Russian firm to use UMaine bridge technology at Olympics

Posted Nov. 19, 2010, at 12:15 p.m.
**FILE**In this Oct. 7, 2008 file photo, Habib Dagher, director of the Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center at the University of Maine, poses at the school's testing laboratory in Orono, Maine.  On Monday, Aug. 17, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will come to Maine for a firsthand look at Dagher's composite shell technology that is used to build small bridges in just one day.  (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, files)
Robert F. Bukaty AP
**FILE**In this Oct. 7, 2008 file photo, Habib Dagher, director of the Advanced Engineered Wood Composites Center at the University of Maine, poses at the school's testing laboratory in Orono, Maine. On Monday, Aug. 17, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will come to Maine for a firsthand look at Dagher's composite shell technology that is used to build small bridges in just one day. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, files)
Andrey Andreev, strategic development director with Russian-based Noviy Proekt, takes a photo of bridge components before the start of Friday morning's press conference at the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Russian and local officials announced a business partnership to implement the university's Bridge-in-a-Backpack technology at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea. In the foreground are  Advanced Infrastructure Technologies board member Elita Kane, left, and AEWC director Habib Dagher, right. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
Andrey Andreev, strategic development director with Russian-based Noviy Proekt, takes a photo of bridge components before the start of Friday morning's press conference at the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Russian and local officials announced a business partnership to implement the university's Bridge-in-a-Backpack technology at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea. In the foreground are Advanced Infrastructure Technologies board member Elita Kane, left, and AEWC director Habib Dagher, right. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
Seated between Advanced Structures and Composites Center director Habib Dagher (partially obscured), and Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue, right,  Andrey Andreev, left, strategic development director with Russian-based Noviy Proekt, reacts as he is introduced during Friday morning's press conference at the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Russian and local officials announced a business partnership to implement the university's Bridge-in-a-Backpack technology at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
Seated between Advanced Structures and Composites Center director Habib Dagher (partially obscured), and Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue, right, Andrey Andreev, left, strategic development director with Russian-based Noviy Proekt, reacts as he is introduced during Friday morning's press conference at the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center. Russian and local officials announced a business partnership to implement the university's Bridge-in-a-Backpack technology at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
Novij Proekt Strategic Development director Andrey Andreev, second from left, was all smiles as he shook hands with local and federal officials following Friday morning's press conference at the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center. On the right were Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue and Advanced Structures and Composites director Habib Dagher. A partnership was announced to implement the university's Bridge-in-a-Backpack technology at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)
Novij Proekt Strategic Development director Andrey Andreev, second from left, was all smiles as he shook hands with local and federal officials following Friday morning's press conference at the University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center. On the right were Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue and Advanced Structures and Composites director Habib Dagher. A partnership was announced to implement the university's Bridge-in-a-Backpack technology at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea. (Bangor Daily News/John Clarke Russ)

ORONO — Maine technology most likely is headed to the 2014 Olympic Games in Russia.

The Maine firm marketing the Bridge-in-a-Backpack construction model developed at the University of Maine signed a “memorandum of understanding” Friday with a Russian firm to use the technology in construction related to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea.

Representatives of Noviy Proekt, the Russian company coordinating the $1.5 billion construction at Olympic sites, and investors in Advance Infrastructure Technologies, or AIT, the Orono firm that licensed the technology, agreed to move forward with a deal that could create jobs in Maine and an international market for the Bridge-in-a-Backpack.

“This would provide a wonderful opportunity for creating Maine jobs and a historic opportunity to contribute to the success of the Winter Olympic Games,” Habib Dagher, director of the AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center, said at a press conference Friday to announce the agreement. “We are honored that Noviy Proekt, which I’m told means ‘New Project,’ is considering a UMaine-developed technology for the Winter Olympics construction.”

As part of the potential deal with Russia, AIT would provide design and engineering expertise, manufacture the elements of the bridges in Maine in partnership with other Maine companies, and export the bridge kits to Russia for construction at the Winter Olympics sites, according to AIT President Brit Svoboda.

Andrey Andreev, strategic development director for Noviy Proekt, said Friday through a translator that he and his colleagues would return to Maine in January to sign a contract for a pilot bridge project in Russia. Andreev said he first met with Dagher and toured the center this past summer. He returned this week with a Russian delegation that included engineers and researchers from his native land.

“It was very important for them to see this technology firsthand,” Andreev said at the press conference. “When we arrive back in Moscow, we will get down to the business of implementing this technology in Russia.”

Despite the use of translators Friday, Andreev said that communicating with Dagher had not been a problem

“We speak the same language — the language of science,” he said.

Dagher compared Andreev’s company, which employs more than 1,000 people, to Pittsfield-based construction firm Cianbro Corp. Noviy Proekt is also considering the technology for use in railroad bridge construction and other public infrastructure projects in Russia and neighboring nations.

