US Government Continues Acting on Smart Manufacturing

US Government Continues Acting on Smart Manufacturing

SMLC 300 X 125 pixel adLast month, the Obama administration announced another smart manufacturing initiative through a “Notice of Intent to Issue FOA.” That is a “Funding Opportunity Announcement.” This follows another initiative in which the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition was awarded funds to develop several test beds.

In government-speak:

DE-FOA-0001262: Notice of Intent to Issue FOA entitled “Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute on Smart Manufacturing: Advanced Sensors, Controls, Platforms, and Modeling for Manufacturing” (DE-FOA-0001263)

The purpose of this Notice of Intent is to provide potential applicants advance notice that the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), on behalf of the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), intends to issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) entitled “Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute on Smart Manufacturing: Advanced Sensors, Controls, Platforms, and Modeling for Manufacturing” (DE-FOA-0001263).

This Notice is issued so that interested parties are aware of the EERE’s intention to issue this FOA in the near term. All of the information contained in this Notice is subject to change. EERE may issue a FOA as described herein, may issue a FOA that is significantly different than the FOA described herein, or DOE may not issue a FOA at all.

NO APPLICATIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED THROUGH THIS NOTICE. Please do not submit questions or respond to this Notice of Intent. Prospective applicants to the FOA should begin developing partnerships, formulating ideas, and gathering data in anticipation of the issuance of this FOA. It is anticipated that this FOA will be posted to EERE eXCHANGE early in the year 2015.

FOA Documents

This announcement was accompanied by a release from the White House tying funding to enhancing US manufacturing export capability. The announcement reads:

[On December 11, 2014], at a meeting of the President’s Export Council (PEC), President Obama announced nearly $400 million to help improve the competitiveness of American businesses and workers by spurring new manufacturing innovations and giving America workers additional opportunities to improve and expand their skill sets for middleclass jobs.

To help support new advancements in manufacturing, the President will announce more than $290 million in public-private investment for two new Manufacturing Innovation Hub Competitions. The announcement fulfills the President’s 2014 State of the Union pledge to launch four new institutes this year, for a total of eight institutes launched so far, and puts the Administration past the halfway mark on the President’s original goal of creating 15 manufacturing innovation institutes supported through executive action.

In addition, the President will announce $100 million to expand apprenticeships for American workers – a proven training strategy for workers to learn the skills that employers need for American businesses to grow and thrive in a competitive global environment. Apprenticeships are also a path to the middle class – 87 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their programs and the average starting wage for apprenticeship graduates is over $50,000.

During the meeting, President Obama will also highlight the continued need to reform and simplify our tax code and the importance of opening up new markets abroad for American-made goods and services through tough, fair new trade agreements.

The PEC, chaired by Jim McNerney, President and CEO of Boeing and vice-chaired by Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO of the Xerox Corporation, is the principal national advisory committee for exporting.  The Council advises the President on government policies and programs that affect U.S. trade performance; promotes export expansion; and provides a forum for discussing and resolving trade-related problems among the business, industrial, agricultural, labor, and government sectors.

Last year, the United States exported $2.3 trillion dollars of goods and services, an all-time high, and today, exports support more than 11 million American jobs across 300,000 businesses. Manufacturing, in particular, is the engine behind our exports and innovation – contributing the majority of the nation’s exports and nearly three-quarters of its private-sector R&D. And American manufacturing is more competitive than it has been in decades, growing nearly twice as fast as the economy overall and adding 764,000 jobs since February 2010.

At the same time, businesses looking to move production to the United States consistently cite the skills of America’s workers, the most productive workforce in the world, as the reason for rooting jobs and investment here.  These announcements build on that competitive strength by investing in manufacturing innovation and upgrading the skills of American workers through the proven model of apprenticeships.

Manufacturing Institutes

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

Department of Energy-led Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute

A third of the nation’s energy consumption goes into manufacturing. New smart manufacturing technologies – including advanced sensors and sophisticated process controls – can dramatically improve energy efficiency in manufacturing, saving manufacturers costs and conserving the nation’s energy.

The Department of Energy will lead a competition for a new public-private manufacturing innovation institute focused on smart manufacturing, including advanced sensors, control, platforms, and models for manufacturing.  By combining manufacturing, digital, and energy efficiency expertise, technologies developed by the institute will give American manufacturers unprecedented, real-time control of energy use across factories and companies to increase productivity and save on energy costs.

For energy intensive industries – like chemical production, solar cell manufacturing, and steelmaking – these technologies can shave 10-20% off the cost of production.  The new institute will receive a federal investment of $70 million that will be matched by at least $70 million in private investments and represents a critical step in the Administration’s effort to double U.S. energy efficiency by 2030.