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UofL Partners With National Digital Manufacturing Initiative

The University of Louisville's Speed Engineering School will collaborate with other institutions, government agencies and businesses in an initiative to boost digital design and manufacturing processes nationwide.The announcement comes today as President Obama awarded $70 million of Department of Defense funding to the program.In addition to the $70 million from the federal government, nearly $250 million was raised by public and private entities to ensure the institute would be based in Chicago.The Chicago institute will be led by UI Labs, a branch of the University of Illinois.UofL’s Speed School will be one of the largest extended research centers and its inclusion in the consortium will provide technologies to large and small area businesses to help them compete on a global scale, Glen Prater, a mechanical engineering professor at UofL who assisted in drafting the proposal.Neville Pinto, dean of the Speed Engineering School at UofL, said the opportunity to partner with the consortium of 73 companies, universities, nonprofits and research labs is a fantastic way to grow the national and international presence of UofL.“It’s like winning the national championship of engineering,” he said.Participation in the project includes a five-year grant.  The exact amount of funding provided by the grant is not yet known, Pinto said.“We feel like we were selected because we have a very competitive team and we’ll be able to get a good share of this money to advance research and education in Louisville,” Pinto said.Prater said lower energy costs are creating a “manufacturing renaissance” in the country.“We feel being part of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Institute, being one of the largest university sites for this institute will place us in a position where we can make remarkable contributions to this renaissance,” Prater said.More attention will also be turned to the construction of the 39-acre applied science and technology park still under construction at UofL's Belknap campus, officials said.“We think it will have an enormous impact on the economy of the region and the state of Kentucky,” Pinto said.  “Manufacturing is very important to our state. This is a fabulous opportunity to create new jobs through the invention of technologies.”Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth praised the partnership in a statement and said the consortium will help UofL continue to be a “regional powerhouse in advanced manufacturing and innovation.”“This investment will also help keep our community at the forefront of the revitalization of American manufacturing, which creates good jobs for Louisvillians, boosts our local economy and makes Kentucky businesses more competitive in the global economy,” Yarmuth said.While creating jobs, the results from the Digital Manufacturing and Design Initiative are expected to decrease costs in the manufacturing industry by 10 percent, including nearly $30 billion in cost cuts in the commercial airline industry over a 15-year period.President Obama’s announcement also included a $70 million award to a Detroit-based research center that will be specializing in lightweight and modern metal innovation. The University of Kentucky will be collaborating with that consortium of nearly 60 other institutions and agencies.Both the Chicago- and Detroit-based institutes are in-line with President Obama’s  National Network for Manufacturing Innovation vision.  The president allocated $1 billion in his 2014 budget to help bridge gaps in research and development while creating jobs.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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