smart manufacturing
The Innovation Institute on Smart Manufacturing forms part of US President Obama’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) institutes – part of a larger goal to double energy efficiency in the US by 2030
smart manufacturing
The Innovation Institute on Smart Manufacturing forms part of US President Obama’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, an initiative to double energy efficiency in the US by 2030

In the US, the Department of Energy is offering US$70m in funding for a new institute focusing on smart manufacturing research and development.

The primary focus of the Innovation Institute on Smart Manufacturing will conduct research and development into reducing the cost of sensors, controls, platforms and modelling for manufacturing by 50%.

The institute is also aimed at developing technologies that will increase energy efficiency by a minimum of 15% and improve energy productivity by at least 50%.

Based on statistics from the US Department of Energy, the manufacturing sector in the US consumes approximately 79% of total industrial energy use, reports EnergyEfficiencyMarkets.com.

Commenting on the creation of the facility, Ernest Moniz, DOE secretary, said: "Smart manufacturing is a key information technology approach to unlocking energy efficiency in manufacturing.

“These technologies will make industries from oil and gas to aerospace and food production more competitive with intelligent communications systems, real-time energy savings and increased energy productivity.

Moniz added: “Energy intensive industries, such as steelmaking, could see a 10-20% reduction in the cost of production, making products such as solar panels and chemical materials, such as plastics, as well as the cars and other products they go into, more affordable for American consumers.”

The Innovation Institute on Smart Manufacturing will operate a collaborative effort, bringing together federal agencies, companies, universities and other academic institutions, in a bid to bridge the gap between applied research and product development.

US DOE investment in distributed energy

In other US Department of Energy news, the government agency’s Loan Programmes Office (LPO) has announced that it will grant US$1bn in loan guarantees for commercial-scale distributed energy projects.

Rooftop solar, energy storage and smart grid technology solve key energy challenges, but their deployment is blocked by commercial lenders’ cautious approach to investing in these technologies without a "solid history of credit performance and commercial operation", stated a local media report.

The announcement by the DOE’s Loan Programmes Office will help overcome these barriers and speed up deployment of distributed energy technologies.

The LPO will also provide guidance with regard to the types of financial structure it may implement to support distributed energy resources projects.