Manufacturing consortium to focus on high-tech power electronics

Obama announces $140 million project at NC State; universities, companies to partner on research and development


President Obama went to Raleigh, N.C. on Jan. 15 to announce creation of a new $140 million manufacturing consortium that would include private manufacturers and universities focused on developing high-tech power electronics.

Reuters reported that the president took a swipe at Congress for not funding an expansion of such technology centers around the country. “"I don't want the next big job creating discovery, the research and technology, to be in Germany or China or Japan; I want it to be right here in the United States of America," Obama was quoted as saying. "Where I can act on my own I'm going to do so, and today I'm here to act," he said. "Manufacturing is a bright spot in this economy."

The consortium will be lead by North Carolina State University, where Obama visited in announcing the program and which has been a leader in both developing manufacturing innovation and working with regional manufacturing leaders to develop a strong tie between education and the manufacturing sector.

The other universities and technical labs include North Carolina, Arizona State, Florida State University, University of California at Santa Barbara, Virginia Tech and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The 18 companies that have signed on to participate include both global manufacturing leaders and smaller regional high-tech companies. They include: ABB, APEI, Avogy, Cree, Delphi, Delta Products, DfR Solutions, Gridbridge, Hesse Mechantronics, II-VI, IQE, John Deere, Monolith Semiconductor, RF Micro Devices, Toshiba International, Transphorm, USCi and Vacon. The State of North Carolina also is a partner in the program.

The manufacturers and the state will contribute $70 million over the next five years with a matching grant coming from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“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 said in a press release. “After shedding jobs for a decade, our manufacturers have added 568,000 over the past nearly four years, including 80,000 over the past five months.  Manufacturing production has grown since the end of the recession at its fastest pace in over a decade. The President is committed to building on that progress.”

The ultimate goal of the group is the creation of new semiconductor chips and devices that can handle the increased demand for power management. “The institute will also pair chip designers and manufacturers with large power electronic manufacturers and suppliers, such as John Deere and Delphi, to bring these technologies to market faster and will offer training, higher education programs and hands-on internships that give American workers the skills for new job opportunities and meet the needs of this emerging and globally competitive industry,” the press release said.

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