ISU Partners with $320 million Digital Lab for Manufacturing

Shown above is the total funding for the Digital Lab and where it comes from.

Robert Mercer/Iowa State Daily

Shown above is the total funding for the Digital Lab and where it comes from.

Jaden Urbi

Iowa State has been selected to collaborate with UI Labs in Chicago, a $320 million Digital Lab for Manufacturing. President Barrack Obama recently awarded UI Labs $70 million from the Department of Defense.

The Digital Lab for Manufacturing is designed to cut back on development and deployment costs, generate billions of dollars in value for the industrial marketplace and stimulate the U.S. economy while creating jobs. 

“We are known around the country for our strengths in this area. It makes a lot of sense that if there is going to be an activity based on advanced manufacturing for the 21st century, we should be a part of that,” said Sarah Rajala, dean of the College of Engineering.

Iowa State has been selected as a Tier 1 academia partner to the project.

“Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing,” Obama said.

UI Labs will accomplish this by creating innovative new methods of digital manufacturing that combine engineering and design.

The Digital Lab for Manufacturing will be anchored in Chicago with over 40 industry partners; 30 educational, government and community partners and 500 supporting companies and organizations. Boeing, General Electric and Microsoft are among some of the industry members collaborating with UI Labs.

Janice Terpenny, the director of the Center for e-Design and department chairwoman of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, is the primary technical leader for the project at Iowa State. 

Iowa State has been working through a multi-phase process toward acceptance into the program.

“The competition was very stiff and we were delighted to be chosen to partner with UI Labs,” Terpenny said. 

Select faculty members from a variety of areas of expertise in engineering and design will collaborate to create proposals for the project. These faculty members will have seats on various committees and boards with members of other institutions and government labs, giving them the opportunity to present their work.

There will be opportunities for ISU faculty, and possibly students, to participate in funded research projects that will contribute to advancement of the Digital Lab.

“I can’t imagine there wouldn’t be opportunities for both undergraduates as well as graduate students to also be a part of the project in the future,” Rajala said.

Terpenny said the Digital Lab for Manufacturing will help strengthen the relationship between engineering and design at Iowa State. 

“It’s exciting at Iowa State in that we already have very good relationships between the College of Engineering and the College of Design and some of us are working on interdisciplinary new degree programs as well,” said Terpenny.

Terpenny believes the Digital Lab will advance how we educate at all levels.  The Digital Lab will impact K-12 outreach, STEM education and Iowa State’s curriculum.

Rajala hopes that the Digital Lab will put the U.S. at the forefront of manufacturing. She thinks it will create new jobs and opportunities, while hopefully attracting new companies to come to Iowa.                              

“I think honestly the biggest impact is the amazing team of experts and educators and industries and all the stakeholders coming together, that otherwise maybe wouldn’t have been brought together,” Terpenny said.