NSF Advanced Manufacturing Program and Research Opportunities

NSF’s mission is to promote the progress of science to advance national health, prosperity and welfare. To fulfil this mission, the ENG directorate invests in engineering research and education to foster innovations for the benefit of society.
Mar 31, 2021

NSF’s mission is to promote the progress of science to advance national health, prosperity and welfare. To fulfil this mission, the ENG directorate invests in engineering research and education to foster innovations for the benefit of society. Within ENG, the CMMI division’s goal is to enable the frontiers of civil, mechanical and manufacturing innovation research at scales ranging from nano to infrastructure. CMMI’s Advanced Manufacturing (AM) program supports transformative advances in manufacturing and materials processing and seeks basic research that applies innovative manufacturing technologies to accelerate new product development, customize products, increase production efficiency and reduce production cost. The AM program encourages multidisciplinary and convergent research that fundamentally transforms manufacturing practices by incorporating approaches beyond the customary manufacturing portfolio. The AM program engages industry through the GOALI program and through collaborations involving the Manufacturing USA institutes. At the international level, NSF-DFG collaborations in AM are sought. The AM program supports several related programs: the new Future Manufacturing (FM), which seeks research to enable manufacturing that does not exist today; LEAP HI, which promotes engineering leadership; ERCs, where center-level research is performed; CPS, which develops cyber-physical systems in many technical areas; and EFRI, which fosters emerging frontiers research initiatives to meet grand challenges. The AM program also has a role to play in some of NSF’s 10 Big Ideas, specifically, Rules of Life, Quantum Leap, Data Science and Growing Convergence. Being a FY22 White House priority, Advanced Manufacturing, coupled with AI, is positioned to move the frontiers of IotF.



Transcript:

Stephen LaMarca:

We have Dr. Khershed Cooper, Program Director at the National Science Foundation. Khershed, you there?

Khershed Cooper:

Yes. Thank you so much for inviting me for this presentation. I could hear some of the previous talks, not all of them, and there's fascinating stuff going on in manufacturing. Very different from what I'm going to talk about so, it's all right I can share my slide?

Stephen LaMarca:

Yeah. Go for it!

Khershed Cooper:

So, I'm hoping that your audience can learn what NSF is all about, the National Science Foundation. My hope is if I can give you an idea of NSF and its programs and opportunities. I know most of you are small companies, small businesses, maybe medium sized businesses, but maybe there's a way you can work with NSF in different ways. I'm a program officer in the advanced manufacturing program, which is what you call a core program or basic research program, and that's why I was trying to understand if there are any basic research opportunities in the kind a work you folks do in terms of hybrid manufacturing or controlling things around the factory floor.

Khershed Cooper:

This is the outline of my talk. I'll give you a bit of an idea of what NSF is and within NSF is the engineering directorate and within engineering is the CMMI, civil mechanic manufacturing innovation division where I belong. And within the CMMI division is advanced manufacturing program, which I'll talk about. And then I'll talk about other opportunities which are related to manufacturing that I would like you to be aware of. And finally, a slide on takeaways.

Khershed Cooper:

A bit about NSF. If you don't know, we have a reasonably fairly new director Panchanathan, Sethuraman Panchanathan. We call him Panch. He started in the middle of the pandemic, although I think he does go into the office on a regular basis. I think his background is computer science.

Khershed Cooper:

So NSF was started in 1950 after the second World War and its mission was to promote the progress of science, to advance national health, prosperity, and welfare, and to secure national defense, and other purposes. So the vision is to have a nation that explores science and engineering and [inaudible 00:03:02] global leadership in research and education. So it looks at fundamental science mainly in science and engineering fields. It doesn't support any ideas in medical research which is done by an IHS. And it's also interested in training the next generation of scientists and engineers. So that's roughly what NSF is.

Khershed Cooper:

If you just look at the NSF by the numbers, this cartoon shows the amount of farms. 93% of the total budget is used for research and education. 8.3 billion was the budget last year. 48,000 proposals were evaluated. 2,000 institutions were funded. These are approximate numbers. 12,000 awards were made. 386,000 people were supported. 1.2 billion was put in STEM education. 200 million went to small businesses.

