The Texas A&M University System is touting a new kind of research contract to help funnel private dollars into the public institution.
The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station has signed a memorandum of understanding with Tenaris, an oil and gas tubing company. The MOU is indefinite and essentially allows the company and university system to share resources.
Luxembourg-based Tenaris is a public company that began in Argentina. It has manufacturing facilities in 10 countries, where it produces 2.7 million tons of welded pipes. About 26,500 people are employed by Tenaris worldwide.
The company's latest expansions have been close to College Station -- its U.S. headquarters is in Houston. In 2013, Tenaris announced the construction of its first U.S. seamless pipe mill in Bay City and a rods facility in Conroe.
Kathy Banks, the system's vice chancellor for engineering and dean of Texas A&M's Dwight Look College of Engineering, said she helped broker a deal with company executives after being introduced by Phil Adams, chairman of the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents.
"What we're doing here that's unusual is that this is a comprehensive partnership," Banks said. "We decided we didn't want to go the route of just having one research project here or there or a small connection with a faculty member and Tenaris. We decided we wanted it much broader than that. We decided on an umbrella MOU for educational programs, outreach programs and research."
Tenaris gets access to A&M researchers, and its employees can be trained by A&M through workforce development programs; A&M researchers get private dollars to work on "real world" problems, and Aggie students get to study at Tenaris facilities all over the world.
The company has pledged to sponsor student educational activities and will accept A&M students into its global internship program.
Banks said a steering committee of A&M engineering administrators and Tenaris officials will meet quarterly.
"In the college of engineering, we have never had a comprehensive agreement with industry like this before where it is truly A-Z everything we do," Banks said. "It's more than just research funding, it's a partnership. And that's exactly the type of partnership we want to develop with industry in the future."
The agreement does not mention specific projects or the amount of funding to A&M, Banks said, and she declined to speculate on how profitable the partnership could be. So far, the university system hasn't received any money from the partnership.
"They're a global company. They're growing and doing extremely well," Banks said when asked how much research funding could flow into A&M from the agreement. "I just don't know at this point. I do believe it has the opportunity to be extremely successful."
Germán Curá, president of Tenaris North America, expressed his excitement about the partnership in a press release.
"We look forward to combining Tenaris's practical knowledge and expertise with the resources and fresh perspective of the faculty and students of Texas A&M University," Curá said. "Tenaris has always believed that no matter how much we invest in technology, what's important is how much we invest in the human element and in the communities where we operate. This agreement is a logical step forward in our commitment to education and innovation, and we look forward to continued partnership with Texas A&M."