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Two Colorado universities have starring role in new U.S. advanced manufacturing projects

By: Gazette and news services
February 25, 2014 Updated: February 26, 2014 at 11:09 am
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The School of Mines will be one of four "core facilities" in the new American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

Colorado will play a major role in two new Pentagon-led projects to boost advanced manufacturing in the U.S. with the establishment of research centers at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden and the University of Colorado at Boulder, state officials announced Tuesday.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced the creation of two institutes - one near Detroit and the other near Chicago - as part of his year-old promise to expand public-private manufacturing partnerships across the country with the eventual goal of creating jobs that have been lost to global competition. Each institute will be seeded with $70 million from the Department of Defense, plus more than $70 million from non-government sources.

The School of Mines will be one of four "core facilities" in the new American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute near Detroit, developing "thermomechanical process improvements and technologies," according to a news release issued by Gov. John Hickenlooper's office. Those technologies use lightweight metals and alloys and have applications in numerous industries, including defense, aerospace, energy and natural resources, according to the release.

CU-Boulder will open a research center for "cyber physical systems," which will "enable a radical new way of manufacturing advanced products," the news release said. The center will work with UI Labs/Digital Manufacturing Lab in Chicago for the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute. CU-Boulder researchers also are expected to help the digital manufacturing industry address cybersecurity concerns.

The Colorado economic development office will provide $1 million annually each for five years to the School of Mines and the CU-Boulder, to be matched by federal grants, to help Colorado businesses access the technologies from the two institutes.

State officials hope the research centers in Boulder and Golden will have a ripple effect on businesses statewide.

"These technology hubs will help small- and medium-sized businesses to increase productivity, develop new products, strengthen the state's supply chain, grow exports and build a trained workforce," said Ken Lund, director of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

The two hubs will help to "put Colorado at the forefront of advanced manufacturing," Lund said.

"If we want to attract more good manufacturing jobs to America, we've got to make sure we're on the cutting edge of new manufacturing techniques and technologies," Obama said in announcing the projects in Chicago and Detroit.

Obama said during his State of the Union address last year that he would spend $200 million to create the manufacturing hubs that bring together companies and universities for research and development of products. Obama said Tuesday he could envision the creation of a sheet a metal as thin as paper and strong as steel that would be in demand by the military and private sector.

The administration previously had a manufacturing hub pilot program in Youngstown, Ohio, and Obama announced the creation of another Energy Department-led hub in Raleigh, N.C., last month. He encouraged Congress to approve funding for even more to keep up with global competition.

"I'm really excited about these four hubs. The only problem is Germany has 60 of them," Obama said.

"I don't want the next big job-creating discovery to come from Germany or China or Japan. I want it to be made here in America," Obama said.

Obama said even without Congress, his administration would create four additional hubs this year, through a competition by the Department of Energy.

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