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Sentient Science locates computational test lab, corporate headquarters in historic Butler Mansion in Buffalo

by jmaloni

Press release

Thu, Jun 13th 2013 04:00 pm

Sentient Science, a software and sensor company, has officially opened an advanced manufacturing, material genome and cutting-edge computational testing laboratory in Buffalo.

Sentient Science President Ward Thomas today was joined by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer via video, Empire State Development Regional President Sam Hoyt, NYSERDA President and CEO Frank J. Murray, City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise CEO Tom Kucharski, University at Buffalo Vice President for Research and Economic Development Dr. Alexander N. Cartwright and University at Buffalo Director of Center for Computational Research Dr. Tom Furlani at a press conference held at the company's new headquarters in the City of Buffalo at the University at Buffalo's Jacobs Executive Development Center. The news conference recognized Sentient Science's government and commercial partners for their support, as well as showcase its DigitalClone "Industrial Internet" commercial software services to U.S. and Canadian manufacturers.

Sentient's move from Idaho to the historic Butler Mansion in Western New York further strengthens the region's expanding material sciences sector. 

"For 10 years, Sentient Science has researched some of the toughest design problems our country faces in manufacturing, including Joint Strike Fighter, Blackhawk/SeaHawk and Apache Helicopters, and orthopedic implants," Thomas said. "These Small Business Innovation Research contracts paved the way and resulted in 10 successful validations with some of the largest and most successful companies in their respective markets, including Boeing, GE, Zimmer, Sikorsky and Honeywell. The validation proved that Sentient's patent-pending technology and business model was accurate and would significantly reduce physical testing costs and time, while improving accuracy. The capability, which Sentient calls DigitalClone, is now ready for commercial use.

"Over the past two years, with the help of the University of Buffalo, Sentient has built an 8,000-processor, cloud-oriented infrastructure to serve the world's largest material genome and advance manufacturing companies. Now, in Western New York, we are pleased to be open for business. Our model is ready-to-scale and serves two purposes: one, to provide the tools for companies to build their own DigitalClone models for on-site testing of machinery and equipment; and two, to reuse these models in order to lower the cost of ownership of these assets in the aftermarket. 

"Special thanks to Sentient's brilliant team of scientists and researchers led by Dr. Nathan Bolander, as well as to our private company and U.S. government funders and our OEM partners. We are happy to be in Western New York, and look forward to making significant efficiency and accuracy improvements across the advanced manufacturing industry."

In recent years, Schumer has played an important role in securing opportunities for Sentient to develop and utilize its technology at various federal agencies. From the U.S. Army to NASA, Sentient's technology has been utilized to help improve outcomes and lower costs for its federal partners, and Schumer has remained a strong advocate for Sentient throughout that process.

"For over a year, we have been saying that materials science could be one of the keys to unlocking our economic development future in Western New York," Schumer said. "Sentient's choice to move to Buffalo demonstrates what we have known all along - that if we invest in cutting-edge research, companies and jobs will follow. Furthermore, Sentient's expertise and their willingness to continuing to partner with UB and others will only help make our future applications for federal research dollars more successful, and will serve as an example to other companies that Buffalo is the place to be in materials science."

Sentient began developing its virtual testing technology, marketed under the DigitalClone brand, in 2001 to take the place of the manual testing of materials and components used in the manufacture of everything from helicopters to bridges, and medical devices to wind turbines. The items are tested with simulators and sensors to determine how the materials used in their manufacture will behave under various scenarios, as well as how they stand up to the stresses of use, their structural integrity, and how long it will take before they have to be replaced. This innovative technology has been validated by the federal government, including NASA, and is currently being used on a number of federal initiatives, including the Hubble Telescope, the new Joint Strike Fighter F35, and the Blackhawk, Apache and Super Sea Stallion helicopters. 

"Since 2001, Sentient Science has been committed to developing new technology that improves machinery, design, testing, manufacturing and maintenance," said Nathan Bolander, Ph.D., chief scientist and technology officer of Sentient Science. "Thanks to our partners in government, academia, and industry associations, we have amassed the world's finest experts in computational testing, material science and tribology, all working towards our overarching goal of improving the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and operation of machines. As a result, our technology allows companies to anticipate failures of equipment and machinery like never before, and adjust accordingly to create better, longer lasting products that should both improve their operational efficiency and create a better quality of life for consumers."

Through the first round of Cuomo's Regional Economic Development Councils, Sentient was awarded $811,534 in Excelsior tax credits to support its relocation and purchase of production machinery and equipment. Sentient will invest more than $10.5 million and create 86 new, full-time positions in Western New York. Sentient is locating its corporate head office at the Butler Mansion, and will add additional space in the City of Niagara Falls to accommodate growth beyond 70 people.

"Sentient represents exactly what Gov. Andrew Cuomo envisions as the economic engine that will drive the redevelopment of Western New York," said Sam Hoyt, Empire State Development's western regional president. "It is the type of innovation and growth that New York state needs to support and promote in order to create much-needed jobs and establish new research and manufacturing facilities in the state. The high-profile nature of this company will bring attention to Western New York, as well as new jobs, economic benefits and keep us on the forefront of new emerging sectors, such as renewable energy and material sciences."

