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Obama Announces New DOD-led Manufacturing Institutes

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2014 – President Barack Obama today announced two new manufacturing innovation institutes led by the Defense Department and supported by a $140 million federal commitment combined with more than $320 million in private-sector commitments.

A consortium of businesses and universities headquartered in the Detroit area will a focus on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing, and a Chicago-headquartered consortium of businesses and universities will concentrate on digital manufacturing and design technologies.

“If we want to attract more good manufacturing jobs to America, we’ve got to make sure we’re on the cutting edge of new manufacturing techniques and technologies,” the president said. “I don't want the next big job-creating discovery to come from Germany or China or Japan. I want it to be ‘Made in America.’”

Each institute serves as a regional hub, officials explained, bridging the gap between applied research and product development by bringing together companies, universities and other academic and training institutions, as well as federal agencies, to co-invest in key technology areas that encourage investment and production in the United States.

This type of “teaching factory” provides a unique opportunity for education and training of students and workers at all levels, they added, 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 winning Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute team, led by EWI, brings together a 60-member consortium that pairs the world’s leading aluminum, titanium, and high strength steel manufacturers with universities and laboratories pioneering new technology development and research, officials said. Its long-term goal will be to expand the market for and create new consumers of products and systems that use new, lightweight, high performing metals and alloys by removing technological barriers to their manufacture.

Noting that car manufacturers now use stronger steel to make lighter cars that use less gas, Obama noted that advanced lightweight metals “can help us build lighter armor for our troops, planes and helicopters that bigger payloads without sacrificing safety, wind turbines that generate more power at less cost, prosthetic limbs that help people walk again who never thought they could.”

The winning Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute team, led by UI Labs, spearheads a consortium of more than 70 companies, universities, nonprofits, and research labs -- creating a partnership between world-leading manufacturing experts and cutting-edge software companies to enable interoperability across the supply chain, develop enhanced digital capabilities to design and test new products, and reduce costs in manufacturing processes across multiple industries, officials said.

“[This institute] will focus on using digital technology and Big Data to help manufacturers go from ideas on paper to products at loading docks faster and cheaper than ever before,” Obama explained. “And it will include training to help more Americans earn the skills to do these digital manufacturing jobs. This is critical -- the country that gets new products to market faster and at less cost will win the race for the good jobs of tomorrow.”

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said the innovation institutes will strengthen the nation’s advanced manufacturing capabilities, promote the development of cutting-edge products and systems, and attract well-paying jobs to support a growing middle class.

“Both consortia announced today will play commanding roles in the advancement of key U.S. strengths,” he said. “The Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute, or LM3I, represents a potent new capability in the application of high-performing metals and alloys toward forward-looking commercial and military products benefitting a multitude of industries. The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, or DMDI, will push technology development into a new frontier, by harnessing the power of virtual reality to accurately test and prepare high-tech products before they even leave cyberspace.”

The Defense Department has a substantial role to play in supporting and growing these organizations, Kendall added, and has made key investments since creating the first institute in Youngstown, Ohio, in 2012.

Each institute’s federal funding contribution will be about $70 million across the five years of the cooperative agreement period of performance, White House officials said. Consistent with the president's broader proposal, they added, the institutes will be supported with federal funding through the start-up and initial operational phases, after which they are expected to become fiscally self-sustaining. Each manufacturing innovation institute solicitation required that applicants match the federal investment on no less than a 1-to-1 basis.

The Defense Department’s overarching role is to stand up individual institutes through federal acquisitions, including the provisioning of federal funding, officials said, and to provide oversight and stewardship of federal funds. The department also will contribute technical advice and assistance through participation on an advisory board.

Each institute will have substantial autonomy from its partner organizations and institutions and will have an independent fiduciary board of directors predominantly composed of industry representatives. An institute leader will be in charge of day-to-day operations, officials said.

DOD’s $140 million stake in the new institutes is a matter of funding the nation’s highest defense and national priorities, White House officials said. The department already is investing in critical additive manufacturing, lightweight and modern metals manufacturing, and digital manufacturing and design needs, they noted. Engaging in sustainable public-private partnerships that build strong innovation capacity around these manufacturing technologies is the administration’s chosen investment strategy, they added.

Kendall said DOD’s investment in the new institutes continues the department’s support toward the president’s goal of establishing a much larger network of up to 45 innovative manufacturing centers throughout the nation. The department is committed to their success, he added, “and will continue to work to maintain and embolden America’s innovation and manufacturing advantage.”

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Frank Kendall

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