University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
Skip to Content
UBNow

News and views for UB faculty and staff

Campus News

SPIR grants provide access to UB engineering talent

SPIR funds can be used to partially pay for undergraduate or graduate students working on short-term engineering projects. Phoro: Douglas Levere

By TRACY PUCKETT

Published March 12, 2015

“The SPIR grant is an excellent, cost-effective way to access engineering talent.”
Timothy Leyh, executive director
UB TCIE

Ttarp Co.’s two-year development of a cutting press hit a snag a few months ago.

The project required the use of a recently installed computer-aided design program that’s not easy to learn. Ttarp President Joe McNamara didn’t have the spare manpower to train an employee on the software.

Instead, he found an out-of the-box solution: McNamara engaged a UB engineering student who knows the program.

How did he do it?

McNamara took advantage of a grant available through UB TCIE to small and mid-sized companies in New York State. The Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence (SPIR) program lowers the cost for technical assistance provided by the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. 

“We’re a small business. I don’t know if we would have done it without it,” McNamara said of SPIR.

Western New York companies facing similar challenges — whether they lack adequate manpower or time or expertise to rectify a recurring issue or pursue a technical-based goal — can apply to SPIR.

Grants of up to $25,000 may be awarded to a variety of organizations including, but not limited to manufacturers, financial institutions, government entities and nonprofits.

SPIR funds can be used to partially pay for undergraduate or graduate students working on short-term engineering projects, which typically last 12-16 weeks.

Funds also may be applied toward the one-semester TCIE Engineering Fellows Program. An outstanding master’s degree student or PhD candidate completes up to three engineering projects identified by the host company. Fellows work 20 hours per week on site for a total of 320 hours. Fall or spring placements are available.

“The SPIR grant is an excellent, cost-effective way to access engineering talent,” says Timothy Leyh, UB TCIE executive director. “It also provides an avenue for companies to ‘test’ a potential future hire.”

The student working at Ttarp has collaborated with welders, machinists, engineers and others on the factory floor to iron out obstacles as he digitizes an evolving product design. The student also identified the most likely failures by using the software to simulate press operations and compiled a book detailing standard press line work procedures.

“It’s a low-risk option to accomplish some good technical work without taking on permanent overhead until the demand justifies it,” McNamara says. “It’s a great way to fill in a technical capacity bubble.”