To advance its ability to create computational simulations of mechanical devices, Sentient Science is drawing on the computational power of UB's leading supercomputer facility, the Center for Computational Research in UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences. CCR's staff and resources are an important addition to Sentient's existing computing resources, allowing the company to access the power of UB's supercomputers and the expertise of its research staff. The CCR may soon host some of Sentient's supercomputing clusters in its facility, marking a new milestone in CCR's mission to help foster economic development in Western New York. UB engineering faculty Thomas Furlani, Puneet Singla, David Kofke and others will be collaborating with Sentient scientists, as well, to develop innovations in the company's use of sensors and simulations.

Continues Thomas, "In many ways, Sentient's partnership with the University at Buffalo made great sense, and we thank them for their aggressive subsidies. Their amazing mansion allows us on-campus capabilities to align our research and processors for developing our technology with UB. Not to mention, the Butler Mansion has a steep history of innovation and growing technology. Recently, through UB's Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics, downtown Buffalo is growing with entrepreneurialism. Sentient encapsulates these traditions through our growth in innovation, entrepreneurship and helping other businesses succeed."

"Our partnership with Sentient Science is an exciting moment for their company, for our region and for UB's Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics, as we continue to build collaborations with industry that support the advancement of materials-based technology while bolstering Western New York's high-tech economy," said Cartwright, vice president for research and economic development at the University at Buffalo. "We congratulate the Sentient Science team on their move to Buffalo, and look forward to a long and successful partnership."

Sentient has also received $982,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to develop and put in place a system to test gear boxes in wind turbines. The company's sensors were installed in a demonstration project at Steel Winds in Buffalo in March. 

Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, the eight-county region's research, marketing and economic development organization, has been working with Sentient officials dating back to October of 2011 on everything from site selection to access to incentives. Its work on the project included coordination of Sentient's partnership with UB and other state agencies, and helped to secure the company's relocation to Buffalo.

"Sentient is a prototypical example of the kind of company whose emerging science will create the high-technology jobs of the future," Kucharski said. "The company's science offers tremendous potential for partnerships with research institutions in our community, and their decision to locate and grow here is further validation that Buffalo Niagara can, and will, be a destination for the kind of companies that will serve as the foundation of our innovation economy."

State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy said, "Western New York has a competitive edge on communities across the nation when you consider the expertise at our universities, the energy of our workforce, the growth of our advanced manufacturing sector, and the support of state government. Sentient Science recognized all our region has to offer, and their move to Western New York will generate new investment and job creation. It's a welcome boost for our economy, and will help position our region as a national hub for material sciences and other emerging technologies."

"I am extremely pleased that Sentient is moving its operation to Western New York, and even more so that it will eventually stay long-term in Niagara Falls," said State Sen. George D. Maziarz. "Their relocation will bring jobs and economic growth to this area, while establishing a new and innovative facility in the state. The incentives provided by the REDC and NYSERDA that helped bring this company here will be a large vehicle that will drive job growth throughout the region."

Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, "I welcome Sentient to New York state, and am proud they've chosen Western New York to locate its advanced manufacturing and cutting-edge computational testing laboratory. Sentient will tap into our region's strengths, including its wealth of academic and research institutions and highly skilled workforce. Manufacturing is not dead in Western New York. As today's announcement proves, we are well-positioned for high-growth in a globally competitive advanced manufacturing sector."

"We are excited that Sentient Science moved its headquarters from Idaho to Buffalo, creating jobs and spurring additional economic growth," Mayor Brown said. "This project adds to the remarkable progress underway in Buffalo, and is another example of the strong public-private partnerships made to produce the investment and results we need to further grow the Buffalo economy."

 "I'm pleased that a pioneering company such as Sentient has located in Western New York with funding from Gov. Cuomo's Regional Council initiative," Mayor Dyster said. "The leadership of Sentient remains committed to ultimately locating in Niagara Falls, and I could not be more pleased. In addition to the jobs and overall investment, Sentient's plan to establish an innovative research campus and manufacturing facility in Niagara Falls will support the growth of our area's clean energy economy."

Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair and University at Buffalo President Satish Tripathi said, "I am very pleased that we are able to connect Sentient Science's cutting-edge technology testing efforts with computer scientists, engineers and researchers at UB, and we are grateful for the support of the Regional Council in facilitating this relocation. Sentient will work closely with UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics and our Center for Computational Research, and will be a valued industry partner as we work together to create new technologies and innovations that improve the quality of life and boost our regional economy."

WNYREDC Co-Chair and Larkin Development Group Managing Partner Howard Zemsky said, "The Western New York Regional Council recommended Sentient for state support because we believe the company will be a significant catalyst for job creation and economic growth, as well as build on the region's strengths and competitive advantages, particularly in advanced manufacturing and energy. I welcome Sentient to Western New York and look forward to its long-term prosperity in our region."

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Kenneth Adams said, "Sentient Science will be a critical part of the region's material science sector. The company had the opportunity to expand and fully commercialize at other locations in other states, but chose Western New York due to the state's support, and proximity to a talented workforce, leading universities and unmatched resources. We welcome Sentient to its new home."

"Sentient's move to Buffalo demonstrates how Gov. Cuomo is continuing to build a vibrant cleantech economy through public-private partnerships like this one. NYSERDA's demonstration project has helped lead Sentient to a major commercial contract with First Wind, which will add more jobs to Western New York and could reduce the cost of wind energy across the nation," said Francis J. Murray Jr., president and CEO, NYSERDA. "Sentient has only been in New York for a few months, but the company is already off to a great start - and NYSERDA is proud to call itself a partner."

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