Wichita State University (WSU) has announced that it has reached a historic agreement with one of the world's leading aerospace companies. WSU, through its Wichita State Innovation Alliance Inc., has signed letters of intent with Airbus Americas to locate the company's Wichita engineering center in a new building on the university's Innovation Campus.
“This commitment by Airbus, one of the world’s leading design and manufacturing companies, represents a major step forward for our students and state,” said WSU President John Bardo. “This secures WSU’s future as a global center of engineering and will encourage other world-class firms to locate on our campus.”
Airbus will move from its current location in downtown Wichita, bringing around 400 employees to campus and many opportunities for applied learning in aerospace engineering.
“We intend to take full advantage of WSU’s applied learning strategy,” said John O’Leary, vice president of Airbus Americas Engineering. “Our intent is to partner with WSU to develop the strategy to the point that it is recognized as the benchmark program in the country.”
“Airbus’ presence on campus will allow them quick and easy access to our research and testing labs, faculty expertise and student employees,” said John Tomblin, vice president for research and technology transfer.
In recent years, Airbus has strengthened its relationship with the university, especially the National Institute for Aviation Research. In addition to contracting recurring composites and manufacturing training for its employees, Airbus recently performed full-scale structural testing of an A350 XWB pylon structure in NIAR’s Aircraft Structural Test and Evaluation Center. The pylon was designed by Airbus’ Wichita engineering office, and the test was the first of its kind to be conducted outside of the company’s European facilities.
Airbus’ commitment to the Innovation Campus is the largest so far. Wichita State has also announced significant Innovation Campus commitments from NetApp and the ABI Group. Future partnership buildings may be either single tenant or multi-tenant, depending on market demand.
Wichita State’s Innovation Campus concept was introduced in January 2014. The university formed the Wichita State Innovation Alliance Inc. to work with companies, investors and governments to develop the new 120-acre portion of campus that was previously home to Braeburn Golf Course.
“The Innovation Campus is a significant asset for the region and leverages the tremendous capabilities of Wichita State to help grow our state’s economy,” said Gov. Sam Brownback. “The first industry partnership building is an exciting step for the Innovation Campus, and I look forward to additional announcements in the future.”
The development firm MWCB LLC, led by David Murfin, Nestor Weigand Jr., Ivan Crossland Jr. and Steven Barrett, will finance and manage the project, known as Partnership 1. It will include a 2-story, 90,000-square-foot building and adjacent parking.
The building, which Airbus expects to occupy in January 2017, is located north of 17th Street, close to NIAR and WSU’s new Experiential Engineering Building and Community Maker Space. It was designed by GLMV Architecture and will be built by Crossland Construction Co.
In addition to Partnership 1 and the Experiential Engineering Building, the university is in discussion with developers for an Innovation Campus residence hall and for a mixed-use group of buildings that might include a combination of restaurant, retail, service and hotels near 21st Street North and Oliver.
The Wichita State Innovation Campus concept was created as a mechanism to achieve the goals of the university’s Strategic Plan. Those goals include applied learning; interdisciplinary curricula; accelerating the discovery, creation and transfer of new knowledge; empowering students to create a campus culture that meets their needs; and reflecting the evolving diversity of society.
Plans for Airbus’ downtown office space will be announced at 10 a.m. Tuesday, March 31, at Wichita Downtown Development Corp.’s Design and Innovation Center, 505 E. Douglas.
“The decision by Airbus to relocate to campus frees up prime space in Old Town,” said WDDC President Jeff Fluhr. “I’m very pleased with the plans we’ll announce next week.”