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Forging the Future: Manufacturing USA Institutes and U-I Collaborations

Oct. 31, 2023—There has been significant attention recently on U.S. government investment in academic-corporate partnerships, but since 2014, Manufacturing USA has made its mark on the manufacturing industry in the United States. Formally created by the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act, it is a network of institutes—public-private partnerships that foster collaboration among diverse stakeholders to accelerate innovation and increase U.S. competitiveness. Today, there are 17 Manufacturing USA Institutes, with up to three more in the works. These institutes are powerful public-private partnerships driving innovation across the country. With a positive track record and upward-trending interest in government engagement in translational research, there are plenty of reasons for universities and industry–small to large in size–to leverage their benefits.

Institutes then and now

The Manufacturing USA Institutes seek to increase U.S. manufacturing competitiveness and position the United States as a driving force in global manufacturing. Today, manufacturing contributes over $2 trillion to the U.S. economy and provides more than 12 million jobs to Americans. To retain that edge, the Manufacturing USA Institutes focus on specific advanced manufacturing technology, from additive manufacturing to biotechnology, clean energy, and more. The institutes are geographically distributed, and each specializes in a unique technological concentration. Recent geopolitical events are increasing a sense of urgency to achieve results.

Currently, Manufacturing USA and the National Science Foundation are seeking research and educational proposals that align with the focus areas of the individual institutes. The recently issued Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) encourages proposal submissions to established NSF programs in several directorates that show explicit collaborations with the Manufacturing USA Institutes.

Becoming an institute member is a great way for organizations to engage, offering access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, a network of partners, workforce and training opportunities, and more. Each institute is structured like a consortium, providing leadership, vision, and resources to its members. A range of organization types can join, from academia and industry to startups and nonprofits, and each institute offers unique benefits depending on its area of focus and the level of membership.

Semiconductor manufacturing

Last year, NIST published an RFI seeking public input to establish up to three new institutes focused on semiconductor manufacturing, authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act. NIST sought feedback about five areas: institute scope; institutional structure/governance; strategies for driving co-investment and engagement; education and workforce development; and success metrics. The RFI gained over 90 responses, most from established semiconductor organizations.

Respondents indicated that the new institutes should be transformational and bridge gaps from R&D to full-scale manufacturing, although there was no consensus on specific topic areas. Respondents agreed that the institutes should coordinate with existing semiconductor investments and programs. The commenters also said that the original organization of the institutes would work well, although there may be a need to scale them up to address all parts of the semiconductor industry. RFI participants emphasized the importance of shared access to equipment and facilities to ensure co-investment and also noted that future semiconductor institutes could play a vital role in providing experiential learning opportunities at all levels. The full report on the RFI responses is available on the NIST website.

Why it matters

While existing Manufacturing USA Institutes present ample opportunity for engagement, the semiconductor institutes in the pipeline provide even more. There is no timeline yet for a funding announcement related to the new semiconductor institutes. But plenty of the established institutes are driving innovation, sharing advanced facilities and equipment, and training tomorrow’s workforce—and waiting for more partners to join them.

We want to hear from you. Has your organization engaged with a Manufacturing USA Institute? Let us know on our LinkedIn profile.

The 3-Minute Read is a UIDP member information piece and does not represent the opinions of our members or representatives. We welcome your comments on our LinkedIn profile.