The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) was founded in 2000 as a partnership involving Virginia Tech, Averett University, Danville Community College, Pittsylvania County, City of Danville, the Future of the Piedmont Foundation, the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Ground was broken in 2002 for what is now the main building among several on IALR’s campus in Danville’s Cyber Park. Tobacco commission funding of $20 million covered the construction, furnishings and equipment for the 90,000 square feet facility that opened in 2004. With the help of Virginia Tech’s Department of Horticulture, IALR launched its Center for Sustainable and Renewable Resources (CSRR), which remains its largest research department.
In 2005, IALR’s partnership with Virginia Tech led to several new areas of research involving transportation-based mechanical engineering, bio-inspired technology, robotics and computational multi-physics. Testing and simulation equipment from one of these units is now part of the Southern Virginia Vehicle Motion Lab (SoVA Motion) and the National Tire Research Center at nearby Virginia International Raceway (VIR).
More recently, IALR research has added new services and platforms for innovation, including a polymers and composites center focused on the use of sustainable bio-plastics. Virdia, an emerging firm that converts biomass to cellulosic sugars and lignin, established pilot operations in the SENTEC building on campus in 2012. Ongoing research projects funded by grants from the Virginia Tobacco Commission, involve agricultural research conducted on IALR’s campus by Chemtex and ProteiosBio.
IALR’s Advanced Learning department has evolved over the years. Its founding partners in education are Virginia Tech, Averett University, and Danville Community College. IALR also enjoys collaborative relationships with New College Institute and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. Over the years, IALR has facilitated workshops, workforce training, professional development for teachers, and daily instruction during the school year for the Piedmont Governor’s School program. IALR’s STEM Mobile Learning Lab has reached thousands of students since it began its outreach campaign in 2010.
IALR’s conferencing services created an immediate impact on Southern Virginia with its unique design, leading technology and unsurpassed service when its doors opened in 2004. The conference services portfolio began with the Virginia Agricultural Summit soon after IALR’s ribbon was cut. IALR then went on to work with the Medical Society of Virginia, the Virginia Society of CPAs, and the Small Aircraft Transportation System for their events, as well as the more recent Community Fiber Networks conference hosted by Broadband Communities magazine, among scores of other events.