Khershed Cooper:

And up to now 248 Nobel Prize winners were funded by NSF at some point of the other. Last year a couple of Nobel laureates were NSF funded, Roger Pennrose in physics and Jennifer Doudna in chemistry. She's the one who was involved in CRISPR.

Khershed Cooper:

So the structure of NSF is in this chart. You have the directorates, which are these hexagons, biology, geology, education, mathematics, computer science, social sciences, and engineering. The office of the director has integrative activities office and international science and engineering office.

Khershed Cooper:

So my directorate is engineering. We call it NGNG. The director or assistant director of NSF for engineering is Dawn Tilbury. The vision is to invest in engineering research and education for the benefit of society and the strategy is to think big, to enable transformation advances, which could become future technologies. We want to expand national innovation capabilities.

Khershed Cooper:

Mostly the core programs fund fundamental or basic research, as I said, but they're also programmed to do applied research like small business programs and translational research. And the projects can be small, medium, and large. Small means about 300,000, 400,000 for three years, medium will be a million, and large will be in the millions.

Khershed Cooper:

Another important part for engineering directorate is education and collaborations and partnerships are encouraged within NSF and outside with the other agencies, and even with industry. I'll talk about that a little bit later on.

Khershed Cooper:

The engineering organization chart is given here. As I said, the vision is to invest in engineering research for the benefit of society. The three boxes in blue are the so called research divisions. These are five divisions. Engineering, education, is the education division and the industrial innovation is the innovation division catering to industry like yours. There's also something called EFMA or emerging frontiers, which looks for new ideas that push the frontiers of research in different areas primarily engineering focused. And again, this is all for the benefit of society.

Khershed Cooper:

So I'll talk about the civil mechanical and manufacturing innovation division where I reside. We have a division director, Robert Stone, Rob Stone. He's been around for a little over a year and a half. The goal of the division is to enable the frontiers of civil, mechanical, and manufacturing research at all scales, at the nano scale up to the infrastructure scale looking at these aspects, the mechanical, the civil, and the manufacturing.

Khershed Cooper:

These are some of the major areas of interest, advanced manufacturing, which I'll talk about later, mechanics of materials, dynamics, operations. There are some crosscutting. And I put all these acronyms in not to make it difficult for you, but this website at the bottom is where you'll see the definitions of these acronyms. So if you get a chance, you can visit that website. As I said, I'll talk about advanced manufacturing, which looks at transformations, manufacturing, [inaudible 00:08:26] processing. Of course, the emphasis is on efficiency, economy, sustainability, and scalability.

Khershed Cooper:

And finally, we call it the AM program. So Am program, if you look at advanced manufacturing by definition it's like applying innovative manufactured technology strengths, product development, customized products, increased efficiency of production, productivity, and reduced cost. So we are trying to challenge our community to come up with ideas that'll help manufacturing these different ways.

Khershed Cooper:

The rules are listed here. We're trying to, as I said, challenge the manufacturing community to look at new ideas to solve old problems or to come up with new ways of making new things, sort of new capabilities. We encourage multidisciplinary research, sometimes called conversion research, where we bring in other disciplines besides mechanical, electrical, and materials engineering. We bring in chemistry, biology physics, computer science, and others, and join hands together and submit proposals.

Khershed Cooper:

So in the beginning it was just three or four programs which looked at maybe at the nano scale or additive or subtractive or materials engineering aspects and now they're all combined into one. Advanced manufacturing. Down at the bottom you'll see the names of program officers. And if you are interested a proposal, you follow the rules that NSF sets out on eligibility and you send your ideas to this email address AdvancedManufacturing@NSF.gov. And the URL at the bottom so describes this program. It's quite brief.

Khershed Cooper:

So over the years we have supported additive manufacturing, not a surprise to most of you, 3D printing, machining, welding, typology, coding, farming, et cetera. Almost every aspect of manufacturing research has been supported.

