President Obama has unveiled his $1-billion proposal to create a network of 15 "Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation" that will serve as "regional hubs of manufacturing excellence." The proposal will have to be approved by Congress and is included in the fiscal year 2013 budget request.
But Obama won't depend on Congress to act. Under his "We Can't Wait" manufacturing innovation initiative, Obama says the government will immediately re-program $45 million of existing resources from the departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce and the National Science Foundation to fund a "pilot" institute that will be selected in a competitive application process."
The pilot center will receive "at least $30 million" from the departments of Commerce, Defense and Energy and $5 million from the National Science Foundation, which will be used for the "workforce development component of the pilot" under the NSF Advanced Technological Education program, according to the White House.
The Department of Defense will kick in $10 million to support "scaling-up production of technologies developed from the pilot institute in support of critical national defense needs," says the Obama administration. "This approach reflects a unique degree of inter-agency coordination around a shared goal to promote the President's manufacturing agenda without need for congressional action."
The institutes will bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies and states "to accelerate innovation by investing in industrially relevant manufacturing technologies with broad applications to bridge the gap between basic research and product development," says the White House on March 9. The centers will "provide shared assets to help companies -- particularly small manufacturers -- access cutting edge capabilities and equipment and create an unparalleled environment to educate and train students and workers in advanced manufacturing skills. Each institute will serve as a regional hub of manufacturing excellence, providing the innovation infrastructure to support regional manufacturing hubs and ensuring that our manufacturing sector is a key pillar in an economy that is built to last. This model has been successfully deployed in other countries and represents a gap in the U.S. manufacturing innovation infrastructure that the President's proposal will address."
A national network of manufacturing centers could have individual centers focusing on lightweight materials, 3-D printing (or additive manufacturing) and deploying a smart manufacturing infrastructure.
The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation will be operated by the recently created Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and run by Mike Molnar, NIST's recently appointed chief manufacturing officer.