Science + Technology

Nonprofit co-founded by UCLA to form national institute to improve efficiency in manufacturing

UCLA to lead the California regional center, one of five in a nationwide network

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President Obama at SelectUSA summit
Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

President Obama announces the launch of the Smart Manufacturing Innovation to be headquartered in Los Angeles.

President Barack Obama announced a $70 million federal award Monday to a nonprofit co-founded by UCLA to create a nationwide Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute, with the goal of improving the efficiency of advanced manufacturing.

The institute will be headquartered in downtown Los Angeles in partnership with the city, led by the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition and supported by UCLA’s leadership. It will include a national network of five regional manufacturing centers funded by $70 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and more than $70 million in matching funds from many of the institute partners.

Obama announced the new institute at the annual SelectUSA Summit held today in Washington D.C.

UCLA Vice Provost of Information Technology Jim Davis will remain at the university while serving as the interim executive director of the institute, and UCLA will lead the California regional center with partners such as the California Manufacturing Technology Consultants, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine.

The institute includes more than 200 partners from the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition, which UCLA co-founded in 2006. Partners from more than 30 states include representatives from academia and government, as well as dozens of industry partners, including Google, Microsoft and Northrop Grumman. The new Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute seeks to fuel industry growth in L.A., California and across the nation, using more than $140 million in public-private investments to develop advanced manufacturing technology and support a workforce and education pipeline.

“UCLA takes its mission as a public institution very seriously, and we are excited to help bridge research, policy and practice in a way we hope can transform manufacturing that will have a positive impact on our future,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. “With L.A. as the headquarters of this new institute, our goal is to unite those different elements and help all five regional centers bring innovative solutions to the whole country.”

“As a critical proposal partner, UCLA has been instrumental in leading the way in smart manufacturing developments and research and ensuring community involvement,” Davis said.

Information technology has transformed industries like banking, health care, entertainment and transportation, but manufacturing has not yet taken advantage of the ways information technology, sensors, analytics and controls can transform the industry, Davis said. With manufacturing using roughly one-third of the nation’s energy, the institute and its headquarters will focus on bringing together untapped opportunities in manufacturing performance, next-generation information technology and the adoption of advanced technologies to impact energy efficiency, Davis said.

“Smart manufacturing is about the transformational use of information technology in manufacturing, improving efficiency on many fronts,” Davis said. “We’re making it easy to adopt new technologies and to innovate using an open-source, digital, smart-manufacturing platform and technology marketplace. This makes it possible for small, medium and large companies to take advantage of these technologies.”

The Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute is the ninth manufacturing hub awarded by the Obama administration. Existing hubs have begun creating next-generation semiconductors, lightweight metals for vehicles that are improving fuel efficiency, the first FDA-approved 3-D-printed medical device, and hundreds of jobs. The new institute will focus on accelerating the development and adoption of advanced sensors, data analytics and controls in manufacturing, while halving the cost of these technologies and radically improving the efficiency of U.S. manufacturing.

“Investment is always about the future,” Obama said. “Since 2014, we’ve opened eight cutting-edge manufacturing hubs — public-private partnerships that specialize in game-changing technologies like 3-D printing, photonics, the next-generation textiles. And today, I’m proud to announce a ninth hub based in Los Angeles that will design smart sensors to make all types of manufacturing more efficient.”

The five networked regional centers will link California, Washington, New York, North Carolina and Texas, and the Los Angeles headquarters is the “ideal place to build the future of advanced manufacturing,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

“People come here from everywhere to create, innovate and redefine how technology can improve our daily lives,” Garcetti said. “That’s why I strongly supported the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute and pushed to locate its headquarters in the heart of our city. I applaud the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition and our federal partners for realizing the promise of this institute, and am encouraged by its potential to bring even more good-paying jobs and economic development to L.A.”

California is home to the largest manufacturing base in the United States, made up mainly of 40,000 small and medium-sized firms, and 1.3 million manufacturing employees. The institute will provide cutting-edge education and workforce training for high-skilled occupations to enable innovation, secure an underrepresented and diverse talent pipeline, improve the business climate and advance cross-sector collaboration.

The California governor’s office has been a key champion of the coalition, and their support and resources were instrumental in the selection of Los Angeles as the headquarters for the institute, Davis said.

“As the leading manufacturing state in the country, it has been important to continue to push the envelope in support of efforts such as these,” said Louis Stewart, deputy director, innovation and entrepreneurship in the governor’s office. “The smart manufacturing institute will help change the way companies measure efficiency and help create new jobs. We applaud SMLC and UCLA for successfully bringing the second innovation institute to our great state.”

The organization LA n Sync, part of the Annenberg Foundation and a member of the institute, was a key partner in engaging the business community around this manufacturing opportunity, Davis added.

“LA n Sync was created with a single, simple, fundamental goal: to bring LA’s public, private and non-profit sectors together as we chase after every possible funding dollar,” said Wallis Annenberg, President and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation and Founder of LA n Sync. “That’s why President Obama’s announcement today is so gratifying for us, and for Los Angeles as a whole. The SMLC will revolutionize manufacturing in this country.”

Partners also include: LA n Sync, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Manufacturing Technology Consultants, Cal State University Northridge, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, San Diego Super Computing, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine, University of Southern California and others.

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