When solid rocket fuel innovator Adranos Inc. announced May 4 that it would expand its rocket motor research and development operations in McHenry, it was but the latest evidence that Mississippi had positioned itself as a national and global leader in R&D.
After announcing last September that it would open a location in McHenry, Adranos revealed in May 2021 that it will invest $1.35 million and create 25 new jobs with this latest expansion.
Located at the 640-acre, seven-building complex formerly occupied by General Dynamics, Adranos is testing next-generation rocket fuel. The firm cited the location’s proximity to Stennis Space Center and its compliance with all Department of Defense safety requirements for munitions handling as the primary reasons for selecting the site.
Both the Mississippi Development Authority and the Stone County Economic Development Partnership are providing financial incentives for the building improvements.
Once the 25 new positions are filled, the company will have 45 workers on site. “We are grateful for the continued support of Stone County and the state of Mississippi as we continue developing our high-performance solid rocket fuel,” said Adranos CEO Chris Stoker. “The McHenry location will provide us access to first-class facilities and an exceptional talent base to enable the growth of our rocket motor research, development and production operations for years to come.”
Gov. Tate Reeves welcomed the announcement by saying, “For decades, Mississippi has played a critical role in the nation’s space exploration efforts, and innovative companies like Adranos continue to provide lucrative careers in this exciting field to the citizens of our state. I am grateful for our partnership with the Adranos team and thank them for growing their workforce so even more Mississippians have the opportunity to be a part of the company’s innovative rocket fuel testing in Stone County.”
University Hubs Boost Innovation
Adranos is far from alone in using Mississippi as a launchpad for significant R&D investments. Ocean Springs-based Skylar Laboratories made a $200,000 gift to the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi’s School of Pharmacy in September 2019. Half of that funding is going to the discovery of new medicinal properties in plants.
Prior to that, Ole Miss had established a new center to advance translational science and engineering of graphene-based technologies — the Center for Graphene Research and Innovation. And across the state in Starkville, a $3.08 million grant from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center is advancing critical research at Mississippi State University in remote sensing and high-performance computing.
MSU, by the way, was notified June 4 that it ranked among the nation’s top 100 research universities and No. 1 in the state. Among all institutions in the National Science Foundation’s recently released Higher Education Research and Development Survey, MSU moved up six spots to No. 92 nationally with more than $264.5 million in R&D expenditures for FY2019, an increase of $20 million from 2018. An NSF top 100 research university for nearly two decades, MSU boasts 30 disciplines and subdisciplines ranked in the top 100 in the latest report. MSU also has reported an increase in R&D spending for six straight years, capping off a decade that saw MSU report $2.3 billion in total R&D expenditures from FY2010 to FY2019.
MSU ranks in the top 15 nationally in both agricultural sciences (No. 12) and social sciences (No. 15). MSU has ranked in the top 5% of all universities for agricultural research for roughly 20 years. Also, the eighth year in a row, MSU leads all Southeastern Conference schools in social sciences research funding. MSU ranks first in the state with 4,044 research personnel, including 605 principal investigators.
Over the last 10 years, higher education R&D expenditures in Mississippi have grown from $443.6 million in FY2010 to $535.8 million in FY2019. In FY2019, the next largest R&D expenditures came from Ole Miss ($158.8 million) and the University of Southern Mississippi ($76.5 million).
Ron Starner is Executive Vice President of Conway Data, Inc. He has been with Conway Data for 22 years and serves as a writer and editor for both Site Selection and the company's Custom Content publishing division. His Twitter handle is @RonStarner.