Khershed Cooper:

When I joined NSF more than eight years ago I joined as the program officer for nano manufacturing program. So there was a whole bunch of nano scale processes being studied all the way from vapor to solution, photography, printing, self assembly. These are all now slowly maturing into manufacturing systems. We also want the investigators to look at it from a design, modeling, and assimilation point of view because that's what will be the fundamental knowledge that'll come out, which can then be moved forward into making things in large quantities.

Khershed Cooper:

We want to make sure they understand that whatever they make there's metrology, and measurement, and guide to positioning work, so that's also something that our PIs looks at. And on the right are some examples of research we have supported over the years.

Khershed Cooper:

The new program, the consolidated advanced manufacturing program, came about a little over two years ago. And the idea is not only to work on existing problems, like nano scale manufacturing and machining, et cetera, but also try to look at things beyond. Look at other disciplines which were not used customarily before. Look at manufacturing across landscapes. Look at ways of manufacturing for extreme materials and under extreme conditions.

Khershed Cooper:

Include data science machine learning and artificial intelligence to the manufacturing part. We heard quite a bit about this this morning. Finding ways to control the process precisely, clearly. Look at it's micro structure and properties. So these are some new ways that we expect our performers [inaudible 00:12:54] investigators to study manufacturing challenges, [inaudible 00:12:58] centric manufacturing, bio inspired manufacturing. So these are some of the ideas that are slowly coming in.

Khershed Cooper:

This slide is just to give you sort of an idea of what kind of research we've funded over the years. You have metrology. You have additive manufacturing, 3D printing. You have photography, data manufacturing, drilling, composites, maxing nano sheets, 2D material, metrology, and those kind of ideas being funded. This is just a small sample of the awards. If you want to look at what we have funded over the ... what awards are active, you can go the advanced manufacturing website, which I've flashed earlier and look at what's funded recently and you'll see 45 and 50 different projects that are ongoing.

Khershed Cooper:

Here's some pictorial examples of what we funded recently focusing on additive manufacturing. People are looking at something called ICME, interpretative computational materials engineering, applying those concepts to understand how structures form in additive manufacturing and how they can be improved or how you can avoid defects, and how you get fine grain structures, avoid velocity, things like that. Just to give you a gist of what kind of research is being funded at the fundamental level.

Khershed Cooper:

Collaborations with industry. I thought you might be interested in how you can collaborate, if you so wish to do. So there's a program called GOALI, Grand Opportunities for Academic Liaisons with Industry. Some of you may be familiar with it. So here business companies partner with academics and the academic sends us a proposal with the business partner as a co-PI, a co-principal investigator and it's evaluated at a proposal evaluate that's a collaboration between academia and industry.

Khershed Cooper:

If you're interested in understanding some of your problems at the fundamental level, as the basic research level, it might be worth teaming up with an academic and submitting a proposal. The industry doesn't get any funding through this program, the academic gets it, but the industry can benefit from the results of the research done through this program.

Khershed Cooper:

Another way industry can help or get involved is the academic can send students to industry for training and other activities. Maybe industry has some instrumentation that a professor can use and he sends a student who spends up to six months. This is fully funded by NSF. The industry doesn't have to fund anything. They just have to make sure the student learns something, gets trained [inaudible 00:16:09].

Khershed Cooper:

The point of contact for these programs is given at the bottom [inaudible 00:16:14] can talk to him, if you are interested in these. You can also talk to me about anything that I present today.

Khershed Cooper:

We also have a collaboration specifically with Germany. Germany has an NSF equal element called DFG. Sorry, I'm talking to the wrong slide. This is a collaboration we have with the manufacturing in the USA institutes, which are academic and standup proposal to the program, to the advanced manufacturing program, with the specific goal of helping or interacting with one of the many US institutes. And the hope is that both of them will gain, the manufacture and US institute. There are 16 of them right now I think. They can gain from the results. And that academic person can gain some industry experience. You can look up this opportunity.

