analysis and recommendations. Having Kansas State University lead the center is a great way to get the results we need."