SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Obama Administration wants to form regional institutes focused on next-generation manufacturing technologies to help attract more manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., said Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank in a visit to Silicon Valley.
The Obama Administration aims to propose spending a billion dollars to create a number of such centers. In lieu of Congress approving the funds, Blank called for a number of public/private partnerships that could make competitive bids for up to about $40 million in federal funds each with matching contributions from states and industry.
“It would be great to launch a number of these in next several years in areas such as robotics, new materials and cyber-security,” said Blank, at a panel hosted by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “This is one of those investments we need to be doing… many of our competitor nations are doing this."
(From left) Cromwell Schubarth, Silicon Valley Business Journal; U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Jennifer Blank and Aart de Geus, chief executive of Synopsys.
An effort to leap ahead in technology is “a great idea--it’s the notion of Silicon Valley from 20 years ago,” said Aart de Geus, chief executive of Synopsys, also on the panel.
De Geus expressed some skepticism about a focus on manufacturing which is already heavily automated. “We’ve seen incredible increases in productivity--now the question is what’s the next wave,” he said.
One pilot institute is already up and running in Youngstown, Ohio. The National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) was officially formed late last year with a focus on 3-D printing.
It reportedly received about $30 million from the Department of Defense along with matching funds from private sector partners including Boeing, IBM and Carnegie Mellon University. A total of about 12 research universities and 35 manufacturers will take part in the center, Blank said.