It seems these days everybody is involved in manufacturing innovation. In the past, most of the R&D was done by those with deep pockets—the government, well-heeled universities, and big corporations. They are still important sources of funding, but there is a new movement afoot to break the barriers and rewrite the path to innovation inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley. It is focused on physical technology rather than software and it is happening in incubators around the country where startups, industry, investment, academia, government, and resources come together.

It is happening in AMT’s own backyard of Washington, D.C., fast becoming known as one of the most entrepreneurial cultures in the nation. AMT is an active participant in growing the local manufacturing innovation infrastructure. The association recently showed support for our local start-up community as a signature sponsor of Launch100.

Launch100 aims to transform ideas into reality in 100 days with 100 percent effort. The event is a competition in which 10 inventors/entrepreneurs present their latest inventions or projects to win cash prizes and attention from investors. I had the honor of representing AMT on the judging panel alongside executives from NASA, a disruptive technology company, and a professor from George Washington University.

Competing projects included a self-driving hay harvester that converts choppings into pellets, a self-fueling auto, a specialized drone for in-bore industrial smokestack inspections and an algae protein home development kit for the next-generation food substitute for human consumption. It was great to see the diversity of ideas, as well as varied business cases and potential revenue streams.

As a sponsor, we were honored to work with the event organizers: Nova Labs, a local nonprofit fostering the ideal “Rediscover the Joy of Making Things!” Nova Labs visionaries Callye Keen and Mike Hogarty, both bring experience from the machine tool industry. Through donations and personal investments, the lab has grown to offer various manufacturing capabilities such as: metal machining/forming, wood/plastics machining/forming, composite forming, PCB assembly, fabric cutting/shaping and welding/ assembly. These capabilities are leveraged by members and those with ideas, but need a forum to discuss and materialize them.

It feels good to be part of these types of out-of-the-box efforts to make manufacturing accessible to everyone and give back to the local community. As business leaders, please consider getting involved. We’d love to showcase your work in AMT News.