U.S. Commerce Department to fund two new ‘manufacturing institutes’

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 129 views 

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) plans to fund up to two institutes as part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI).

For its first institutes, the Commerce Department will provide up to a total of $70 million per institute over five to seven years. Commerce funding must be matched by private and other non-federal sources. The institutes are expected to become self-sustainable within the time period of the award.

“The collaborative, cutting-edge technologies being designed, developed and commercialized at our NNMI institutes are essential to America’s long-term economic growth, competitiveness and job creation,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “Our new institutes will build on the success of the existing seven, and for the first time, the topic areas have not been chosen in advance but will depend on industry interests and input. Together, our growing network of institutes will ensure America remains on the leading edge of the 21st century economy.”

“Each institute serves as a regional hub of manufacturing excellence, providing the innovation infrastructure to reinforce the competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing sector as a whole,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Willie E. May. “NIST is pleased to support this national effort to build critical capacity in important technology areas, in support of U.S. manufacturing.”

This will be the first NNMI solicitation in which the funding agency has not predetermined an institute’s area of focus. NIST is open to receiving proposals in any topic of interest to industry, particularly those relevant to manufacturing robotics and biopharmaceutical manufacturing. These two subject areas were identified by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) Advanced Manufacturing Partnership as technology areas critical to supporting national needs.

A collaborative manufacturing robotics institute would focus on developing advanced robotic systems that can safely operate in collaboration with humans or other robots, be tasked and re-tasked easily, and be integrated into the rest of an enterprise seamlessly and quickly.

A biopharmaceutical manufacturing institute would center on “biologic” therapies that are manufactured using living cells instead of conventional chemistry. The institute would aim to stimulate innovation in manufacturing that will enable new, more cost effective treatment of disease and solidify the domestic competitiveness of the U.S. biopharma industry.

The NNMI Institutes bring together manufacturers, universities, community colleges, federal agencies and state organizations with the goal of bridging the gap between basic research and product development. They aim to accelerate innovation by focusing investment in industrially relevant, pre-competitive manufacturing technologies with broad applications. The institutes also give manufacturers access to shared assets such as cutting-edge equipment and provide opportunities for workforce training.

Seven institutes (See the list below.) are already operating across the country, with two more under formation, funded primarily by the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy. All of the institutes collaborate through the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office, which was established at NIST in 2012 to support the NNMI.

NIST plans to issue a solicitation for up to two new institutes in January 2016. The date and location of a Proposer’s Day will be announced on grants.gov and at manufacturing.gov.

• America Makes Institute (Youngstown, Ohio)
America Makes focuses on helping the United States grow capabilities and strength in 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.

• Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (Chicago)
The DMDII is the nation’s flagship research institute for applying cutting-edge digital technologies to reduce the time and cost of manufacturing, strengthen the capabilities of the U.S. supply chain and reduce acquisition costs for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

• LIFT: Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow (Detroit)
LIFT is part of a national network of research institutions and industrial companies geared toward advancing America’s leadership in manufacturing technology.

• PowerAmerica (Raleigh, N.C.)
The mission of PowerAmerica is to develop advanced manufacturing processes that will enable large-scale production of wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors, which allow electronic components to be smaller, faster and more efficient than semiconductors made from silicon.

• The Institute of Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Advanced composites are currently used for expensive applications like satellites and luxury cars.

• Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Integrated Photonics (Rochester, N.Y.)
Integrated photonic components can pack even more processing power into a single chip, creating new possibilities for computing and telecommunications.

• NEXTFLEX – Flexible Hybrid Electronics Manufacturing Institute (San Jose, Calif.)
Flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing describes the innovative production of electronics and sensors packaging through new techniques in electronic device handling and high precision printing on flexible, stretchable substrates.