ALBANY — The man picked to lead a new federal office to support advanced manufacturing is in town this week to attend two high-tech manufacturing conferences being hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy.
Michael Molnar, the chief manufacturing officer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, was named director of what's known as the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership National Program Office in December, part of a new focus of the Obama administration to bring together industry and academia to support high-tech manufacturing.
So it made sense that on Monday, Molnar would swing by the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering to see the latest research into computer chip manufacturing.
Molnar, who was accompanied by U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko on the tour of the NanoCollege, said he was impressed by the clean room technology in which companies like IBM work to develop the latest chip innovations.
But he said he was even more impressed by the workforce development efforts of the college to ensure that the region has enough qualified scientists and engineers to keep the domestic chip industry competitive.
"Arguably, it's more important," Molnar said. "What we need to do is remove every reason why the United States isn't the best place to set up shop. This is a vision of what advanced manufacturing is. It's knowledge."
Last June, President Barack Obama announced creation of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership and a steering committee made up of both business and universities. The committee, which is preparing to release a report next month, is led by the heads of Dow Chemical Co. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The committee and the new office at NIST that Molnar is leading are being asked how the government and the private sector can work together to make high-tech manufacturing in the U.S. stronger.
Alain Kaloyeros, chief executive of the NanoCollege, said the steering committee report likely will support a lot of the same types of public-private partnerships that the NanoCollege uses to fund its research initiatives, the latest example of which is a $4.8 billion program announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last fall that includes $400 million from the state, with the rest coming from companies like IBM, Intel, Samsung and others.
"The development of the knowledge economy is what Gov. Cuomo is doing here in New York," Kaloyeros said.
Molnar was to give the keynote address Monday night at the annual conference and technology showcase of RPI's Center for Automation Technologies and Systems, a state-supported lab that helps manufacturers across the state solve problems and innovate. Molnar also is speaking Wednesday at RPI at a special workshop organized by his office that will focus on Obama's new $1 billion program called the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The RPI event is the first of many such workshops expected to be organized around the country.
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