Dear NextFlex Members and Friends,
We were pleased to host the Manufacturing USA Spring Network meetings at NextFlex last week. Participants included representatives from each of the 14 public-private innovation institutes plus government partners from offices in the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Commerce, all of whom support and guide the outcomes and progress of each institute. Like NextFlex, the goal of all innovation institutes is to increase US competitiveness, facilitate technology transition, and train our workforce for 21st century manufacturing jobs. In each of our respective technology areas, the Manufacturing USA innovation institutes advance manufacturing by connecting people, ideas, and technology, breathe life into promising early-stage research and propel new products to market.
Our technology focus at NextFlex – flexible hybrid electronics – will transform people’s lives and improve warfighter performance through a multitude of applications in healthcare, structural health monitoring, soft robotics, and more. But I am humbled and pleased to see the progress being made at our sister institutes across the country. From advanced robotics used in manufacturing, to development of engineered bio-tissues, and improving the efficiency of US advanced manufacturing through smart sensors and digital process controls, it seems that every advanced manufacturing sector across the country is benefitting from the work of manufacturing innovation institutes.
Astonishing statistics from the most recent Manufacturing USA Annual Report prove that the institute model is working – companies both large and small, academia, and government partners are engaging, technology development is in progress, and the workforce is waking up to education and career pathways that lead to opportunities in advanced manufacturing.
|Total Institute Members||830||1,291|
|Total Institute Projects||191||273|
|Total STEM Student Engagement||23,560||185,425|
A strong theme throughout the two-day meeting was that of sustainability. Each institute is initially funded for a fixed number of years, in our case that term is five years, so we are all focused on delivering value today to members while building our unique capability that will be of continuing service to our respective technology communities in the future. In our case, we have formed a 501(c)3 called NextFlex Learning Programs to further expand our marquee workforce development, education and training programs, and a C-Corporation to soon handle commercial projects in the Technology Hub. Putting this structure in place now for our sustainable future is key to our ongoing commitment to the FHE community.
Key take-aways from the meeting included a call to action for increased inter-institute support and cooperation, especially where opportunities exist to work together to help solve manufacturing problems faced by our respective members. The other key takeaway was an ongoing commitment from the Manufacturing USA team to continue to advocate the good news about the work of the manufacturing innovation institutes, to ensure that the value that is being created is leveraged to its fullest potential. The meeting concluded with a renewed sense of purpose: our mandate is to convene, innovate, engage SMEs and to deliver education and training for the next generation workforce. Based on the reports I heard from each of the 14 innovation institutes, we are all aligned to this purpose and are laser-like in our focus on serving our growing communities.
Please click below to hear about what else we’ve been up to.
Dr. Malcolm J. Thompson
Executive Director, NextFlex