Following on the coattails of the Youngstown, Ohio, manufacturing hub, President Obama announced three more public-private manufacturing institutes – in North Carolina, Chicago and Detroit – to focus on advancing manufacturing in the U.S. Each of these hubs is modeled after Youngstown and brings together businesses, non-profits, academia and related organizations to focus on creating new jobs, identifying new technologies and making manufacturing a top priority in the U.S. With federal funding and matching private financial commitments, getting established on the ground floor of these hubs will be beneficial to both companies and communities in which they are located.
We see the potential for these technology hubs to define the most promising manufacturing technology corridors for the next decade. We expect that those corridors will be the drivers of federal financial support of innovative technology.
The President’s vision of up to 45 Institutes will require action from Congress, but the first three institutes were funded through existing budgets so as to avoid the political logjam.
Next Generation Power Electronics Institute – North Carolina
Supported by the Department of Energy, the Next Generation Power Electronics Institute is focusing on developing advanced manufacturing processes around wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors which allow electronic components to be more efficient than those made from silicon. There are 18 companies and seven universities and labs involved in the Institute, all being led by North Carolina State.
Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation (Digital Lab) Institute – Chicago
An effort led by the Department of Defense and UI Labs, the Chicago Digital Lab is comprised of 41 companies, 23 universities, and nine other organizations. All are taking a closer look at how digital design is changing manufacturing. From customer-focused innovation to the supply chain, and all aspects in between, – this Institute is embracing the technological advancements and the convergence of manufacturing and technology.
Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing (LM3I) Institute – Detroit
The second hub that is being led by the Department of Defense, this one has a keen tie to the automotive and defense industries with a focus on lightweight steels that produce more fuel-efficient modes of transportation and stronger yet lighter defense vehicles. Headquartered in Motor City and led by EWI, the consortium is made up of 34 companies, nine universities and labs and 17 other organizations.
As these hub programs mature, and more hubs are announced, there will be increasingly important IP issues facing the members of the consortium, among myriad other considerations with public-private partnerships.