ACMA has a long history as an effective advocate for the composites industry in Washington. For many years the focus was primarily regulatory in nature, assuring that federal requirements for composites manufacturing are sufficiently protective but not overly burdensome. We maintain this focus to this day, but about five years ago we agreed we can do more. We decided to leverage federal legislation and policy to open and grow markets for composite products. In other words, rather than play defense we chose to play offense. Of the many sectors where composites compete, infrastructure was a natural target for our efforts since the government owns or finances much of the assets and the performance upside of composites compared to the traditional competition is substantial.
Since we began down this path, our success has been noticeable. Of the past six major infrastructure bills approved by Congress, all have included innovation provisions in large part driven by ACMA efforts. We have launched and continuously grown our annual Infrastructure Day fly-in, and ACMA members have testified before Congress twice in as many years on composite infrastructure solutions.
In the last few months, however, ACMA’s advocacy efforts have reached new heights with two major accomplishments. The comparative lack of standards and design and durability data relative to traditional construction methods is a major barrier to broader adoption of composite solutions. Recognizing this, ACMA began a relationship with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to specifically identify these barriers in the standards space, and develop a pathway to clear these hurdles. To this end, leaders from both NIST and the composites industry collaborated on the development of a roadmap to overcome these barriers, which called for an expanded role for NIST to do research and education that will help grow the standards database. This was important by itself, but we’ve taken it one step farther.
After aggressive advocacy by ACMA members, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which oversees NIST, has designated $11 million for composites research and standards at NIST. ACMA is continuing to aggressively work with Congress to see this provision signed into law this year, and we are optimistic about success. This infusion of resources will generate an important body of knowledge that will allow composites to be specified and used in major infrastructure projects to a degree as yet unseen.
Our crowning achievement to date, however, came in early August 2018 with the introduction of the Innovative Materials for America’s Growth and Infrastructure Newly Expanded Act– or IMAGINE Act. The premise of the IMAGINE Act is simple – whether you use composites or another material, when it comes to infrastructure investment in America we can do better by building better.