California Wins Competition for New Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute

A Los Angeles-based coalition will lead the newest institute to spur innovation in manufacturing in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) made the winning bid for the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute to be headquartered in Los Angeles. The California Chamber of Commerce joined with the coalition bid for the institute.

“The Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute will enable transformational improvements in energy efficiency and U.S. manufacturing productivity, while also creating high-skilled jobs, supporting the current and future workforce, and increasing the quality of life,” wrote Allan Zaremberg, CalChamber President and CEO in his letter of support.

The institute pools more than $140 million in public-private investment from leading universities and manufacturers to develop smart sensors for use in advanced manufacturing ($70 million in federal grants from the Department of Energy, along with $70 million more from private companies and state entities).

President Barack Obama announced the bid winner on June 20 during the third annual SelectUSA Summit in Washington, D.C.

The Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute is the ninth manufacturing hub awarded by the Obama administration. A key goal of the Institute is accelerating the development of sensors, components and data analysis systems that will help lower the energy consumption associated with manufacturing while also boosting workforce development opportunities.

The institute will use an open-source digital platform to make its findings and advances readily available to all American businesses.

The institute will launch five regional manufacturing centers across the United States, each focused on local technology transfer and workforce development and housed in a dynamic and innovative area of the country:

  • UCLA, in partnership with the city of Los Angeles, will lead the California regional center, harnessing the ability to tap the largest manufacturing base in the United States.
  • Texas A&M University will lead the Gulf Coast center—a region anchored in the chemical, oil and gas sectors.
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) will lead the Northeast center, where glass, ceramic and microelectronic manufacturing has a strong presence.
  • Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will lead a hub in the Northwest.
  • North Carolina State will spearhead a regional hub for the Southeast.

The SMLC brings together nearly 200 partners from across academia, industry, and nonprofits and hailing from more than 30 states to spur advances in smart sensors and digital process controls that can radically improve the efficiency of U.S. advanced manufacturing.

LA n Sync, an initiative of the Annenberg Foundation, provided technical assistance for the bid application in the form of strategic planning, partnership development, and the procurement of many notable letters of support, in addition to co-hosting a convening with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce in order to educate local civic leaders and key manufacturers about the possibility and potential of the innovation institute.

New Competitions

President Obama also announced the launch of five new manufacturing hub competitions, which will invest nearly $800 million in combined federal and nonfederal resources to support transformative manufacturing technologies from collaborative robotics to biofabrication of cells and tissues, to revolutionizing the ways materials can be reused and recycled.

With the new competitions underway, the administration is on track to meet the President’s goal of a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation of 15 institutes underway across the country before the end of his administration.

The newly announced manufacturing innovation institute topics now under competition include:

  • Robotics in Manufacturing EnvironmentsManufacturing Innovation Institute. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense, the newest manufacturing institute will focus on building U.S. leadership in smart collaborative robotics, where advanced robots work alongside humans seamlessly, safely and intuitively to do the heavy lifting on an assembly line or handle with precision, intricate or dangerous tasks. People collaborating with robots have the potential to change a broad swath of manufacturing sectors, from defense and space to automotive and health, enabling the reliable and efficient production of high-quality, customized products.
  • Advanced Tissue Biofabrication Manufacturing Innovation Institute.In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense, the institute will pioneer next-generation manufacturing techniques for repairing and replacing cells and tissues, which may one day lead to the ability to manufacture new skin for soldiers scarred from combat or to produce life-saving organs for the too many Americans stuck on transplant waiting lists today. The Institute will focus on solving the cross-cutting manufacturing challenges that stand in the way of producing new synthetic tissues and organs — such as improving the availability, reproducibility, accessibility, and standardization of manufacturing materials, technologies, and processes to create tissue and organ products. The Obama administration said it expects collaborations across multiple disciplines: from 3D bio-printing, cell science, and process design, automated pharmaceutical screening methods to the supply chain expertise needed to rapidly produce and transport these life-saving materials.
  • Modular Chemical Process Intensification (MCPI) Institute. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, the institute will fundamentally redesign the process used for manufacturing chemicals, refining fuels, and producing other high-value products by combining many complex processing stages into one simple and streamlined step. Process intensification breakthroughs can dramatically shrink the footprint of equipment needed on a crowded factory floor or eliminate waste by using the raw input materials more efficiently. For example, by simplifying and shrinking the process, this approach could enable natural gas refining directly at the wellhead, saving up to half of the energy lost in the ethanol cracking process today. In the chemical industry alone, the administration estimates these technologies could save more than $9 billion annually in process costs.
  • Reducing Embodied Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) in Materials Manufacturing Institute. In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, the institute will focus on reducing the total lifetime use of energy in manufactured materials by developing new cradle-to-cradle technologies for the reuse, recycling, and remanufacturing of man-made materials. U.S. manufacturing consumes nearly a third of the nation’s total energy use annually, with much of that energy embodied in the physical products made in manufacturing. New technologies to better repurpose these materials could save U.S. manufacturers and the nation up to 1.6 quadrillion BTU (British thermal units) of energy annually, equivalent to 280 million barrels of oil, or a month’s worth of that nation’s oil imports, according to the administration.
  • Industry-proposed Institutes Competition. Leveraging authorities from legislation passed with broad bipartisan support in Congress, the U.S. Department of Commerce has launched the first “open topic” institute competition. This competition is open to any topic proposed by industry not already addressed by a manufacturing innovation institute. At least one institute will be awarded using fiscal year 2016 funds, and one or more will be awarded subject to the availability of additional funds. The open topic competition design allows industry to propose technology areas seen as critical by leading manufacturers to the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing.

To watch the full announcement made by President Obama, click here.