GAITHERSBURG, Md. — The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded $3.4 million in grants to support high-impact projects for COVID-19 pandemic response, with funding authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed by President Donald Trump in March 2020.
The funding goes to four Manufacturing USA® institutes, which are public-private partnerships working with academic and private sector manufacturing organizations on applied research and development and advanced manufacturing skills training. Each institute focuses on an advanced manufacturing specialty such as biopharmaceuticals, 3D printing or wearable sensors.
“I am pleased we have quickly provided these CARES Act funds to support the innovative projects contributing to our COVID-19 response efforts at the public-private Manufacturing USA institutes,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “When we operate at the ‘speed of business’ and work collaboratively across the government in partnership with the private sector, we achieve great things for our nation.”
“The collaborative programs these institutes have built since the launch of Manufacturing USA have resulted in powerful networks including universities, inventors and manufacturers,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Walter G. Copan. “These partnerships have allowed them to rapidly respond to the current pandemic with projects to expand production of needed medical countermeasures, provide workforce training, increase testing capacity and help manufacturers prepare for the future.”
The following projects were chosen to receive funding through a competitive process, based on technical merit and impact related to the COVID-19 national emergency:
The $1.4 million award will allow America Makes, in partnership with fellow Manufacturing USA institute MxD, to expand production of medical countermeasure components such as personal protective equipment (PPE) using additive and digital manufacturing technologies. The effort builds on the Advanced Manufacturing Crisis Production Response project, launched in March 2020 with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and Department of Veterans Affairs. The project provides a central place for health care providers to request equipment, for manufacturers to offer capability, and for designers to upload product designs. This award will enable the team to bring in more collaborators; develop a strategic road map to prioritize and address select COVID-19 crisis needs; extend manufacturing capabilities and impact; and develop a virtual workforce training program.
With its $1 million award, LIFT will train 250 workers in the Pittsburgh and Detroit areas in CNC machine operations, industrial technology maintenance, welding and robotics. Leveraging a successful program that trains separating military personnel, LIFT’s new online training will reskill/upskill civilian workers impacted by the pandemic. It will also provide resources and support to their manufacturing employers as they manage their pandemic recovery. The project will engage small and medium manufacturers through Catalyst Connection, part of the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan.
The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) institute will receive more than $600,000 to develop a safe method to use collaborative robots to automate much of the COVID-19 testing process. Current testing capacity is limited by the number of technicians in the U.S. By augmenting the limited labor force with robots, the project seeks to increase the number of tests conducted at hospital and university labs and minimize exposure to medical personnel. Wilder Systems will work with ARM on the project.
ARMI|BioFabUSA will receive $400,000 to develop and share a road map for organizations to follow for pandemic response and recovery. The road map will identify and prioritize key needs, including those related to: supply chain issues to enable increased production of PPE, test kits and vaccines; manufacturing production to decrease times for vaccine manufacturing; and rapid delivery of test kits and vaccines to the right places. BioFabUSA will partner with federal, private sector and academic organizations and publicly release the road map in three months.
The Manufacturing USA institutes and their sponsors — the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Defense or Energy — connect more than 2,000 organizations across hundreds of major projects to quickly move technology from laboratory prototypes to industrial capabilities and provide thousands of people with advanced manufacturing knowledge and skills. To learn more, visit www.ManufacturingUSA.com.
NIST, a nonregulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, promotes U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. To learn more about NIST, visit NIST.gov.