Khershed Cooper:

[inaudible 00:17:15] money here. It'll be, these proposals will be, evaluated the same way as regular proposals, but it's more practical. It's more applicable to manufacturing challenges. It is still at the fundamental level.

Khershed Cooper:

Here are a couple of examples of research under this program. We had one on flexography for printed electronics, which would be beneficial to NextFlex. And another example I have here is electric laser centering. The modeling of it would be beneficial to American Makes.

Khershed Cooper:

The one I started wrongly is this international collaboration we have with the DFG, which is the NSF equal of Germany. And the whole idea is for US academic institutions, it could be a GOALI proposal. It could be an academic US institution partnering with the GOALI partner industry partner and a collaboration with a German institute where the benefits would be maybe access to some knowledge base, some instrumentation, and some way of exchanging students who learn new techniques both ways.

Khershed Cooper:

So that again, is not separately funded. It's also processed along with the regular proposals, but you have the added benefits of this collaboration which might give more points to the proposal. A couple of examples that have been funded in recent years. The first one is on laser finishing, the second one is on milling of aluminum, and the third one is some sort of closed loop control.

Khershed Cooper:

Moving forward the NSF thought with a lot of interest in advanced manufacturing across the board from the highest levels of government to industry. NSF put out a new solicitation last year called future manufacturing and the goal was to support fundamental research again. Fundamental research and education in this case were of a future workforce to work on scientific technology education barriers. Basically to propose manufacturing capabilities that do not exist today.

Khershed Cooper:

This FM solicitation just came out two or three days ago of this year of 2021 since continuing. Again, they are asking that we focus on three trust areas, cyber manufacturing, eco manufacturing, bio manufacturing, and these are brief definitions of what they're trying to look at. Cyber manufacturing, of course, leverages computing, sensing connectivity data, AI, and you heard a bit of that this morning in your forum. Eco manufacturing, obviously, is looking at circular economy, sustainability. And bio manufacturing is dedicated to biological challenges, therapeutics, et cetera. And there are award types in all that.

Khershed Cooper:

Again, this is for academics mainly, but I think companies can participate through GOALI or some other means. And there's a webinar this Friday, if you're interested in that. If you go to this link at the bottom, you can sign up for the webinar.

Khershed Cooper:

Last year there were 24 awards made, a total of $40 million of the future manufacturing program. There were different types of awards made, research grants, seed grants, network grants, et cetera. Here are some examples that were funded. The cyber manufacturing, [inaudible 00:21:30] quantum material architectures, that's an award that I'm managing myself. And then there's roboticists in modular construction by inspired [inaudible 00:21:38] manufacturing. Eco manufacturing you have a bunch of topics that were funded. And the bio manufacturing, the [inaudible 00:21:47] enabled origami based electronics, and the like.

Khershed Cooper:

And on the network you have theater analytics, AI, and modeling tools for bio manufacturing, rapid scaling for production, crisis response. These are some examples of awards that were made last year.

Khershed Cooper:

Moving on to go to larger programs. There is engineering research centers. It's now a generation four ERC program and emergent research is supported with a strong impact on society. Research having a strong impact on social issues. So again, this builds on foundational levels, so there's some fundamental research being done, which is then translated into test beds and eventually into some sort of 10 year deliverable.

Khershed Cooper:

There is some other stuff like logical reasoning. And basically the components are research development, culture of inclusion, innovation, eco system, and the layers of engineering communities, scientific enterprise society. And this website will tell you more about this.

Khershed Cooper:

So last year the competition came up with these four new engineering research centers. There's advanced technology preservation [inaudible 00:23:25] systems, sustainability, infrastructure for roadway electrification, quantum networks, and [inaudible 00:23:34] culture. And that website at the bottom will give you more details on these new research centers.

Khershed Cooper:

I'm sort of interesting in engineering research centers myself and I'm involved with two. One specifically is this one, which is also known as a nanosystems engineering research center and it's called NASCENT, nanoanufacturing systems for mobile computer energy technologies. It's headquartered in UT Austin, so Texas Austin.

