Published June 29, 2016
UB is among a select group of academic institutions, industry and nonprofits tapped by the White House to form an advanced manufacturing hub designed to sustain the nation’s manufacturing resurgence.
President Barack Obama announced last week that the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) — a consortium of nearly 200 organizations, including UB, from more than 30 states — has formed a partnership with the Department of Energy (DOE) to oversee the hub, which is called the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute (SMII).
The institute, which the White House says will bring more than $140 million in public-private investment, is the ninth manufacturing hub awarded by the Obama administration. It will spur advances in smart sensors and digital process controls that can radically improve the efficiency of U.S. advanced manufacturing.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, SMII includes five manufacturing centers located at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; the University of California, Los Angeles; Texas A&M University; the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; and North Carolina State University. Each will focus on local technology transfer and workforce development.
UB will operate in the Northeast Regional Manufacturing Center led by Rensselaer. Industrial partners include GLOBALFOUNDRIES, United Technologies, Corning Glass, Saint-Gobain, Praxair, Pfizer, EWI, MathWorks, Analog Devices and Eastman Business Park.
“The University at Buffalo is excited and well-prepared to join this White House-led initiative which is so critical to maintaining the nation’s momentum as a leader in advanced manufacturing,” says Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development. “At UB, we have the scientific expertise, equipment and relationships with industry and nonprofits to drive innovation that creates economic security and prosperity in Western New York and beyond.”
Academic partners in the Northeast center include Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Connecticut, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, Syracuse University and the SUNY system.
UB has long recognized the importance of advanced manufacturing to the local and national economies. It leads numerous research initiatives and collaborates with cutting-edge organizations to provide innovative and impactful solutions that help transform existing businesses, as well as create opportunities for new businesses to flourish.
“The University at Buffalo is committed to developing innovative solutions that will help local and national manufacturers grow and sustain competitive positions in domestic and global markets,” says Liesl Folks, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition is a fantastic vehicle for UB to continue reaching beyond its research laboratories and classrooms to achieve those goals.”
For example, UB is a partner at Buffalo Manufacturing Works (BMW), a center in downtown Buffalo that helps innovation-driven organizations across North America excel by partnering with their internal manufacturing, engineering, and research and development teams to deliver better products, grow and compete. BMW is part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development program and operated by EWI, an Ohio-based nonprofit engineering and technology organization.
BMW specializes in high-temperature processing, robotics, flexible automation, additive manufacturing, machining, process modeling and optimization, data analytics and sensor optimization — all areas that support the goals of SMII. Additionally, by joining SMII, UB and BMW will connect to a national network of like-minded facilities, ultimately providing manufacturers with greater opportunities for research and development, and workforce development.
Also supporting the new partnership is UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics (CMI), which leverages UB’s world-class materials science, big data analytics and advanced manufacturing expertise to drive research and development activities that spur private sector growth.
“The partnership with SMII will greatly enhance the efforts of UB, CMI and Buffalo Manufacturing Works, which together are creating one-of-a-kind testbeds that support research and development, and workforce training efforts of local manufacturers in high-temperature ceramics, metal-additive manufacturing and other industries,” says Venkat Krovi, professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, SEAS.
Another sign of UB’s commitment to advanced manufacturing is the university’s Communities of Excellence, a multidisciplinary initiative designed to confront grand challenges facing humankind. One of its programs is the Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies (SMART) community, which leverages university and regional strengths in manufacturing to develop next-generation manufacturing technologies, processes and education that enable sustainable, cost-effective production of high-quality, customizable products.
In 2014, the university also launched the Department of Materials Design and Innovation, a collaboration between the College of Arts of Sciences and SEAS. In addition to educating future materials scientists, the interdisciplinary department works to address regional and national demand for new materials that accelerate research in advanced manufacturing and biotechnology.
“I am thrilled that the University at Buffalo has been awarded this prestigious federal designation and will play a critical role in the administration’s new Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute,” says Sen. Chuck Schumer. “The jobs of the future are in advanced manufacturing and UB is on the cutting-edge of research, analytics and workforce development. The U.S. Department of Energy could not have chosen a better institution with whom to partner on this important, job-creating initiative.”
Adds Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “We must see Made in America again, starting right here in upstate New York. The Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute will help rebuild America’s proud manufacturing tradition and ensure our country remains globally competitive.
“This investment would help advance the cutting-edge research and development already happening at universities like the University at Buffalo in Western New York,” Gillibrand says. “New York’s great manufacturing communities are best positioned to be home to one of these innovation hubs, sparking more growth in high-tech manufacturing sectors, jump-starting new businesses, and creating good-paying jobs right here where we need them the most.
“This funding for New York would help create new opportunities for our universities and manufacturers to lead the way in this growing industry.”
Rep. Brian Higgins notes that “UB is well-positioned to play a critical role in this collaborative effort between government, private companies, research and education institutions leading the way in the future of manufacturing in America.”
More information on the White House announcement is available online.