Carnegie Mellon and Lehigh Lead in Launch Of New Program To Bolster Manufacturing Innovation

Carnegie Mellon University in collaboration with Lehigh University will manage a new $1 million manufacturing and innovation development program to help foster a renaissance in Pennsylvania manufacturing globally.

“Manufacturing adds more than $75 billion in value each year to our state’s economy, and it is paramount that we do all that we can to grow that sector of our economy,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett. “Through partnering with our world-class research institutions, we can provide the tools needed for Pennsylvania companies to create jobs and compete in the global economy.”

The Research for Advanced Manufacturing in Pennsylvania program (RAMP) is funded through the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Discovered in PA – Developed in PA (D2PA) program. The D2PA program, created by the Corbett administration, is designed to build capacity to better support Pennsylvania’s businesses and to spur creativity and innovation in the allocation of economic development services.

The RAMP program is designed to tap the research and innovation capabilities of both CMU and Lehigh and provide technical and economic benefits to the state’s small-, medium- and large-sized manufacturing companies by enabling knowledge transfer, the discovery of new technologies and retention of highly skilled students, according to Matthew A. Sanfilippo, executive director of CMU’s Institute for Complex Engineered Systems (ICES).

RAMP will operate as a competitive funding program that provides small incentive grants (one to one and one-half years in duration) to faculty-led teams at both CMU and Lehigh that engage in short-term innovation projects in cooperation with a Pennsylvania manufacturing company. Each successful RAMP proposal will be awarded between $25,000 and $75,000 to help support graduate students working with successful participating companies.

“This program is designed to help Pennsylvania companies invent and develop advanced manufacturing capabilities to compete in a global marketplace,” said Gary Fedder, ICES director and a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and the Robotics Institute.

“Additionally, RAMP will build off the successful history at Lehigh and CMU of partnering with Pennsylvania’s companies and provide a gateway for these companies to tap into the unique technical capabilities that are available at these research universities,” added Richard Sause, director of Lehigh’s ATLSS Engineering Research Center.

The new program falls on the heels of the U.S. government’s tack to forge new ways to collaborate on discovery, commercialization and the building of workforce skills to ensure that advanced manufacturing creates jobs in the United States.

CMU research has shown that moving manufacturing overseas to developing countries can reduce the economic viability of emerging technologies.

“We find that in the case of early-stage industries with immature processes that when U.S. firms shift production from the U.S. to countries like China, the most advanced technologies that were developed in the U.S. no longer pay,” said Erica Fuchs, an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon. “With changes in the innovation ecosystem over the last few decades, policy and other funding mechanisms to support manufacturing, technology development and commercialization activities by these small- and medium-sized enterprises may be of growing importance to regional and national economic development.”

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