On March 8, 2012, the White House announced a proposed investment of $1 billion for a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation involving up to 15 institutes across the U.S. An investment of this size requires congressional support, although a pilot institute has been funded by the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce, and the National Science Foundation in the amount of $30 million. With required matching funds, the three-year program is valued at $60 million. The most exciting, at least for some, is that the pilot institute will be dedicated to additive manufacturing.
A proposers’ day was held in Washington, DC on May 16, marking the official start for many organizations interested in responding to the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). In reality, some teams had already begun to form and work was well underway by mid May. For them, the meeting provided additional clarification and an opportunity to explore partnering with those in attendance. An estimated 300–350 people were at the event, either in person or by webinar. Among them were 24 potential prime contractors that had expressed interest in responding to the BAA.
Soon after the May 16 meeting, several prime contractor candidates chose to merge with other teams. Currently, I’m aware of five teams that have a strong set of partners, but there could be others. Only one of the teams will receive the award, yet the BAA has caused many people and organizations across the U.S. to talk and create alliances like I’ve never seen before in additive manufacturing. It is really quite interesting, even exciting, to watch it unfold. I truly hope that it leads to new consortiums and programs that would otherwise not develop. I spoke with two teams that said they plan to seek separate funding if they do not receive the BAA award. I suspect that other teams, or parts of teams, will also push ahead with ideas for new programs around additive manufacturing.
Tom Kalil, Deputy Director of Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, opened up the meeting on May 16. Kalil was instrumental in deciding to focus the pilot institute on additive manufacturing. Tim Caffrey and I have had a chance to work with Kalil and we could not be more excited about his involvement and what it could lead to in the future. It is initiatives like this that can help advance AM and take our country to the next level in product development and manufacturing.