UofL, partners named finalists for manufacturing innovation grant Proposed coalition would accelerate regional innovation and adoption of additive manufacturing technologies

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The University of Louisville and partners have been selected as finalists for a grant worth up to $160 million to accelerate regional innovation and adoption of additive manufacturing technologies.

Their proposal, dubbed the Additive Manufacturing Forward Engine (AMFE), was selected as one of 16 finalists for a 10-year type-2 grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s inaugural Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines, program. The potential award is the largest NSF has ever offered. 

“UofL is proud to partner on this work to advance use of additive technology in manufacturing through workforce development and research,” said Kevin Gardner, UofL’s executive vice president for research and innovation. “Together, we can put these innovations to work to exponentially grow our nation’s additive manufacturing capabilities.”

AMFE is led by the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC), and partners include UofL and other universities and trade organizations throughout Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. Together, they will work to improve use of and innovation in additive manufacturing technology, also known as 3-D printing, which can help manufacturers reduce part lead times, material costs, energy usage and waste. Louisville alone is home to more some 2,400 manufacturing firms in areas ranging from food and beverage to automotive, with a total workforce of more than 82,500.

As part of AMFE, UofL will leverage its top-notch degree and technology badging programs to build a qualified workforce and its research and innovation strength to further technological innovation. This includes connection to the UofL-based Kentucky Manufacturing Extension Partnership statewide resource center, along with labs, inlcuding the multi-disciplinary Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science & Technology.

“This recognition [being selected as a finalist] speaks to the immense impact additive manufacturing can have both regionally and nationally,” said KSTC President and AMFE project lead Terry Samuel. “This project forges strong partnerships among research institutions, nonprofit organizations and industry leaders to bring innovative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions as well as high-paying manufacturing jobs to our local, regional and national economies.”   

UofL and partners also were recently awarded a $1 million type-1 NSF Engines grant, dubbed Generate Advanced Manufacturing Excellence for Change (GAME Change), aimed at securing economic competitiveness throughout the Southeastern Commerce Corridor (SCC) of Kentucky and Tennessee, with a focus on next-generation and advanced manufacturing, supply chain and logistics, more durable and sustainable materials and more. Type-1 awards are meant to help applicants prepare for a type-2 proposal. 

Launched by NSF’s new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships and authorized by the “CHIPS and Science Act of 2022,” the NSF Engines program uniquely harnesses the nation’s science and technology research and development enterprise and regional-level resources. NSF Engines aspire to catalyze robust partnerships to positively impact regional economies, accelerate technology development, address societal challenges, advance national competitiveness and create local, high-wage jobs.

Awarded type-2 proposals will receive up to $160 million over 10 years, with each awardee receiving $15 million for the first two years. NSF anticipates the list of awardees will be announced this fall.