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U.S. Launches Competition for “Next-Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing” Institute

May 09, 2013 by Jeff Shepard

The Obama Administration is launching competitions to create three new manufacturing innovation institutes with a Federal commitment of $200 million across five Federal agencies — Defense, Energy, Commerce, NASA, and the National Science Foundation. The Department of Defense will lead two of the new Institutes, focused on "Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation" and "Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing", and the Department of Energy will be leading one new institute on "Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing".

The President’s manufacturing agenda starts with his vision for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The President’s FY14 Budget includes a $1 billion investment at the Department of Commerce to create the NNMI, a model based on approaches that that other countries have successfully deployed. Each institute would serve as a regional hub designed to bridge the gap between basic research and product development, bringing together companies, universities and community colleges, and Federal agencies to co-invest in technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S.

This type of innovation infrastructure provides a unique ‘teaching factory’ that allows for education and training of students and workers at all levels, 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.

All three institutes will be selected through an open, competitive process, led by the Departments of Energy and Defense, with review from a multi-agency team of technical experts. Winning teams will be selected and announced later this year. Federal funds will be matched by industry co-investment, support from state and local governments, and other sources. Like the pilot institute, these Institutes are expected to become financially self-sustaining, and the plan to achieve this objective will be a critical evaluation criterion in the selection process. DOD and DOE are opening the competition for the three new institutes immediately.