Washington, D.C.— The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today announced it received a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to improve the competitiveness of small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) by generating and testing effective partnerships with NIST Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Centers housed at public and land-grant universities. MEP Centers work to increase SMM competitiveness through technical support such as connecting them with leading university researchers. APLU is undertaking the work with Innovation Associates and Jim Woodell & Company.
“The nation’s public and land-grant universities play a critical role in advancing innovation in manufacturing through education, research, and community engagement,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “A vibrant manufacturing sector is key to a thriving economy and we’re thrilled to work with public research universities across the country to take that work to the next level through this important effort.”
“We know that universities, with their innovative environments, can play an important role in partnerships with manufacturers and MEP Centers,” said MEP Director Carroll Thomas. “We hope this new project will demonstrate how universities can develop and scale partnerships with the MEP National Network and increase the capacity for small and medium-sized manufacturers to adopt the technologies that will help them succeed in Industry 4.0.”
The U.S. manufacturing sector has lost over 5 million jobs over the two past decades, and reduced productivity growth in the industry threatens to diminish its presence even further. Increasing the availability and adoption next-generation technology is key to increasing the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and spurring job growth.
Over the next year, the grant will support work to: identify and promulgate innovative strategies to advance technology through SMM and MEP partnerships; determine and share factors that lead to successful partnerships; and apply the results of that research to build tools and resources helping scale university-SMM-MEP effective practices.
The grant builds on earlier NIST-funded work to explore how universities can develop and scale partnerships with MEP Centers to increase capacity for SMMs to adopt technologies that are key to success in the evolution to the next generation of manufacturing. The first phase of grant found that university-MEP-SMM partnerships facilitate the transition and adoption among manufacturers and that public researcher universities are interested in deepening collaboration between MEP Centers and SMMs, among other findings.