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The great recession underscored some inherent weaknesses in the U.S. supply chain.  We have an employment skills gap, an uncoordinated approach to nurturing innovation, and an export imbalance.  Since 2011, the federal government focused on changing this paradigm and made American manufacturing a priority.  Under the guidance of the Department of Commerce/NIST, they developed an infrastructure with dedicated funding to rebuild our manufacturing sector.

Many industrialized countries invest heavily in identifying and developing new technologies, materials, and processes.  The U.S. government is following suit by establishing a network of manufacturing innovation hubs throughout the country.  These hubs will be funded by public and private sector investments with the goal of being self-funding within five to seven years.   They are strategically located close to the industries and academia that best serve the mission of each institute. Below is an overview of this program.

National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, The Infrastructure of Manufacturing Innovation Hubs

The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation launched in 2013 with the goal of “strengthening the innovation, performance, competitiveness and job-creating power of U.S. manufacturing.”  The NNMI is the infrastructure for the innovation network.

According to the Advanced Manufacturing Portal “The network will help to address a damaging inconsistency in U.S. economic and innovation policies.” To achieve that goal, the organization will create up to 15 regional offices dubbed Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation or IMIs.  The institutes will focus on select areas of innovation and technology and speed new developments to market.  Each institute will be linked to an academic or innovation consortium and a federal agency partner.

manufacturing innovation hubs facts

Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII)


Launched  – 2/25/2014

Federal Partner – Department of Defense

Location:  Chicago, IL

The mandate of this institute is to develop high-performance production practices.  The new state-of-the-art facility for digital manufacturing and design will develop and innovate the manufacturing tools and processes needed to streamline and maintain a networked supply chain.  This includes IT tools, standards, models, sensors, controls, practices and skills, and how to transition these tools to the U.S. design & manufacturing industrial base for full-scale application.

The mission detail*:

  • Focus on “applying cutting-edge digital technologies to reduce the time and cost of manufacturing, strengthen the capabilities of the U.S. supply chain, and reduce acquisition costs.”
  • Develop and demonstrate digital manufacturing technologies and deploy and commercialize these technologies across key manufacturing industries.”

Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute or Power America


Launched  – 1/24/2014

Federal Partner – Department of Energy

Location:  Raleigh, NC

For their part in the establishment of these manufacturing innovation hubs, the focus of this institute is to develop technology to make large scale production of wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors possible.  According to the AMNPO website “The institute will also pair chip designers and manufacturers with large power electronic manufacturers and suppliers to bring these technologies to market faster and will offer training, higher education programs and hands-on internships that give American workers the skills for new job opportunities and meet the needs of this emerging and globally competitive industry.

The new institute is focused on enabling the next-generation of energy-efficient, high-power electronic chips and devices by making wide bandgap semiconductor technologies cost-competitive with current silicon-based power electronics in the next five years. These improvements will make power electronic devices like motors, consumer electronics, and devices that support our power grid faster, smaller, and more efficient.”

Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation


Launched  – 1/09/2015

Federal Partner – Department of Energy

Location:  Knoxville, TN

On January 9, 2015, the president announced the launch of the latest regional manufacturing innovation hubs that will be led by the University of Tennessee.  The Institute for Advanced Composites will be focused on the development of advanced composites, like carbon fiber, that can be used to replace heavier metals. This institute will be a consortium of over 122 manufacturers, material suppliers, nonprofits, and universities.

There are still more manufacturing innovation hubs in the works.  A call for entries has been made to establish the Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute or “Smart Manufacturing”.  This institute will focus on reducing manufacturing energy consumption and costs.  The Integrated Photonics Institute will “establish a state-of-the-art in the design, manufacture, testing, assembly, and packaging of complex photonic integrated circuits that combine a variety of photonic and electronic components to achieve functionality.”  The Flexible Hybrid Electronics Innovation Institutewill be tasked with innovating silicon chips that are flexible and intelligent.  These chips can be used in components for communications, medical, power, and processing devices.

The President has made manufacturing a priority.  This sector creates solid middle-class jobs, helps strengthen the economy and increases our export capacity.  Manufacturing companies comprise 12% of our GDP and have the highest rate of investment in research, development, and innovation.  The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation provides a support system designed to nurture the new technologies and skills needed to secure our future.

INFOGRAPHIC: How the Manufacturing Innovation Hubs Support Manufacturing Innovation Art & Science

Creating a collaborative decision environment makes your products stronger – and gets them to consumers faster

An idea’s path from inception to execution can sometimes get weighed down by distance and time. Minimize that gap with technology and tear down your biggest barrier to future success. This infographic, from Polycom, shows how Innovation Hubs work.

manufacturing innovation hubs infographic

 Sources:  Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO); LIFT, Detroit, MI; DMDII, Chicago, IL; PowerAmerica, Raleigh, NC; Department of Energy; America Makes, Youngstown, OH.

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