Khershed Cooper:

So the idea is to come up with these different unit processes and use them to come up with systems on film, for example, flexible systems here. Here's a mobile device [inaudible 00:24:23] cartoon and it'll have grapheme transceivers, display elements, et cetera. And these would be made by rotoral manufacturing.

Khershed Cooper:

So the deliverable here is what they call a nano device manufacturing facility, NM fab, which will have a rotoral system and a flexible [inaudible 00:24:47] scale system. That's the idea. This DRC's about two years away from finishing up.

Khershed Cooper:

The next one I'd like to sort of move into the applied area. The small business and other companies can compete. In this area of innovation partnerships division, which is a sister division to CMMI, looks at proposals from folks like you, small businesses. So they have this thing called America Seed Fund. There's a website at the bottom you can look at. Small businesses are lead on the proposal.

Khershed Cooper:

You're all familiar with SBIR/STTR. STTR you have an academic as a partner. They make sure that they, the company, meets the criteria, which I'm sure. Next. So it says up to $1.75 million in funding is available per project for high impact technologies. So the idea of this program is to transform or translate scientific discoveries into products and services with commercial and societal benefits.

Khershed Cooper:

And there's a project picture, a website you can get into, and the review criteria is similar to the ones for basic research [inaudible 00:26:27], but it also has it's commercial potential. And in the middle you see the phase one, phase two, which I'm assuming all of you are familiar with. The dollar amounts involved and the requirements for phase one, phase two, and phase three or two B as it's called here.

Khershed Cooper:

If you look at advanced ... so the small business program looks at it, I guess, from every field, every technology, every discipline. If you look at advanced manufacturing, these are some ideas that have been received by the program added to [inaudible 00:27:04] inspired by human centric, et cetera.

Khershed Cooper:

Here's a definition from NSF. You're all probably [inaudible 00:27:16] familiar with less than 500 employees with [inaudible 00:27:19] less than 50% owned by venture capitalists, et cetera. Grammarly owned by US citizens with [inaudible 00:27:26] percent. Those kinds of requirements for small business. I won't spend much time there.

Khershed Cooper:

But now, moving to the future, this might be beyond the scope of this forum, but I thought I'd mention. NSF also has this called 10 Big Ideas. And this is for future investments, which companies might be interested in when it reaches some level of maturity. And this chart pictorially tells you what these ideas are.

Khershed Cooper:

10 big ideas. You have quantum leap, which is moving ahead quite well and hopefully, making an impact in quantum computing, sensing, communication, et cetera. You have harnessing the data evolution, which is now almost a staple in almost all proposals. Data and machine learning is being deployed all the time. You have rules of life, which is understanding biology. Then you also have space based big idea, windows on the universe. The human technology frontier, the human machine interface, things like that looking at [inaudible 00:28:45].

Khershed Cooper:

And then you have a bunch of programs like doing convergent research, rescaling infrastructure, future [inaudible 00:28:56] six [inaudible 00:28:58] what will the world look like in 2026 and includes as well that they're trying very hard to bring all sorts individuals into science and engineering all without any reference to ethnicity and other means.

Khershed Cooper:

So you might wonder what does manufacturing have to do with these. Here are some examples where we are trying to get involved, not in a big way, but slowly we are new roads. For example, in rules of life you have nanomanufacturing capabilities that could be employed. And here's an example of one of [inaudible 00:29:42] working on bio nanomanufacturing. What she has come up with and you call a cell factory. And doing convergence this is a project we are managing on life cycle management.

Khershed Cooper:

And quantum leap we ... The quantum leap is where I think manufacturing will play a role. There's talk of understanding manufacturing challenges for quantum systems. It's not just quantum materials, but how these materials are put together into functioning systems. I have one project on atomically precise manufacturing which could be applied to quantum devices.