Andreev said what first intrigued him about the Bridge-in-a-Backpack was the low maintenance the structures require because no metal is used.

“That avoids problems with steel and corrosion,” the Russian businessman said.

Officials from the state and federal governments praised the agreement.

“The theme that’s been chosen for the 2014 Games is a very interesting one — Gateway to the Future,” said Greg Nadeau, deputy administrator for the Federal Highway Administration. Nadeau is a former state legislator and lives in Lewiston.

“Whatever country you live in, transportation plays a vital part in shaping the future — allowing people and goods to move safely and efficiently, which is essential to helping any economy function and grow,” he said Friday. “In what I call this era of constrained resources, it is essential that we develop and deploy technology that can enable us to deliver projects faster, better and smarter.”

He cited Bridge-in-a-Backpack technology as an example of one way to meet that goal.

AIT, founded by Bangor native Svoboda, raised private financing and licensed the bridge technology. AIT hired engineers in Maine to design the bridges and is manufacturing them in partnership with Kenway Corp. of Augusta. Six bridges have already been built in Maine — five of which the Russians toured Thursday — using the center’s technology, and more are planned across the country.

“AIT is pleased and excited to welcome our guests from Russia,” Svoboda said Thursday. “It has been the goal of AIT to not only advance this Maine technology throughout the United States but to share this innovative and transformative technology globally.

“We continue to work closely with the USDOT, Federal Highway [Administration], state departments of transportation, counties and municipalities throughout the states, and we are making inroads with our product,” he continued. “The response to this product has been at times almost overwhelming with calls and e-mails from around the U.S. as well as countries from almost every continent. This potential relationship with Russia fits perfectly in our marketing plan for ‘Technologies Bridging Nations’ starting in the U.S., then bridging to other nations.”

The Bridge-in-a-Backpack is an innovative inflatable composite-concrete arch bridge that was developed at UMaime. The composite bridge system can reduce construction time and costs, potentially double the life span of bridges, reduce maintenance costs, and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of bridge construction.

ORONO, Maine — The Maine firm marketing Bridge-in-a-Backpack technology developed at the University of Maine Friday signed a “memorandum of understanding” with a Russian firm to use the technology in construction related to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea.

UMaine wins composites award
For the third year in a row, a technology developed at UMaine has been honored by the American Composite Manufacturers Association in its annual conference and trade show.

Representatives of Noviy Proekt are considering using the technology developed at the University of Maine’s AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center and marketed and installed by the private firm Advanced Infrastructure Technologies LLC in preparation for increased traffic related to the Olympics. The Russian company is also considering the technology for use in railroad bridge construction and other public infrastructure construction in Russia and neighboring nations.

Advanced Structures and Composites Center Director Habib Dagher and AIT President Brit Svoboda hosted the strategic development director of Noviy Proekt and the heads of bridge engineering and railway development for the Russian Railway at a news conference Friday at Dagher’s lab. Deputy Administrator Greg Nadeau from the Federal Highway Administration, Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Cole and MDOT engineers, representatives from Maine’s congressional delegation joined UMaine officials for the event.

As part of the potential deal with Russia, AIT would provide design and engineering expertise, manufacture the elements of the bridges in Maine in partnership with other Maine companies, and export the bridge kits to Russia for construction at the Winter Olympics sites, according to a UMaine press release.

“This would provide a wonderful opportunity for creating Maine jobs, and an historic opportunity to contribute to the success of the Winter Olympic games,” Dagher said. “We are honored that Noviy Proekt is considering a UMaine-developed technology for the Winter Olympics construction.”

The Bridge-in-a-Backpack, an innovative inflatable composite-concrete arch bridge, was developed at UMaime. The composite bridge system can reduce construction time and costs, potentially double the life span of bridges, reduce maintenance costs, and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of bridge construction. Six bridges have already been built in Maine — including one in Belfast the Russians visited Thursday — using the center’s technology and more are planned across the country.

Advanced Infrastructure Technologies, founded by Bangor native Svoboda, is an Orono-based firm that raised private financing and licensed the bridge technology. AIT hired engineers in Maine to design the bridges, and is manufacturing the bridges in partnership with the Kenway Corp. of Augusta.

“AIT is pleased and excited to welcome our guests from Russia,” Svoboda said earlier this week in the press release. “It has been the goal of AIT to not only advance this Maine technology throughout the United States but to share this innovative and transformative technology globally.

“We continue to work closely with the USDOT, Federal Highway [Administration], state departments of transportation, counties and municipalities throughout the states and we are making inroads with our product,” he continued. “The response to this product has been at times almost overwhelming with calls and e-mails from around the U.S. as well as countries from almost every continent. This potential relationship with Russia fits perfectly in our marketing plan for ‘Technologies Bridging Nations’ starting in the U.S. then bridging to other nations.”

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