By Jackie Calmes
Published: 24 June 2011
LAWRENCEVILLE, Pa. — President Obama visited a university research center in Pittsburgh on Friday to announce a new partnership between the government, industries and leading universities to speed the movement of technological advances to commercial users. The trip was the latest of his increasingly frequent travels to battleground states to showcase administration efforts to create manufacturing jobs.
After touring the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon University, a high-technology facility adjacent to a rusted factory symbolic of the area’s industrial past, Mr. Obama said federal agencies would invest more than $500 million to seed the initiative. Of that, $70 million is to go to robotics projects like one he viewed at the center: a boom-box-size robot that inspects sewer pipelines, made by a company started by a Carnegie Mellon professor.
“We’ve launched an all-hands-on-deck effort between our brightest academic minds, some of our boldest business leaders and our most dedicated public servants from science and technology agencies, all with one big goal, and that is a renaissance of American manufacturing,” Mr. Obama said in remarks to about 150 people, including the partnership’s co-chairmen, Andrew N. Liveris, the chief executive of the Dow Chemical Company, and Susan Hockfield, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Administration officials said the initiative would be overseen by federal agencies already active in public-private partnerships, like the Department of Energy, and would rely on both existing federal financing and money that Mr. Obama has requested from Congress. The new sum, however, reflects a small fraction of what the government already spends on research and innovation, and that has led to some of the mass-market products Mr. Obama cited here, like the Internet, cellphones and GPS navigation devices.
“What we’re trying to do is provide more focus and direction to this spending,” Ron Bloom, Mr. Obama’s adviser on manufacturing policy, told reporters. He called the new Advanced Manufacturing Partnership an “umbrella” for government innovation programs.
Mr. Obama’s new packaging for the government’s existing public-private efforts also allowed him to underscore his commitment to manufacturing jobs as the economy continues to sputter, and in a swing state for presidential elections.
Mr. Obama was careful not to declare complete victory over the economic downturn he inherited. “We’ve made some tough decisions that have turned our economy in a positive direction over the past two years,” he said.
Other universities in the partnership include Georgia Tech, Stanford, the University of Michigan and the University of California, Berkeley. Other manufacturers include Allegheny Technologies, Caterpillar, Corning, Ford, Honeywell, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Northrop Grumman and Procter & Gamble.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: June 25, 2011
An earlier version of this article mistakenly placed the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon University as outside Pittsburgh. The research center is in Lawrenceville, a neighborhood in Pittsburgh.