The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology today announced four new industry-sponsored projects that will receive cost-shared funding to work on experimental, highly flexible technologies to simplify the task of integrating and sharing "real time" data among many different planning, tracking and control systems for the nation's manufacturing industries. The awards are made under the department's Advanced Technology Program.
"The projects we're announcing today will impact some of our nation's largest industries, including electronics and transportation, with over $1 trillion in annual sales and accounting for about one out of every three manufacturing jobs," said Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown. "We are pleased to join with these companies and universities in an effort to truly join the industrial revolution with the information revolution for the benefit of our nation's industry."
A government/private-sector partnership program aimed at stimulating economic growth and job creation, the ATP supports strategic, high-risk research in cutting-edge technologies. Today's awards are part of the five-year ATP program on Technologies for the Integration of Manufacturing Applications or TIMA. Modern computer and information technologies have enabled the automation of several aspects of manufacturing, including enterprise information systems geared towards management and long-range planning, and equipment control. More recently, a class of software applications referred to as Manufacturing Execution Systems has evolved to automate the processes in between namely, to track, manage and schedule jobs on the shop floor in real-time.
While MES provides manufacturers with critical functionality, the technology to integrate these applications with each other and throughout the enterprise is conspicuously absent, placing robust manufacturing automation solutions out of reach for 90% of the country's manufacturing sites.
Current attempts to integrate MES applications into a factory's automation framework tend to produce proprietary, monolithic systems that are either custom-built, tied to particular hardware and software combinations, or specially customized to fit an existing situation. None of these solutions meets the needs of the nation's hundreds of thousands of small and mid-sized manufacturers, who typically do not have the resources to entirely rebuild their existing factory systems or for the complex task of integrating their existing (and future) business and factory systems into a seamless solution. The TIMA program fosters industrial R&D; on potentially far-reaching technologies that would offer all manufacturers affordable "plug-and-play" solutions to MES integration.
The Advanced Technology Program provides cost-shared funding to industry for high-risk R&D; projects with the potential to spark important, broad-based economic benefits for the United States. The ATP does not fund product-development. The ATP accelerates, and in many cases enables, potentially important R&D; projects that industry otherwise would not undertake, or would not devote significant resources to, because of the technical risks involved. ATP awards are made on the basis of a rigorous competitive review considering scientific and technical merit of each and its potential benefits for the U.S. economy. Applicants must include a credible business plan for bringing the new technology to market with their own funds once technical milestones have been achieved under ATP support.
ATP focused programs concentrate resources on key technical barriers and business challenges in specific technologies judged by industry to offer the potential for major economic benefits to the nation. All current ATP focused programs were established in 1994 and will run for about five years.
If carried through to completion, the four projects announced today will cost nearly $31 million in cost-sharing by private industry and an additional $31 million in ATP funding. Three of the awards will go to joint ventures. Nineteen organizations will directly participate in the research, including five small businesses and three universities. The awards and dollar values announced today are contingent on the signing of formal agreements between NIST and the project proposers.
A list of the selected projects is attached.
As a non-regulatory agency of the Commerce Department's Technology Administration, NIST promotes U.S. economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards.