Brit Svoboda is president of Advanced Infrastructure Technologies, Inc. (AIT) and the recent winner of the ASCE Charles Pankow Award for the Bridge-in-a-Backpack design collaborated with AEWC at the University of Maine. Here he discusses the trends and growth of the composites industry.
What advantages have you noticed to using composite materials?
I am a business man by trade, not an engineer. I started working with bridges two years ago and absolutely noticed an advantage to using composite materials. It’s what drew me to composites originally; it really grabbed my attention. There are some inherent values that come with working with composites, such as versatility and innovation, versus competing materials.
What is the main focus of AIT and how does it apply to composites?
Advanced Infrastructure Technologies, Inc. (AIT) represents bridges but it also represents composites, therefore its focus is two pronged. We’d like to expand our exposure into the market for bridge sales and design as well as create a market understanding for composite materials.
How did AIT and the Advanced Structures and Composites Center of the University of Maine’s collaboration begin?
I have a development background and had been involved in horizontal development in the building industry for a number of years. For me there was a significant level of interest in an expanding opportunity for the investment portfolio. I am an alumnus from the University of Maine and I was struck by Dr. Habib Dagher’s application of composite materials in the wind energy sector.
What would help the composites industry expand in the bridge market?
There are several legislative issues that make it difficult for new products to become mainstream. Research and development is no longer a problem but there is a shortage of funding and legislative support for implementation. To some extent, the level of safety outweighs innovative products. It comes down to the acceptance of change in the U.S. and bringing this technology to the mainstream market. A change of latitude within the bureaucracy for adoption of composite materials would help the composites industry expand. I love this country and would love to see it pick up new entrepreneurial technology and re-instill that desire to implement, innovate and get new products to the market. The more composites are accepted in the broad industry, the easier it is to sell our products. Every time someone from the composites industry wins a contract, it broadens the horizon and it’s a win for everyone—even if it’s our competitors!