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UCLA to head research center in national manufacturing network

By Evolet Chiu

June 20, 2016 7:57 pm

President Barack Obama announced Monday that UCLA will house a new manufacturing research center to increase manufacturing efficiency in the U.S.

The UCLA center will be part of a national network of manufacturing institutes under the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute, with locations in Texas, New York, Washington and North Carolina, according to a White House press release.

The Department of Energy, which works to improve energy efficiency nationwide, will fund the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute with $70 million. Private companies and state entities will contribute about another $70 million, according to the press release.

The center will aim to improve smart sensors and digital processing controls that can increase manufacturing efficiency.

“(The center in Los Angeles) will design smart sensors to make all types of manufacturing more efficient,” Obama said in his speech. “And we’ve got more hubs on the way.”

The Obama administration aims to meet the president’s goal of creating 15 manufacturing research centers before his term ends, according to the press release. The goal is part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, which develops and commercializes manufacturing technologies. Because the U.S. manufacturing sector has increased jobs and competition since 2010, efficiency in manufacturing has become more important.

UCLA Vice Provost of Information Technology Jim Davis will serve as the interim executive director of the institute, said UCLA spokesperson Alison Hewitt.

Goetz Wolff, an urban planning lecturer, said he thinks the Obama administration chose UCLA because it has been highly involved with energy usage.

He said he thinks the hub will bring more attention to energy production issues and add to UCLA’s luster as a place for students who are interested in the environment and sustainability.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who represents UCLA and Westwood in Congress, said in a statement the new center is a step in strengthening the U.S. manufacturing sector.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement he lobbied the Obama administration to establish the new center’s headquarters in Los Angeles because he thinks it is the ideal place to build the future of advanced manufacturing.

“People come here from everywhere to create, innovate and redefine how technology can improve our daily lives and transform how we interact with the world around us,” Garcetti said. “That’s why I strongly supported the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute, and pushed to locate its headquarters in the heart of our city.”

UCLA will partner with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Manufacturing Technology Consultants, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, San Diego Super Computing, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine to lead the California regional center, said Hewitt in a statement.

Officials have not announced when the UCLA center will open.

Contributing reports from April Hoang and Ryan Leou, Daily Bruin senior staff.

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Evolet Chiu | Science & Health editor
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