The Obama Administration May 9 announced that it is launching competitions to create three new manufacturing innovation institutes with a Federal commitment of $200 million across five Federal agencies–Defense, Energy, Commerce, NASA, and the National Science Foundation. To build off the initial success of a pilot institute headquartered in Youngstown, Ohio, the President announced in the State of the Union that his Administration would move forward and launch three new manufacturing innovation institutes this year. The President will continue to call on Congress to act on his proposal for a one-time $1 billion investment to create a network of 15 manufacturing innovation institutes across the country.
“President Obama is committed to making America a magnet for jobs and manufacturing so we continue to build things the rest of the world buys,” states the release. “After shedding jobs for a decade, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 over the past three years. Manufacturing production has grown since the end of the recession at its fastest pace in over a decade. To build on this momentum, the President has outlined a concrete and comprehensive agenda to invest in American manufacturing.”
The President’s manufacturing agenda starts with his vision for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The President’s FY14 Budget includes a $1 billion investment at the Department of Commerce to create the NNMI, a model based on approaches that that other countries have successfully deployed. Each institute would serve as a regional hub designed to bridge the gap between basic research and product development, bringing together companies, universities and community colleges, and Federal agencies to co-invest in technology areas that encourage investment and production in the United States. This type of innovation infrastructure provides a unique ‘teaching factory’ that allows 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.
The Department of Defense will lead two of the new Institutes, focused on “Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation” and “Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing”, and the Department of Energy will be leading one new institute on “Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing”.
All three institutes will be selected through an open, competitive process, led by the Departments of Energy and Defense, with review from a multi-agency team of technical experts. Winning teams will be selected and announced later this year. Federal funds will be matched by industry co-investment, support from state and local governments, and other sources. Like the pilot institute, these Institutes are expected to become financially self-sustaining, and the plan to achieve this objective will be a critical evaluation criterion in the selection process. DOD and DOE are opening the competition for the three new institutes immediately.
Following the State of the Union address, the Administration released the plan for investing in manufacturing, a comprehensive agenda to build on the momentum in the U.S. manufacturing sector.
In January 2013, the Administration released a report that details the President’s proposal for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.
Details of topic areas
Consistent with existing authority, Federal agencies have selected technology areas that have broad commercial applications but meet critical mission needs. The selected technology areas also build off existing multi-agency priority initiatives like the Materials Genome Initiative.
Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation: Advanced design and manufacturing tools that are digitally integrated and networked with supply chains can lead to ‘factories of the future’ forming an agile U.S. industrial base with significant speed to market advantage. A national institute focusing on the development of novel model-based design methodologies, virtual manufacturing tools, and sensor and robotics based manufacturing networks will accelerate the innovation in digital manufacturing increasing U.S. competitiveness.
Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing: Advanced lightweight metals possess mechanical and electrical properties comparable to traditional materials while enabling much lighter components and products. A national institute will make the U.S. more competitive by scaling-up research to accelerate market expansion for products such as wind turbines, medical devices, engines, armored combat vehicles, and airframes, and lead to significant reductions in manufacturing and energy costs.
Next Generation Power Electronics: Wide bandgap semiconductor based power electronic devices represent the next major platform beyond the silicon based devices that have driven major technological advances in our economy over the last several decades. Wide bandgap technology will enable dramatically more compact and efficient power electronic devices for electric vehicles, renewable power interconnection, industrial-scale variable speed drive motors and a smarter more flexible grid; in addition to high-performance defense applications (e.g. reducing the size of a sub-station to a suit case).
In August 2012, the Administration announced the winner of an initial $30 million Federal award to create a pilot institute, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII). Headquartered in Youngstown, Ohio, NAMII consists of a consortium of manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations primarily from the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia ‘Tech Belt’. NAMII was selected from amongst twelve teams from around the country that applied for the award. The members of NAMII will co-invest $40 million against the initial Federal award.
The Department of Energy anticipates that additive processes would be able to save more than 50% energy use compared to today’s ‘subtractive’ manufacturing processes.