Earlier this week, we shared an announcement from President Barack Obama as he recognized the importance of manufacturing in front of the entire world. On Tuesday, CNN reported that Obama plans to create two new manufacturing hubs and institutes in Chicago and Detroit to attract new manufacturing business in the United States.
This is an exciting development for the Midwest and the United States in general. But perhaps more importantly, Nebraska will take part in the program with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineering program. As the Detroit manufacturing hub will focus more on modern materials and the Chicago location will focus on digital technology, UNL researchers have been tapped to collaborate with other universities in the consortium.
Timothy Wei, dean of UNL’s College of Engineering, called it “great news for Nebraska.” 41 companies, 23 universities and labs, and 9 other organizations have been tapped to participate in the new Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, meaning that UNL’s opportunities for financing and expansion will be dependent on their own competition within the consortium. In the press release, Wei states that success is contingent on how well they can collaborate with the other members in the hub.
Benefits of being a university partner include the potential to compete for more financing, utilize the wide variety of partners to propose additional research projects, and connect with other faculty and create partnerships around the country. What’s the goal of all this collaboration? Obama hopes that providing the capital ($320 million, to be exact) will help strengthen the U.S. supply chain and reduce manufacturing time and costs.
The digital lab is innovation in and of itself: the Chicago location will be the very first flagship institute for digital manufacturing and design. To begin, over a dozen UNL faculty will be involved with the project, although there is the possibility of additional faculty being added depending on progress.
Other Midwestern partners include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, and Minnesota among others. UNL’s professor in mechanical and materials engineering, Kamlakar Rajukar, says that UNL was chosen as a partner due to the strong performances in materials and advanced manufacturing processes.
For manufacturers and technical trades, the latest development in government support for manufacturing is truly inspiring. With substantial funding behind the goal to transform the landscape of American manufacturing, UNL’s participation is a chance to become deeply entrenched in American history.