Feds invest $10 million in labs project

News-DemocratJune 16, 2014 

The Pentagon agency that invented the Internet and other high-tech breakthroughs has invested $10 million in the University of Illinois Labs' Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute.

The money will be used to transition to what is known as Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) manufacturing technology to American industry, according to an announcement from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.

In January, Durbin, Quinn and other elected officials announced a $70 million federal grant awarded to UI Labs to bring the future of American manufacturing to Illinois.

Chicago will be host to the new Digital Manufacturing Lab organized by the Defense Department, with business and university partners from throughout Illinois and the Midwest.

"The Digital Lab is establishing itself as an economic driver in our state even before its doors are open," Durbin said. "I know these are just the first of many innovative projects that will call the Illinois home, and I look forward to the jobs and economic growth they will bring to the entire state."

As Chairman for the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Durbin included funding for DARPA -- the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency -- in the Omnibus Appropriations bill passed by Congress last year.

DARPA, which laid the foundations of the Internet in the late 1960s, has reputation for taking the long-term approach in its investments in high-risk, high-reward technology projects.

"Utilizing the DMDII to transfer AVM technology to U.S. manufacturers makes perfect sense," said Dean Bartles, executive director of the innovation institute . "Our unique position as a public-private partnership bringing together industry, academia and the government makes us an ideal candidate to serve as the necessary bridge to support and transition this valuable DARPA-derived technology."

The AVM program focuses on the design, testing and manufacturing of complex defense systems with the ultimate goal of shortening development timelines. DARPA intends to use the DMDII as its primary method for advancing and commercializing the digital manufacturing technology developed by AVM program.

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