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UMaine, USM Manufacturing R&D Collaborative Wins $493,000 Technology Grant

March 7, 2011
Contact: John Belding, (207) 299-7904; Mike Wing, (207) 780-5956


ORONO — The University of Maine and University of Southern Maine are receiving a $493,577 grant from the Maine Technology Institute to advance the research, development and commercialization of private sector manufacturing projects in need of the universities’ technological assistance.

The three-year grant from MTI’s Cluster Initiative Program will enable precision manufacturers in Maine to advance, expand and increase hiring as they move forward with new project development. The Cluster Initiative Program awards up to $500,000 annually to cluster initiatives to support Maine’s technology sectors and businesses.

With an estimated $567,000 more in matching contributions, UMaine’s Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) and USM’s Manufacturing Applications Center (MAC), in addition to private sector partners, are launching a $1 million initiative to help businesses overcome the technological barriers preventing them from bringing to market hundreds of new products and manufacturing processes.

Over the past 5 years, the two centers have helped businesses across Maine improve infrastructure and operations through technological and mechanical assistance from faculty researchers and students working with them. According to John Belding, director of AMC, the new initiative is based on the recognition that Maine universities and educational institutions have both the capacity and mission to assist Maine businesses from financial, business and marketing consulting to engineering-based problem solving in shops, classrooms and laboratories. The grant application was co-written by Belding and Mike Wing of USM’s MAC.

“Currently, both the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine are seeing a greater demand for research, development and commercialization services from Maine’s precision manufacturing companies than we have the capacity to serve,”
according to the project executive summary. “There is a sincere interest on the part of Maine companies to collaborate with the university system, for a variety of reasons. They see the universities’ academic and physical infrastructure as an
untapped asset for industrial development of human capital. Companies are looking ahead and asking how difficult and expensive will it be to recruit tomorrow’s workforce?”

The funds will be used over the next three years by USM and UMaine to hire personnel and to purchase equipment to expand services currently provided at the Orono and Gorham campuses.

Anticipated goals include:

  • development of new products and increased manufacturing in Maine’s precision manufacturing and related companies
  • new STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) jobs in Maine, and project-based learning for Maine’s STEM  students
  • improved and synchronized cooperation and partnership among universities and industry
  • and professional development for faculty.

Belding says the project is unique. “By building on collaborative efforts between UMaine and USM, we are able to develop a program that will have a meaningful impact,” he says.

Partners include dozens of companies that have or are receiving technical assistance from the AMC, UMaine’s Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology, the AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center, the UMaine School of Economics’ Knowledge Transfer Alliance, in addition to USM’s MAC. The Manufacturers Association of Maine and the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership also are co-collaborators.

“We’re very excited about receiving funding for this collaborative relationship,” says Wing, “not only because it will leverage economic growth in Maine, but because it familiarizes and prepares Maine students for technological and industrial jobs in the future.”

Information about the AMC, including its capacity for computer-guided reverse-engineering methodology, rapid prototyping and problem solving, is available on its website. Information about the MAC facilities is available on its website.

According to MTI, the grant awards “support on collaborative efforts that help spread knowledge and skills, build connections among businesses, connect businesses to research and service partners, and address common opportunities and challenges, leading to more vibrant economic growth and innovation in Maine’s high-potential technology clusters… by improving the effectiveness of their infrastructure, as well as resources and connections among firms, service providers, research laboratories and educational institutions.”

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