Many heavyweights such as Rubbermaid and 3M are already on board and several more are expected to join.
The participating schools are University of Massachusetts Lowell, Iowa State University, and Washington State University. Sobkowicz-Kline is site director for the program at UMass Lowell.
The cost to join is $30,000 for companies with more than 500 employees and $15,000 for companies with fewer than 500.
Administrative costs are being underwritten by the National Science Foundation under a program to encourage collaborative research.
A kickoff meeting will be held later this year to determine organizational structure and by-laws. More information is available at www.cb2.iastate.edu.