Khershed Cooper:

And data management is harnessing data revolution that is coming very popular, as I said earlier. So we are challenging them to look at data driven scientific questions for manufacturing.

Khershed Cooper:

Just quickly, proposal submission eligibility. So technically nonprofits [inaudible 00:30:53] make besides the academic folks you can even have nonprofit organizations apply. For profit organizations such as yours, these are some of the rules for it. And you'll find these descriptions in this what we formerly called PAPPG, which is the proposal guide, submission guide. If you go to this website, you'll see all sorts of details on eligibility and funding, and how to do it. If you're interesting, I would urge you to look at this PAPPG, the latest one 20-1. But again, if you're interested in the core programs, it needs to be basic research.

Khershed Cooper:

We also have the met interview criteria, intellectual [inaudible 00:31:47] broader impacts, which I mentioned earlier. So intelligent [inaudible 00:31:50] the proposals are evaluated by a panel of peers who are expertise in your areas.

Khershed Cooper:

What is the potential of the activity? Advancing knowledge, creating new knowledge, intellectual [inaudible 00:32:06]. [inaudible 00:32:07] obviously. How will this activity benefit society and contribute to the [inaudible 00:32:12] specific desired outcomes. So the lab outcomes.

Khershed Cooper:

And then, there are roughly five points to consider when you write a proposal. Can it meet many of these? The usual [inaudible 00:32:28] advance knowledge? Is the proposal such that it'll create new knowledge for the field or for other fields related, and also to help society.

Khershed Cooper:

So these are some of the criteria that we expect our reviewers to consider when they review a proposal. Is it creative? Is it original? Has it been done before? Is it now knew? Those kinds of questions are answered. Is the plan well reasoned? Are the tasks appropriate? Is the budget appropriate? [inaudible 00:33:06] as a team? The right composition? Are the proposals qualified in the area? Have they published before? And do they have access to resources. These are some of the [inaudible 00:33:23] criteria.

Khershed Cooper:

Final slide is takeaways from my point of view. I just want to reiterate NSF's mission which is to promote the progress of science and engineering for the advancement of national health, prosperity, and welfare or security defense, national defense, and for the purposes [inaudible 00:33:49] submission. So all the programs are designed to meet this particular mission.

Khershed Cooper:

So the AM program's goal exert advances in manufacturing technologies with the emphasis on research that will fundamentally alter and transfer manufacturing capabilities, methods, and practices, and hopefully, impact US industry and US prosperity that way.

Khershed Cooper:

How are we doing this? So we are seeking new ideas, innovative ideas, in manufacturing research. Our hope is the outcomes of these research activities will create new knowledge which will advance the field significantly, whether it's added to manufacturing or machining. We are encouraging interdisciplinary research, convergent research, because we need that cross cutting research to understand what the barriers are. Barriers that prevent ideas from moving into the marketplace and ideas that'll give us new capabilities in making things.

Khershed Cooper:

We encourage people to apply manufacturing grants, manufacturing solutions, to cross cutting initiatives to the NSF big ideas and to the national priorities. OSTP priorities, for instance. We encourage collaborations nationally and internationally, and in particular we encourage collaborations with industry through the GOALI program. Also the manufacturing in the US [inaudible 00:35:29], which is out there and still active. And of course, small business, I would definitely encourage the SVBIR/STTR program and you can talk to the program managers in that program with your ideas.

Khershed Cooper:

That's all I have to talk about. I am just wanting to add is, if you are interested in learning more, feel free to contact me at this email address. If you're interested in serving as a reviewer, as a panelist on one of my panels or any other panel, let me know and we can see what we can do.

Stephen LaMarca:

Dr. Cooper, thank you so much. That was awesome. I've got a question for you. So it looks like the NSF is really trying to get involved, the whole lot, in not just academia, well, higher level academia, but certainly they're getting a lot of involvement or going for a lot of involvement within industry towards like the development of advanced manufacturing.

