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CMU, Lehigh share $1M grant to help manufacturing

| Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 12:19 a.m.

Carnegie Mellon and Lehigh university researchers will collaborate with companies statewide to help sharpen the manufacturing sector in Pennsylvania, the schools announced on Monday.

The universities have won a joint $1 million award through the state “Discovered in PA — Developed in PA” program, begun in 2011 by Gov. Tom Corbett's administration.

The money will let researchers and graduate students form 12- to 18-month partnerships with individual manufacturers, said Matt Sanfilippo, executive director at the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems at CMU.

“We are particularly interested in advanced and new types of manufacturing, because that's certainly an area where university research could have the most impact,” he said.

Sanfilippo said the initiative, known as the Research for Advanced Manufacturing in Pennsylvania program, will seek proposals in July from teams of Pennsylvania manufacturers and faculty members. The winning partnerships will receive $25,000 to $60,000 apiece for the projects.

Faculty researchers and graduate students assist companies and improve their products, create new products, improve manufacturing processes or otherwise make the manufacturers more competitive, Sanfilippo said.

Organizers are still developing formal metrics to gauge the success of the effort, he said. “It will be about impact on the companies, the number of new products created, the number of new jobs created, efficiencies in the manufacture of the product.”

And “we're hopeful that we will show enough success that we'll have future years,” Sanfilippo said.

The “Discovered in PA” parent program — with an overall budget of $8.91 million — is administered through the state Department of Community and Economic Development. Spokesman Steve Kratz said the program should “fill a niche that we felt was underserved: supporting start-ups and entrepreneurs.”

It's meant to foster job opportunities, cross-pollination between academia and the business sector, and the retention of intellectual capital in Pennsylvania, he said.

“This is just another source of support to grow innovation and support entrepreneurs in the commonwealth,” Kratz said.

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or asmeltz@tribweb.com.

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