Stanford chosen for Advanced Manufacturing Partnership

July 7, 2011, 2:04 a.m.

Stanford is one of six universities involved in the federal government’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, an initiative that aims to help create high-tech manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and boost the development of advanced technologies. With assistance from the government, members of the group, which also includes a group of U.S. companies, are set to invest more than $500 million is research, development and education over the next year.

President Barack Obama announced the partnership June 24 at Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center, located in Pittsburgh, Penn., in front of representatives from the six involved universities — Carnegie Mellon University, UC-Berkeley, Georgia Institute of Technology, MIT, University of Michigan and Stanford.

The initiative is derived from a recommendation by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), which focuses on investment in new and advanced technologies.

“In the last five months, the PCAST has studied administrative actions to promote advanced manufacturing,” said Professor Thomas Kenny, who represented Stanford at the event, in a phone interview with The Daily. “It published a report a few weeks ago; the recommendation was that the administration should have a new, funded initiative that will consist of partnerships between universities and industries to promote technologies, new design methodologies and educational tools.”

Obama also invited to the announcement various government agencies–including the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy–as well as top executives from large private-sector manufacturing companies–among them Intel, Ford Motor Co., Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Honeywell and Dow Chemical.

Universities such as Stanford were included in the initiative to settle concerns that efficient practices favored by corporations could lower the demand for workers, decrease wages and worsen the unemployment rate. The universities’ role is to foster an innovative environment and produce both the tools and the skilled workers to revolutionize manufacturing.

“Stanford was pleased to participate [in the partnership] because President Obama’s initiative matches the mission of the University, which is to advance innovation through research and education,” wrote Stanford spokeswoman Lisa Lapin in an email to The Daily.

Part of that, Kenny said, is because of the people on campus.

“Stanford is comprised of educators, researchers, innovators and leaders,” he added.

Stanford’s participation in Obama’s initiative will not require a direct investment on the University’s part in the short term. Already-existing facilities dedicated to innovative manufacturing, such as the Center for Integrated Systems, will wait for a series of program-funding announcements from government agencies.

It can also write proposals to organizations such as the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation, in order to bring long-term funding to Stanford.

“Following [Obama’s] announcement, we have been working on recommendations and plans for education (shared manufacturing curriculum, manufacturing degree programs, outreach, examples of industry/academic infrastructure and curriculum) and research (university/industry partnerships on manufacturing, infrastructure networks, roadmaps),” Kenny wrote in a separate email to The Daily.

“As this moves along, there will be ideas and opportunities for programs and activities at Stanford,” he added. “The Product Realization Lab led by [mechanical engineering] professor Dave Beach is an excellent example, in that it provides access for more than 1000 students each year to get their hands on modern manufacturing tools and learn how to design and make things.”

Stanford cites its own history of practical innovation as a qualification for its participation in the program.

“The areas of focus are particular strengths of Stanford, including information technology, nanotechnology and biotechnology,” wrote Lapin. “We believe partnerships such as the manufacturing initiative are key to the transfer of knowledge, and we are proud to join with the federal government and industry leaders in this effort.”

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