Chicago lands Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation

Written By Lynn Sweet Posted: 02/28/2014, 01:43pm

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama will announce Tuesday that Chicago will be the home of a mega enterprise, a Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute.

The first-of-its kind research and development institute will be headquartered on Chicago’s Goose Island on the North Side and be the center of a 73-member multi-state public, corporate and university consortium.

The federal government, through the Department of Defense will send a $70 million grant to the consortium led by the Chicago-based UI labs, a non-profit spinoff of the University of Illinois.

The federal money for next generation technology will be leveraged with up to $250 million in cash and in-kind commitments from corporations, the City of Chicago, the State of Illinois and universities in Illinois and other states.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn, Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill and Michael Sacks, vice chairman of World Business Chicago and University of Illinois chair Chris Kennedy were key players in landing the project.

“This will be a game changer for the City of Chicago,” Emanuel said in a Saturday interview. The institute “brings together our strength in research, manufacturing and the new economy” with “endless” potential for jobs.

Durbin said in a Saturday interview the institute will build regional “defense capacity” and a “modern manufacturing capacity.”

The Defense Department wants the project to yield vast savings in Defense spending by finding new and cheaper ways to make and maintain major Defense acquisitions.

Durbin, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense–giving him an important perch to push for the project–said the $70 million will be spread out over five year and a first installment is in the fiscal year 2014 appropriation.

The Chicago group competed against consortiums from New England, California and from Huntsville—and had to put more on the table to show that Obama was not unfairly favoring Illinois.

“Being the president’s home state, we had to over-perform to justify the selection,” Durbin said. “The president wants to help Illinois, but wants to do it with a straight face.”

Quinn said Saturday the impact of the project and potential spinoffs is enormous. “This is one of the biggest ones since I have been governor, by far.”

“Advance manufacturing is a great way to grow jobs, to retain jobs and to literally bring back jobs that have gone to foreign shores. If you want made-in-America, this is the heart of that initiative because advanced manufacturing makes it much more feasible to do that manufacturing in your own back yard.”

The State of Illinois is putting up $16 million in cash and in all–totaling all state-related entities is in for $32.8 million counting cash and in-kind contributions. Quinn also created and funded the related Illinois Manufacturing Lab in Chicago.

Sacks, who worked with deputy mayor Steve Koch, said the institute is designed to solve real problems and “is not a think tank. It is “an industry-led institute” that can “develop products cheaper and faster.”

The White House said the institute is “creating a novel partnership between world-leading manufacturing experts and cutting-edge software companies to enable interoperability across the supply chain, develop enhanced digital capabilities to design and test new products, and reduce costs in manufacturing processes across multiple industries.”

Obama announced in his 2013 State of the Union address that he wanted to create three institutes to pool the resources and talents from academia, business, and local, state and federal agencies to spur research and development to help develop products, train students and workers and keep the U.S. high-tech and industrial base competitive.

The consortium includes partners from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Colorado, New York and Oregon.

The manufacturers in the consortium include Boeing, Caterpillar, John Deere, Northrop GE, ITW and Lockeed Martin.

The schools include the U. of Illinois and Blue Waters Super Computer, Northwestern, Northern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, Purdue, Notre Dame, University of Michigan, University of Texas, the University of Iowa, the University of Chicago, Black Hawk Community College, Monroe Community College, Lake Land College, Southern Illinois University, Southwestern Illinois College and Harper College.

Emanuel, Quinn, Durbin and Sacks said they will be at the White House for Obama’s announcement.

Obama will also announce the Detroit area as the home for an institute concentrating on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing.

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