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Science/Technology

ISI leads state’s effort in federal manufacturing initiative

by Megan Hazle
President Barack Obama speaks to a worker making wind tunnels at the Trinity Structural Towers Manufacturing Plant in Iowa. (Photo/Pete Souza)
Photo: President Barack Obama speaks to a worker making wind tunnels at the Trinity Structural Towers Manufacturing Plant in Iowa. (Photo/Pete Souza)

The Information Sciences Institute (ISI), based at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, has advanced to the next round of consideration for the expansion of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) initiative announced by President Barack Obama during his State of the Union address in 2012.

The initiative is focused on strengthening U.S. manufacturing innovation, performance, competitiveness and job creation. To this end, it aims to establish a number of institutes for manufacturing innovation around the country that would bring together industry and academia, as well as federal and state agencies, to develop and invest in manufacturing technologies.

ISI’s submission would establish a new California-based Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation (DMDI) Institute and team academic institutions across the state with various industry partners.

“Due to offshore manufacturing trends in recent years, segments of the U.S. industry have suffered significant job losses,” said John Damoulakis, ISI deputy director of advanced electronics. “A California-based DMDI Institute will have a strong regional focus, but [it] will also have a national presence through its industry partners located across the United States.

“It will strengthen U.S. manufacturing’s global competitive position by re-imagining manufacturing, embracing the advances of digital technology and by creating the right learning environment for workforce development in the digital era, which will increase innovation and productivity,” he explained.

In August, a team comprised of ISI, University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Irvine, California Institute of Technology and various industry partners received an invitation from the federal government to submit a full technical and cost proposal. Since then, the core academic team has been augmented to include the University of California, Berkeley, and other universities and community colleges across California.

Submissions of NNMI proposals are due to the federal government on Oct. 11; a final decision is expected in December. If selected, the statewide submission, led by the ISI team, would receive $70 million from the U.S. Government over a five-year period, plus several millions in additional financial support from the state of California, Los Angeles and Orange Counties, the cities of Los Angeles and Irvine, and a number of industrial partners.

Beyond establishing the DMDI headquarters at USC, the proposal calls for satellite campuses near UC Irvine and UC Berkeley.