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Ohio University advances new research partnership to fuel U.S. manufacturing competitiveness

Published: August 11, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Seeking to help bolster U.S. manufacturing competitiveness, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today announced a $90,000 grant to Ohio University to explore how public universities can develop and scale partnerships with Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Centers to increase the capacity of small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs) to adopt technologies key for their success.

The grant is one of three awards in this area made possible as part of a research grant APLU received from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST).

“Ohio University is well positioned to serve as a partner for small and medium-sized manufacturers as they look to enhance their businesses in the future,” Ohio University President Hugh Sherman said. “We are honored to be a part of this grant and look forward to using it to collaborate with manufacturers for the betterment of the entire region.”

Ohio University and the Ohio MEP southeast, operated by the OSU South Centers (part of Ohio MEP), will establish a partnership to support SMMs. The effort will address challenges they must overcome while implementing new technologies such as robotics and automated systems used for factory automation through a talent development model using Industry 4.0 digital tools. The Appalachian Ohio Manufacturer’s Coalition (AOMC), Washington State Community College, and Building Bridges to Careers are supporting the partnership. The effort will create a foundation for stronger regional collaboration with an initial group of educational and non‐profit institutions engaged with the regional MEP program.

The grant will provide an opportunity for small and medium-sized manufacturers to open dialogue with Ohio University, whose researchers can provide information that may help the manufacturers to enhance their businesses long-term. The digital tools available at the University can help companies make more informed decisions about their future expansion efforts, for example.

“We know technology adoption is critical for the success and long-term sustainability of small and medium-sized manufacturers. Yet barriers to uptake of new technologies still force too many manufacturers out of business,” said Sheila Martin, Vice President for Economic and Community Engagement at APLU. “We’re excited these public universities, MEP Centers, and private sector partners are stepping up to find new models for increased success. We hope to not only find new approaches for success in these regions, but new models that can be emulated, modified, and scaled to promote U.S. manufacturing competitiveness across the country.”

“Universities are an important source of technology innovation that can serve to strengthen and empower U.S. manufacturers in partnership with the MEP National Network,” said MEP Deputy Director Rob Ivester. “We hope this project will demonstrate how universities, working together with their local MEP Centers, can facilitate connections and technical assistance to small and medium-sized manufacturers, increasing their capacity to develop and scale partnerships to adopt the technologies needed to succeed in Industry 4.0.”

The selected universities and MEP Centers will receive seed funding to develop a partnership for offering technology adoption services at SMMs with which they work. The partners were selected through a competitive process, which included review by a set of manufacturing technology experts.

The funds will help support activities including: developing processes for identifying manufacturers that would stand to benefit most from partnerships; targeting and providing resources for manufacturers; matching manufacturers with faculty and students; adjusting policies to facilitate deeper, more productive collaboration; and developing agreements for ongoing partnership; among other areas.