Let the competition begin! The Obama administration yesterday revealed its plan to launch competitions to create three new manufacturing innovation institutes this year, and the contest begins immediately.
Led by the departments of Energy and Defense, each institute will be chosen through an open, competitive process, with review from a multiagency team of technical experts. Winners of the competition will be announced later this year.
Though the initial investment will come primarily from a combination of federal funds and industry co-investment, institutes are expected to eventually become financially self-sustaining. Therefore, winning teams will also possess a robust plan to achieve this objective as it is a critical component of the selection process.
As the president mentioned in his State of the Union address, these new innovation centers will build off the success of a pilot institute in Youngstown, Ohio. Each institute will serve as a regional innovation hub, bringing together private sector companies, academia and federal government to advance technologies that encourage investment and production in the U.S.
The institutes will provide what the administration termed a unique “teaching factory,” educating and training workers and students of all levels while simultaneously supplying the requisite resources to provide companies and small manufacturers with the equipment and capabilities to create, test and pilot new products and manufacturing processes.
Two of the institutes, focusing on “Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation” and “Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing,” will be led by DOD. The other, focusing on “Next-Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing,” will be led by Energy. The institutes will have a federal commitment of $200 million across five agencies – the National Science Foundation, DOD, Energy, Commerce Department and NASA.
In addition to the three new innovation institutes, the president promised he would continue to push 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, part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.
The director of the National Economic Council discusses importance of manufacturing innovation hubs: