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UMaine spinoff company Bridge-in-a-Backpack signs with international marketing firm

This past week marked a significant point in history for the UMaine community, as the university’s Bridge-in-a-Backpack spinoff company signed with an international sales and marketing company to sell more bridges. Bridge-in-a-Backpack is a system used to construct durable and “deployable” bridges that are simple to transport.

Terre Armee Group, better known as Reinforced Earth in the United States, oversees more than 30 construction and engineering companies across the globe. It was announced Thursday, Jan. 19 that it will be partnering with the Advanced Infrastructure Technology Center to market and distribute Bridge-in-a-Backpack.

Terre Aree Group is best known for its work in the mechanically stabilized earth market, in which its completed over 50M square feet of retaining walls around the world in its 45 years. It is part of the Soletanche Freyssinet Group, with more than 22,000 employees working in more than 100 countries and earning annual revenues exceeding $3 billion.

The UMaine company uses an innovative construction design to reduce time and materials needed to erect structurally sound bridges. An agreement between the companies was formed in 2010. According to the Bangor Daily News, Terre Armee CEO Roger Bloomfield was enthusiastic about the partnership. “Adding the composite arch bridge system to our portfolio is an exciting development that will fuel the growth of both Terre Armee and AIT [Advanced Infrastructure Technology] in the coming years.”

According to CEO of AIT Brit Svoboda, “This exclusive partnership with TA [Terre Armee] will strengthen our presence in the U.S. and Canada by leveraging their long-term and extensive market share by adding personnel resources and financial strength to AIT. TA additionally offers AIT greater access to international markets through their significant global presence. We look forward to accelerating AIT’s growth through this arrangement.”

The Bangor Daily News also covered the development, explaining exactly how the company uses these kits to construct vital infastructure. “Bridge-in-a-Backpack uses inflatable arch structures that can be transported to a site in bags resembling hockey duffels. Once on site, the arches are inflated and infused with resin, forming a lightweight hollow arch. The arches are filled with concrete and used to support the rest of the bridge. This construction method doesn’t require as much heavy equipment, uses fewer people and takes significantly less time and money than a traditional bridge construction project.”

These arches usually have a lifespan of 100 years and are not susceptible to corrosion. Typically, the projects take two to three weeks to complete.

UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, led by Habib Dagher, began developing technology for the program in 2000 and spent upwards of ten years testing it. In 2010, it went to market through Advanced Infrastructure Technologies. Since 2010, the company has sold and completed 20 bridges in the United States, 11 in Maine, three in Michigan, two each in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and one each in New Hampshire and Vermont. They have also sold two internationally, one in Trinidad and one in Tobago. Several other projects are in the works.

The small staff of ten people within the center has spent ten years gaining various approvals from federal and individual state governments needed to allow the construction of its composite arch bridges. Sales have been slow, but the company has received some recognition in the market thus far. With the new partnership, the role of marketing and selling the bridges will be passed to Terre Armee, while the Advanced Infrastructure Technologies will continue to handle the engineering aspect of the projects.

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