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Challenge Seeks Regional Advanced Manufacturing Solutions

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Six U.S. federal agencies, including National Science Foundation, are funding a new challenge that seeks ways of building a region’s manufacturing capabilities. In addition to NSF, the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge — the third of these competitions — is supported by Economic Development Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology in Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Labor, and Small Business Administration.

The challenge will award some $26 million to 12 projects that help the development and implementation of regionally-driven economic strategies supporting advanced manufacturing and cluster development. The agencies say proposals are encouraged that help grow a region’s industry clusters by strengthening connections to regional economic opportunities and advanced manufacturing assets.

Funded projects are also expected to enhance a region’s capacity to create high-quality sustainable jobs, and develop a skilled and diverse advanced manufacturing workforce. Other objectives of the challenge, say the funding agencies, include increasing exports, encouraging development of small businesses, and accelerating technological innovation.

Thomas Peterson, NSF’s assistant director for engineering, says the partnership will enable his agency to “connect innovations from NSF-supported advanced manufacturing research with stakeholders who can accelerate technology commercialization and economic growth.” Peterson adds that NSF is making available up to $1 million for existing NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II grantees that are part of winning projects.

Economic Development Administration, one of the funding agencies, notes that manufacturing accounts for 70 percent of private-sector R&D and 60 percent of U.S. exports-including a record $1.2 trillion in goods exported in 2011. Over the past 25 months, manufacturers have created nearly half a million jobs, the most since 1995.

The deadline for applications is 9 July 2012. More details, including application guidelines, are available on the Web site.

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