Auburn University signs research collaboration agreement with KITECH

Published: Dec 6, 2022 2:00 PM

By Joe McAdory and Amanda Salatto

Auburn University President Christopher Roberts signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) Tuesday, Dec. 6, with Nak Kyu Lee, president of the Korea Institute of Technology (KITECH) that will expand upon the collaborative research efforts of Auburn’s faculty and laboratories with local companies supported by KITECH.

Building on the signed MOU between the organizations in 2015, this newly expanded agreement includes the establishment of research and/or automotive technology support offices and laboratories, the creation of joint research projects and the exchange of technical information, periodic training symposia and consulting.

“As a land-grant university, Auburn aspires to deliver real-world, practical solutions,” Roberts addressed attending administrators and dignitaries at the ceremonial event held at the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center. “Through joint research efforts and projects, we can anticipate and meet the distinct needs of the automotive manufacturers and suppliers along the I-85 corridor that have strongly impacted our region’s economic climate. This partnership demonstrates an interchange of education, research, and service, with global implications.”

The agreement spelled out a number of desired outcomes:

  • Establishment of research and/or automotive technology support offices and laboratories
  • Exchange of scientific/technical research materials, publications, information, and advice
  • Development of mutually agreed upon collaborative research projects
  • Identification of technical barriers encountered and improvement needed by manufacturers
  • Provision of technical solutions using means and technologies available at both institutions
  • Creation of joint research projects to identify funding opportunities through governmental agencies; and
  • Organization of periodic symposia on manufacturing technologies and related subjects

As identified by President Roberts, the Interstate 85 corridor remains a hotbed for automobile suppliers. KIA’s 2,200-acre plant in nearby LaGrange, Georgia, produces more than 300,000 automobiles per year. Hyundai’s 3.4 billion square-foot plant just south of Montgomery, Alabama, is capable of producing nearly 400,000 vehicles per year.

“The Auburn-Opelika metropolitan area is an optimal region for joint research between the academia and industry in the automobile field,” said Lee, whose institution is an application-oriented research institute founded with the mission to support the industry sector, especially the innovation of small- to mid-sized enterprises. “We plan to embark on joint research with Auburn University on innovative manufacturing technology. We also plan to answer to the demands of parts manufacturers in the region by utilizing the infrastructure and other means available at both institutions.”

Auburn University Outreach will manage the current initiative and coordinates the details of the memorandum of understanding. Since 2015, the Office of Professional and Continuing Education, a unit of University Outreach, and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering have worked closely with KITECH on projects, including the “Korea US Automotive Technology Workshop” and various technology support and research projects.

“It is a great pleasure to not only continue this collaborative endeavor, but to expand upon it for the betterment of our stakeholders, community members and economic outlook,” said Royrickers Cook, Auburn University vice president for University Outreach and associate provost.

“The relationship between Auburn University and KITECH is longstanding, and we in University Outreach and the Office of Professional and Continuing Education are proud to be a part of this impactful collaboration. As we embark upon emerging electronic vehicle technologies, the expanded partnership positions each of us at the forefront of innovation, technological research and the promotion of economic development in the state of Alabama and beyond. KITECH’s values align well with Auburn’s land-grant mission of Outreach and help us carry out our responsibility to transform research into services that meet our communities’ most critical needs.”

Auburn University, recognized as a Carnegie RI research institution, takes pride in the growing role research and collaboration has played in improving business practices, finding new solutions to old problems, and improving the quality of lives for thousands.

“In addition to advancing Auburn’s land-grant mission, this partnership demonstrates the value of strategic international and institutional engagements to the economic development of our state,” said Jim Weyhenmeyer, vice president for Auburn University Research and Economic Development. “Through this partnership with KITECH, we will continue strengthening Auburn’s capacity to lead automotive technology research and development, particularly in the global market.”

In the spirit of intellectual symposia following the signing ceremony, Auburn University and KITECH thought leaders combined to produce the first “KITECH-Auburn University Manufacturing Innovation Technology Forum.”

Larry Rilett, director of the Auburn University Transportation Research Institute, discussed “Opportunities and Challenenges for Electric Vehicle Adoption: The Alabama Perspective."

Mark Hoffman, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, discussed “Mobile Industry Status and Challenges.”

Flexing KITECH’s academic muscle, KITECH’s Sungwook Kang presented “Friction Stir Welding for EV Parts Manufacturing.”

Rilett, Hoffman and Kang were then joined by Dongwoo "Daniel” Yu, assistant director of Outreach Programs within the Office of Professional and Continuing Education for a 35-minute panel discussion.

Yu will coordinate details of the joint efforts between KITECH and Auburn University.

“Since the initial agreement was signed in 2015, I’ve been able to work with many Korean manufacturers to assess their technical problems, needs and provide training," said Yu. "Having the opportunity to extend the resources from both Auburn University and KITECH has allowed us to provide assistance to several manufacturers. We’ll continue these joints efforts on a broader scope as we move forward, especially in the areas of emerging EV production technologies."

Media Contact: Joe McAdory,, 334.844.3447
Auburn University President Christopher Roberts, left, and KITECH President Nak Kyu Lee sign the historic memorandum of understanding between the institutions Tuesday.

Auburn University President Christopher Roberts, left, and KITECH President Nak Kyu Lee sign the historic memorandum of understanding between the institutions Tuesday.

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