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Manufacturing Innovation Institutes Expand with Recent Announcement

Written by: 
Jeff Morse, Ph.D.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks announcing two new public-private Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, and launches the first of four new Manufacturing Innovation Institute Competitions, in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 25, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The administration has recently announced the latest awards for Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (MIIs), a public-private partnership intended to boost advanced manufacturing while strengthening U.S. capabilities in defense, and creating sustainable economic impact and jobs through enhanced global competitiveness, and higher paying domestic jobs. Two new MIIs led by the Department of Defense supported by a $140 million Federal commitment combined with even larger non-federal resources are the Detroit-area headquartered consortium of businesses and universities with a focus on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing, and a Chicago headquartered consortium of businesses and universities that will concentrate on digital manufacturing and design innovation technologies.

In concert with the announcement, the administration additionally delivered on it’s promise to continue the establishment of a network of MIIs throughout the U.S. by launching a competition for a new MII to build U.S. strength in manufacturing advanced composites as the first of four new competitions to be launched this year.  This announcement builds off the success of a pilot Additive Manufacturing Institute (AMI) headquartered in Youngstown, Ohio awarded in 2012, along with the new Department of Energy-led Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Raleigh, N.C., which was announced last month. The promise of 4 new MIIs pushes the U.S. over the top in achieving a critical goal of the administration, with broader impact to U.S. manufacturing, jobs, and sustainable economic impact. The new competition for an Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation Institute, led by the Department of Energy, will award $70 million over five years to improve U.S. capability to manufacture advanced fiber-reinforced polymer composites at the production speed, cost and performance needed for widespread use in clean energy products including fuel-efficient and electric vehicles, wind turbines and hydrogen and natural gas storage tanks.

Key attributes of the institute include serving as a regional hub, bridging the gap between applied research and product development by bringing together companies, universities and other academic and training institutions, along with key Federal agencies to co-invest in key technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S.  This type of “teaching factory” or “industrial commons” provides a unique opportunity for education and training of students and workers at all levels, while providing the shared assets to help companies, most importantly small manufacturers, access the cutting-edge capabilities and equipment to design, test, and pilot new products and manufacturing processes.

As a staunch advocate of public-private partnerships and advanced manufacturing, the National Nanomanufacturing Network applauds these latest announcements, and looks forward to the new IMI announcements. In order for the NNN to promote a broader role for nanomanufacturing in future MII concepts, stakeholder input and feedback is requested to gather a perspective of where industry and academia intersect in this context. Nanomanufacturing has particular challenges as it broadly supports many industries, therefore building a community of practice will likewise have a broad impact to stakeholders.

President Obama Announces Two New Public-Private Manufacturing Innovation Institutes and Launches the First of Four New Manufacturing Innovation Institute Competitions
AMO Announces Funding Opportunity for Low-Cost, Energy Efficient Manufacturing and Recycling of Advanced Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Composites

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