To improve small U.S. manufacturers' supply chain competitiveness and the rates at which they adopt technology, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded nearly $2.5 million in funding for five pilot projects. The projects will be led by Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers and will bring together teams of experts in specific technology and supply chain areas to offer services and deep expertise relating to technology acceleration, transition and commercialization.
"We can help these smaller manufacturers be more competitive in international supply chains by making sure they have the tools they need to take advantage of innovation," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. "Keeping these manufacturers innovative makes them attractive suppliers for U.S.-based manufacturers and those looking to bring their business here."
According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, small and medium-sized manufacturers often lack the expertise and staff that enable larger firms to stay abreast of emerging technologies and processes. This creates a gap between the research being performed by universities, federal labs and other entities and the readiness of many of these manufacturers to adopt both existing and emerging technologies.
Working within specific supply chains to understand their technological needs and trends, the new Manufacturing Technology Acceleration Center (MTAC) teams will identify where manufacturers most need assistance in adopting or adapting technology. The projects will test and demonstrate business models that will allow small manufacturers to access the technology transition and commercialization services they need, and to help them form beneficial partnerships. The projects also will serve as pilots to guide future NIST investment and to develop strategies and approaches for providing similar services across the MEP system.
MTAC projects work to bridge the gap between available technologies and commercial adoption by manufacturers by helping companies turn those technologies into market opportunities, and by reducing barriers that keep manufacturers from incorporating technology solutions into their processes and products. These challenges include not only technology and knowledge transfer, but also technology transition and bringing a technology from lab to market.
The following MEP Centers will receive approximately $500,000 each to pilot MTACs:
- California Manufacturing Technology Consulting: Transportation Manufacturing Technology Acceleration Center. Project partners include GENEDGE Alliance (Va.), the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center and the Corporation for Manufacturing Excellence (Calif.).
- Georgia Tech Research Corporation, Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership: Southeast Automotive Manufacturing Technology Acceleration Center. Project partners include the Alabama Technology Network, Innovate MEP Mississippi, South Carolina MEP and Tennessee MEP.
- Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership: Food Processors Manufacturing Technology Acceleration Center. Project partners include Impact Washington and Idaho TechHelp.
- University of Texas at Arlington Texas, Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center: Defense/Aerospace Supply Chain Manufacturing Technology Acceleration Center.Project partners include all seven of the assistance center's MEP service locations.
- University of Wisconsin-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center: Great Lakes Manufacturing Technology Acceleration Center. Project partners include Wisconsin MEP.
The NIST MTAC efforts align with the administration's plan to launch a nationwide network of innovation institutes across the country that will develop world-leading manufacturing technologies and capabilities to support U.S. manufacturing sector growth. One goal of the MTAC program is for the centers to efficiently connect researchers, scientists, engineers and U.S. manufacturers and serve as coordination points within key supply chains.
To learn more about MEP and its 25 years of supporting U.S. manufacturers, visit www.nist.gov/mep.