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UTC Employs Tax Credits to Defy Gravity With New Research Lab

UTC can use the tax credits based on investment here and a commitment to stay in the state for 15 years.
Credit Harriet Jones / WNPR
Governor Dannel Malloy gets a lesson in high temperature composites as he tours the new lab.

United Technologies Aerospace Systems has opened a new worldwide research lab in Windsor Locks, the first part of a multi-million-dollar investment spurred by a state tax credit deal. 

So what do you do in a Materials and Process Engineering Lab? UTC Aerospace Systems' head of engineering David Carter explains it this way. "When an airplane takes off, basically you’re defying gravity," he said. "And what we always care about is how heavy the materials are, and how strong they are. So we want the strongest materials that are the lightest weight, and this is the place where we develop that."

The 20,000-square-foot lab, housed at UTAS's headquarters next to Bradley Airport, hosts expertise and equipment to study additive manufacturing, high temperature composites, and nanotechnology, among many other disciplines.

Michael McQuade, UTC’s chief technology officer, said this is intended to be a global resource for the company, both solving problems from the field and driving cutting-edge research. "UT Aerospace has 160 facilities around the world," he said. "What we’ve done here is take the deepest analytical capability to support all those people and put that in one location."

The lab also features a close partnership with UConn. UTAS has established a five-year, $1 million Materials Engineering Center of Excellence at the university, and both faculty and students will be allowed access to the facilities at the MPE lab. 

The university’s Provost, Mun Choi, said at a time when UConn has doubled its admissions in engineering disciplines, it's an exciting collaboration. 

"It is a tremendous opportunity for our faculty members who are doing very innovative work that is at the foundational level, to have the practical application of working on products that may fly on a gas turbine engine that is powering a jet liner. And also for our students to really work with engineers on real world, practical problems," Choi said.

Credit Harriet Jones / WNPR
Nanomaterials is one of the specialties of the new lab.

United Technologies made this investment in part because the state of Connecticut cut a deal with the company back in 2014. UTC would be allowed to exercise $400 million of the research and development tax credits it had built up, as long as it invested here and made a commitment to stay in the state for 15 years.

Governor Dannel Malloy helped cut the ribbon on this new lab Thursday. "In my line of work you have good days and you have bad days, you win some and you lose some," he told the employees. "But the most important investment that we have made alongside a company, I would argue in the history of the state of Connecticut, is this new relationship between United Technologies and ourselves."

Two more major investments are still in the works for UTC: a new headquarters building and engineering center for Pratt and Whitney in East Hartford, and new labs at the UTC Research Center. 

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