Stephen LaMarca:

But does the NSF have any plans to get more involved with public education, like pre college education, high school and even middle school level, just to make ... Not just to advance the research in the manufacturing industry and manufacturing field in general, but to grow the awareness of the industry and advance manufacturing and that manufacturing's even a thing amongst younger students?

Khershed Cooper:

Yeah, that's a great question, Stephen. The way we, NSF, interacts with education beyond graduate students who we support is to have the investigator in [inaudible 00:37:34] category where they are trying hard to disseminate the ideas all the way down from the professional societies down to high school and middle school level including teachers. Sometimes the teachers are involved in some of the research. Maybe some hands on activity. So it's done kind of indirectly.

Khershed Cooper:

The only direct program is with the community colleges. It's called the ATE program. I didn't talk about that, but that's where they actually give awards in that area. But almost all the projects we fund, they're trying very hard to bring engineering and manufacturing interests to students all the way down to high school and middle school by having workshops or summer camps sometimes-

Stephen LaMarca:

That's awesome.

Khershed Cooper:

... videos, webinars also. That's the way they're doing it. And it's becoming more and more important now. And we've been asked repeatedly to make sure that that aspect is not dropped. In fact, it's enhanced bringing students in. And you're right, we do need technically savvy students to grow up into engineers and scientists, and leaders of the future.

Stephen LaMarca:

Right. Awesome. Kyle, you got anything?

Kyle Saleeby:

Yes. I really enjoyed your presentation. It's quite clear just how much the NSF organization as whole has touched, I mean, across such a wide range of different technologies and different advancements over a huge timeline, right? So I really enjoyed the breadth of your presentation.

Kyle Saleeby:

Something that caught my eye was the manufacturing USA institutes. It was kind of cool to me to see how people and particularly industries of any size can get involved and can partner with these institutes to drive the technology forward. Are there any examples or some really good success stories that you can share to give people an idea of how they could get involved or around what projects they could work? Just to kind of frame it for people to understand what their engagement mechanism is.

Khershed Cooper:

Right. So, if you look at manufacturing in the USA, we have like about 16 institutes. And we have put out this blanket call for collaborative proposals in such a way that the academic can work with an industry partner or the academic can work on a problem which will be beneficial to the industry partner. And the one example I gave you which I'm the program officer of is trying to come up with a new printing technology using nano tube brushes which the PI believes would be beneficial to NextFlex, which is flexible electronics.

Khershed Cooper:

In fact, I ran a workshop with NextFlex, a NextFlex NSF workshop to bring the two communities together in San Jose three years ago. And it was my way of bringing the industry folks and the academics together so they can team up. There were a whole bunch of problems that were identified at that workshop. And sometimes you hope that the academic will pick up on the all the problems and say, "Well, I have an idea of how to solve this," and work with one of the NextFlex partners.

Khershed Cooper:

It's not happening in a big way. I'll be frank on that. NextFlex or America Makes or any other manufacturer needs to do is needs to see how much [inaudible 00:41:43] such activities. And [inaudible 00:41:47] their hands are tied up. They need to come up with results for their sponsors. But we told them, "You don't have to pay a cent. We will pay for all this collaboration with you."

Khershed Cooper:

That's something I would like to put advert on for you folks. If you know a way to work with America Makes Institute and you know an academic, you can partner that way. Or if there's any other way you want to partner, then we are willing to listen to it. Of course, the most popular is the GOALI idea. We get three or four proposals per month with the GOALI acronym on it where the academic teams up with a industrial partner and industries really actively involved in that.

Khershed Cooper:

Sometimes it becomes a little problematic because there has to be and IP agreement between industry and academic, and that can lead into some delays in making awards. I had a couple of examples of incidents that I have to deal with six months for the agreements to be put in place, but they need to be put in place. The big difference is the idea's that the project we come up with most of the time needs to be publishable in the open literature and industry may or may not like that concept, but that's something they have to work it out. You're familiar with that.

