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Obama to Announce Advanced Manufacturing Institutes

President Obama on Tuesday will announce a new Pentagon and private-sector partnership aimed at beefing up advanced manufacturing technology in the U.S.

The partnerships are a pair of Defense Department-led “innovation institutes” – one in Chicago and the other in Detroit – funded with $140 million from the Pentagon and matched by area university and business consortiums.

The Detroit institute will focus on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing. The Chicago institute will emphasis digital manufacturing and design technologies, according to a White House official who provided the information on background.

Obama said during his State of the Union message in January that he would establish three manufacturing innovation centers using existing departments and resources. The administration announced competitions for the centers last May, accepting program ideas from the Pentagon, the Energy and Commerce departments, NASA and the National Science Foundation.

The first of the three, the Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Raleigh, N.C., was announced last month. It is led by the Energy Department.

The idea is that the institutes will serve as regional hubs and “bridge the gap” between applied research and product development. This last part would be helped along by the consortiums – made up of corporations, universities, training institutes and, of course, the federal government, all focused on key technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S., the White House said.

The Pentagon will fund each institute to the tune of $70 million, with the consortium members raising and appropriating an equal amount.

The Chicago consortium is made up of 73 companies, universities, non-profit groups and research labs, the White House said. It will be led in Chicago by UI Labs, a research and supercomputing center established last year by the University of Illinois.

EWI, an Ohio-based manufacturing company with a Detroit plant, will head up the 60-member consortium focusing on lightweight metals.

For the Department of Defense, the White House said lightweight and modern metals will mean “armored vehicles strong enough to withstand a roadside bomb but light enough for helicopter-transport.”

The White House is also describing the initiative as another move by the administration to improve the economy and spur new and quality jobs without having to negotiate with Congress.

“President Obama has declared 2014 a year of action, and while he will continue to work with Congress on new measures to create jobs and grow the economy, he will also use his executive authority to get things done,” the White House official said.

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