Friday, November 3, 2023
  Grants, Science and Technology, Research, Awards

By Maria Gonzalez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – NOV. 3, 2023 - UTRGV hosted the inaugural meeting of its America's Additive Foundry (AAF) Consortium, an initiative funded by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense's Local Defense Community Cooperation (OLDCC) program.

Partners discussed the consortium's vision: ensuring a secure supply of vital defense metals for the United States using advanced manufacturing methods.

Dr. Li outlined AAF's vision to secure the U.S. supply of tactical alloys through additive and intelligent casting
During the meeting, Dr. Li outlined AAF's vision to secure the U.S. supply of tactical alloys through additive and intelligent casting. Pictured from left are Dr. Jianzhi (James) Li, director of AAF, Dr. Ala Qubbaj, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Karen Bass-McFadden, DoD OLDCC grants management specialist. (UTRGV photos by Jesús Alférez)

They also reviewed AAF's efforts in research, technical support, business development and workforce training, particularly for small manufacturers.

Dr. Jianzhi (James) Li, UTRGV President Endowed Professor and founding director of the UTRGV Manufacturing Center and the AAF Consortium, emphasized the initiative's significance.

“We are in a golden era to revitalize U.S. manufacturing excellence through advanced research, development, and high-tech manufacturing processes and materials,” he said. “The AAF is just the starting point of something that will provide many opportunities. Together, we will foster research and development, workforce development and business growth to support the national priority of securing the supply chain of tactical alloys.”

He said the AAF Consortium is set to transform the region by providing educational opportunities for UTRGV students and the community, along with creating high-paying jobs.

AAF partners, faculty, students, and DoD OLDCC representatives
Dr. Jianzhi (James) Li, director of the AAF Consortium, gave a tour of UTRGV research facilities. Shown are AAF partners, faculty, students, and DoD OLDCC representatives, including Karen Bass-McFadden, grants management specialist, and Mary Beth Greiner, project manager. (UTRGV photos by Jesús Alférez)

“We have a great plan,” Li said. “First, we will provide opportunities for our students in research, create a workforce program, and also provide certificate programs both for high school and college-level students.”

Through this program, AAF plans to engage 20 college students in the first year of the grant, with a commitment to training up to 80 students over the five-year grant duration.

The program also aims to provide workforce training opportunities for community members, to help enhance their manufacturing skills, with AAF set to establish the region as a pivotal contributor to defense manufacturing and innovation.

“The AAF consortium will serve as a critical cornerstone in reaching this goal and we expect this project will transform the region,” Li said.

Participants took a tour of UTRGV's state-of-the-art manufacturing and research facilities at CAMICS, which offered an overview of the university’s innovative technologies.

Dr. Farid Ahmed, assistant professor of Manufacturing and Industrial Engineering and a faculty fellow of the AAF Consortium, highlighted the importance of the consortium.

“If you look back five to 10 years ago, these events were not happening here,” he said. “This means that agencies are actively working to foster manufacturing activities for the future, and our UTRGV graduates will be prepared and at the forefront to lead the manufacturing workforce in the United States.”


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.