Energy and environmental issues will have significant impact on industry in the future. Addressing these issues will require sustainable science and engineering. Sustainable solutions will reduce environmental impact (implementing green technology, improving energy efficiency, and reducing waste), improve long-term economics of industry, and safeguard the public health. Efficient development of sustainable solutions will require a multidisciplinary approach that integrates materials, modeling, and equipment issues in a team environment for research, development and applications work. Nobody currently combines modeling capability, materials suppliers, and equipment manufacturers in a concerted approach to research for development (R4D). These industries require solutions that are well-tested in full scale production and application modes, i.e., prototyping facilities that are not generally available in univeristy-based centers. These are the solutions that our new Institute has been created to pursue.
In the late 1980s, the foundation for the IR4TD was created during a working collaboration between UK researchers and Toyota management. The success of this initial collaboration led to recognition of a mission to share the knowledge originating from UK-Toyota collaboration with other companies and individuals. Accordingly, in 1993, the Industry Application and Engineering Science (IAES) program was formed within the College of Engineering to pursue solutions for the technical issues facing Toyota. At the same time the Lean Systems Program was formed as part of the UK Center for Robotics & Manufacturing Systems, to research the Toyota Production System (TPS) and disseminate the resulting knowledge base. These administratively separate but closely related entities pursued excellence and service in education and research, sharing their results internationally, thus benefiting both collaborators, Toyota and the University of Kentucky. Eventually, IAES and Lean Systems saw the benefits of a closer working relationship and joined to form IR4TD. Under the leadership of Dr. Kozo Saito, TVA professor in mechanical engineering, the institute also draws upon the expertise of faculty and staff from across the College of Engineering and from numerous international collaborators, including IR4TD alumni in industry and academia world-wide. To date, IR4TD has worked with a number of world-class companies and created two international branches, Sendai in Japan, and Amman Jordan for Middle Eastern operation.