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Sentient Science Corp., a firm that develops sensors and software used to test materials and components in the aerospace, defense and energy industries, will invest $10.5 million and hire 86 employees in this region by 2016, company officials said Wednesday.

Sentient has moved its headquarters from Idaho to space in the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs Executive Development Center in Buffalo, where it has 10 employees, and the company is looking at locations in Niagara Falls as part of its planned expansion here.

Sentient’s move to this area, part of a broader effort to grow a materials sciences industry here, will be celebrated by lawmakers and members of the business community at a news conference this morning in the UB center.

Sentient has maintained its research and development facility in Idaho Falls but late last year moved into the former Butler mansion on Delaware Avenue at North Street. The move came after business groups and elected officials worked to connect Sentient with computer scientists and engineers at the university.

The company in 2000 began developing its testing technology, marketed under the DigitalClone brand, to take the place of the manual testing of materials and components used in the manufacture of helicopters, bridges, medical devices, wind turbines and other products.

The items are tested with simulators and sensors to determine how the materials used in their manufacture will behave under various scenarios, how they stand up to the stresses of use and how long before they have to be replaced.

Sentient’s sensors and software can perform these tests in the virtual realm, saving its clients time and money.

Sentient has received $23 million in federal and state grants, including $982,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to develop and put in place a system to test gear boxes in wind turbines.

The company also has received $811,534 in Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits through the state Regional Economic Development Council here, with the promise of employing 86 workers locally by summer 2016.

Sentient is considering several options for its expansion into Niagara County, and the $10.5 million represents the value of its local investment once the company meets its employment target, company officials said.

Ward Thomas, Sentient’s president and CEO, will be joined by Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster and numerous state representatives and economic development officials for this morning’s news conference, tour and scientific demonstration.

email: swatson@buffnews.com