Kyle Saleeby:

You bring up a really good point about publishing. I know coming from even somewhat of an academic perspective myself, some of the journal articles can get pretty thick into the weeds and pretty heady, right? So what are ways that industries and that companies can use the results of that academic, that foundational science that you guys sponsor, and start applying it to some of the problems that they face? Are there good pathways for that? Or what advice would you have for them?

Khershed Cooper:

That's a common challenge. The more esoteric the paper the higher the chances of it being published in some high level journal, which only the author and the editor probably understand it better than anybody else, but they do win awards. They get promotions that way.

Khershed Cooper:

I would not advise an industry to look at that academic paper and try to come up with a practical manufacturing station. I do recall there was one of my colleagues tried to that. He took the very imprecise recipe that the academic paper had and he tried to recreate the conditions in his laboratory, and it was a disaster. He pretty much burnt up his lab.

Kyle Saleeby:

Oh geez. Gosh.

Khershed Cooper:

I said, "No, no, no, that's not the way to do it." If you want to know what conditions you need, you need to talk to the PI and maybe come up with some collaboration. Industry also funds academic researchers, as you know. So there's probably some way for industry to identify some really interesting technology and work with with their academic, the principal investigator, and see if they can come up with a practical solution.

Kyle Saleeby:

Yeah.

Khershed Cooper:

We don't have any means to push that through NSF that, "Hey, you work with this guy and get the job down." The best we can do is refer you to the PI. And maybe if you have a question about adding manufacturing in a certain area, maybe composites, nano composites or something, I can point you to some PIs who are working in that area and then you guys can take it from there.

Kyle Saleeby:

Wow.

Khershed Cooper:

For example-

Kyle Saleeby:

You kind a-

Khershed Cooper:

... Oakridge is very good at the big area manufacturing, right?

Stephen LaMarca:

Just a little bit.

Kyle Saleeby:

A little bit. No pun intended, right?

Khershed Cooper:

It's big.

Stephen LaMarca:

Nice. Very cool.

Kyle Saleeby:

You mentioned people referring back to NSF in other ways and mechanism. That kind a leads into one more thing I'd be interested in is I personally have had the privilege of serving with NSF and I had a great time doing it. It's a fantastic organization. What about other industry leaders, people out there that are in the industry, maybe not in the academic field, that want to engage as a representative for an organization or serve on a review panel or things like that, what are ways that they can connect with you and start helping out in that fashion?

Stephen LaMarca:

Yeah, I mean, we are open to anyone who's like to serve. Whether it's a young professor or a seasoned full professor or somebody from the government labs, we invite them to serve and we invite industry. We've had folks from GE serve on one of our panels. Especially when they're looking at things like the engineering resource center, which not only looks at the science and engineering and technology being developed, the basic science that's being developed, but also looks at education, looks at inclusiveness, and the industry connections.

Stephen LaMarca:

They all must have a healthy industry board guiding them or advising them. So at that time we do bring in industry folks with the right expertise. But all they have to do is send an email to either me directly or to that AdvancedManufacturing@NSF.gov and we'll contact the person when we need that expertise.

Kyle Saleeby:

That's great. That's a fantastic presentation.

Khershed Cooper:

Definitely I'd look at a closer and closer relationship with industry whether small, medium, or large

Kyle Saleeby:

Gotcha.

Khershed Cooper:

... because it's manufacturing. Of course, some people might say, manufacturing, there's no basic research in manufacturing. I had to counter that many, many times before I came to NSF, but it's built on fundamental ideas like maybe fluid dynamics or electronics, things like that. And now you have AI and ML, those fundamental ideas are being incorporated.

Khershed Cooper:

So we create knew knowledge and we don't want it to be sort of thrown by the wayside. Some of the professors do start small companies, small businesses, and we hope that they thrive rather then either go dormant or get absorbed by some large company or international interest, which can happen.

Kyle Saleeby:

Sure.

Khershed Cooper:

So happy to help as we move forward, Kyle and Stephen.

Stephen LaMarca:

Awesome. Thank you, Dr. Cooper. That was really awesome. Great little discussion afterwards too.

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Author
Khershed Cooper
Program Director
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