June 24, 2011

New Federal Advanced Manufacturing Partnership: Grant Programs for Robotics and Energy-Efficient Manufacturing

Two new federal grant programs, the National Robotics Initiative and the Innovative Manufacturing Initiative, were announced in conjunction with the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership launched on June 24 by President Obama.

The “Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) is a national effort bringing together industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in the emerging technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness.” UC Berkeley is one of the universities involved in the AMP, along with MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford, and the University of Michigan.

NSF, NIH, USDA, NASA Offer Grants for National Robotics Initiative

The National Science Foundation has issued the program announcement for the National Robotics Initiative (NRI), jointly sponsored by NSF, NIH, NASA, and USDA.

From the NRI program solicitation (NSF 11-553):
The goal of the National Robotics Initiative is to accelerate the development and use of robots in the United States that work beside, or cooperatively with, people. Innovative robotics research and applications emphasizing the realization of such co-robots acting in direct support of and in a symbiotic relationship with human partners is supported by multiple agencies of the federal government including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The purpose of this program is the development of this next generation of robotics, to advance the capability and usability of such systems and artifacts, and to encourage existing and new communities to focus on innovative application areas. It will address the entire life cycle from fundamental research and development to industry manufacturing and deployment. Methods for the establishment and infusion of robotics in educational curricula and research to gain a better understanding of the long term social, behavioral and economic implications of co-robots across all areas of human activity are important parts of this initiative. Collaboration between academic, industry, non-profit and other organizations is strongly encouraged to establish better linkages between fundamental science and technology development, deployment and use.
NRI solicits two classes of proposals:

Small projects: One or more investigator projects are expected to range from approximately $100,000 to $250,000 per year in direct costs, with durations of one to five years. Required letters of intent are due October 1, full proposals are due December 15.

Large projects: Multi-disciplinary group research projects are expected to range from $250,001 to $1,000,000 per year in direct costs for one to five years, not to exceed $1,500,000 in total costs per year, except in exceptional circumstances. Required letters of intent are due November 3, full proposals are due January 18.

DOE Funding Innovative Manufacturing Initiative

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced the Innovative Manufacturing Initiative grant program with initial funding of $120 million to develop innovative manufacturing processes and materials to enable companies to cut the costs of manufacturing, while using less energy.
DOE plans to fund 35-50 awards, with approximately $25 million available to start the projects in FY 2012 and additional funding expected later in FY 2012 and in FY 2013 and FY 2014. Required letters of intent are due August 1, with applications due August 25.

Update (6/28/11): UC Berkeley News article Campus asked by President Obama to help boost investment in manufacturing