The Rochester region may be one step closer to its future as a National Manufacturing Institute centering on optics and photonics with the passage of the $1.1 trillion federal budget over the weekend.
Among the appropriations, $300 million has been designated under the Revitalize American Manufacturing Innovation Act (RAMI) to establish up to 15 centers for manufacturing innovation, public-private partnerships which would bring together research universities, community colleges, and small- to mid-sized manufacturers. The goal is to spur innovation and reduce the cost, time and risk of commercializing new and improved technologies. Each manufacturing consortium would also include training and education initiatives to fill advanced manufacturing jobs. As of 2009, the U.S. was ranked only 27th of 29 developed countries in the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in science and engineering.
Republican Rep. Tom Reed, whose N.Y. 23rd District includes Corning, led the push for the RAMI in the U.S. House of Representatives, along with Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass. The bill was championed on the Senate side by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand also backed the proposal.
“We have worked tirelessly to get this to the finish line – it was our main focus for this year and during the lame duck session,” Reed said after the bill was included in the House’s omnibus spending package last week.
“RAMI will create new high-tech, high-paying manufacturing jobs for our children and grandchildren. It’s only fair that we have opportunities to create and innovate here at home,” Reed said.
The initiative is intended to further President Barak Obama’s goal of establishing 45 different advanced manufacturing centers over the next 10 years. Several hubs have already been established using existing funds from the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy, including manufacturing centers in power electronics, lightweight materials, and additive manufacturing, focusing on 3-D printing.
Rochester already has a proven track record in pioneering innovative manufacturing initiatives, which makes the region a front-runner for the establishment of a National Manufacturing Institute centered on photonics, said RRPC Executive Director Tom Battley.
“Rochester proved, with the Center for Optics Manufacturing (COM), that you don’t need to spend $200 million or even $100 million to make extraordinary breakthroughs in innovative manufacturing processes for America’s critical light-based technologies,” Battley said. “I think we can do as much or maybe more at a small COM2 with less than $10 million in funding than with something like the giant NMIs that have been announced since the president introduced the NNMI. Too many cooks, you know?”
The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) will be administered through the National Institute of Standards and Technology, with funds reallocated from the Department of Energy. NIST is charged with developing a strategic plan by next fall for the administration of the program. Advice on the strategic plan will be solicited from stakeholders in industry, academia and government.