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State Awards Nearly $140K For Pair of University Industrial Hemp-Related Projects

The commonwealth’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) has recognized two projects proposed by Thomas Jefferson University and local manufacturers as worthy of funding designed to “spur new technologies and processes in the manufacturing sector.”

Making the University’s role unique is that the projects—among 43 which received a total of $2.8 million in grants—are the lone ones focused on industrial-hemp uses. According to DCED Secretary Dennis Davin, the program “unites the commonwealth’s best and brightest graduate and undergraduate students with local manufacturers.”

In one project, the University will work with Coexist LLC, a Berks County based hemp farmer and hemp design/builder “to develop a line of hemp-reinforced polymer 3D printing filaments that are biodegradable, sustainable, and have superior mechanical and physical properties.”

In the other, the University will work with Eastern Hemp Company of Chester to “develop a line of hemp reinforced polymer composite injection molding pellets.”

The grants—each for $69,212—will help tie the commonwealth’s manufacturing and agricultural arms.

They offer the prospect of further establishing the supply chain for an industry which offers students careers in a 21st century industry with considerable room for growth, says Ron Kander, the University’s associate provost of applied science and the executive dean of the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce.

Kander also chairs the leadership committee of the Pennsylvania Hemp Steering Committee, which was established by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture as it works toward developing the commonwealth’s hemp program.

Kander says that committee works with a private sector’s All Together Now group which works to unite, and bring inclusivity to, rural and urban communities in the burgeoning industrial-hemp industry. (The University found its grant partners through All Together Now.)

Kander notes that University’s work in this area offers substantial benefits to students.

“To date, some 30 students have been doing this work over the past three years. We are putting students in an industry with projects they’re familiar with, and that are growing in the state, with lots of jobs associated with them,” says Kander.

“Talk about careers of the future: these are the careers of the 21st century with lots of room for growth, and we have students at the front end of that. I was thinking about what this supply chain will mean for students, and it was education, good experience and employment opportunities,” he continues. “The University is an esteemed member of this group, at a time when national attention is being drawn toward Pennsylvania. We are being recognized by the state as a significant player in this.”

Investors and experts have shifted away from CBD-related projects toward industrial-help projects because they offer lower risk and better long-term returns, notes Kander. Making it more appealing is the fact that farmers in Lancaster County and the surrounding areas are keen on growing hemp for industrial uses, as they see a potential financial boom.

“Manufacturing PA allows for collaboration between incredible minds and incredible manufacturing companies,” says Davin, the DCED secretary. “These partnerships engage Pennsylvania’s educational facilities and the business sector across the commonwealth to position our state for continued manufacturing innovation and success.”