seal  Letter from the President

June 2004

A monthly letter from President Martin C. Jischke

Four years ago, the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership began a feasibility study on the viability of advanced manufacturing as a major component of Indiana's economy. That study – in a report issued in 2003 – concluded that advanced manufacturing technology needs to be instituted in large and small companies in all of the state's manufacturing sectors, including automotive, food processing, electronics, steel and pharmaceuticals.

It also found that the state had a need for an advanced manufacturing center to serve as a resource for existing and new companies seeking to engage in this type of manufacturing. The CICP recommended that such a center be established at Purdue.

With the engineering, science, technology and business expertise that exists on its campuses, Purdue is positioned to be a partner to private industry and government in the development of an advanced manufacturing center, and we have been working hard on this challenge. Faculty and staff in the office of the university's vice provost for research developed a proposal for creating such a center, and earlier this year – at an advanced manufacturing summit meeting on the West Lafayette campus – I announced the creation of Purdue's Center for Advanced Manufacturing as the sixth component in Discovery Park.

While the university will dedicate its own resources, including facilities and management, to the new center, an investment of state and federal money will be needed to put the initiative on track to serve private businesses. Ultimately, I hope these firms will support a significant share of the operating costs through the fees they will pay for services.

The Center for Advanced Manufacturing received two major boosts in the past few weeks. On June 17, we announced the appointment of Dr. John Sullivan as the center's founding director, and on June 29, Sen. Evan Bayh came to West Lafayette to announce an important step in federal funding.

The senator has led a bipartisan effort by Indiana's congressional delegation to obtain $3 million in federal funds to help start the new center. He announced that he was able to insert the funding into the Department of Defense budget passed recently by the Senate. Although final federal approval is still pending, this step is an important one, and I'm optimistic that we will be successful.

During his visit, Sen. Bayh said, "The biggest challenge we face as a country and a state is defining what our competitive advantage is. What can we do that will crate the jobs of tomorrow?"

This comment sums up succinctly the goal we have in mind for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing. As the most manufacturing-dependent state in the nation, Indiana has a tremendous stake in the future of that sector of its economy. While manufacturing is going through a sometimes painful transition that includes the movement of many jobs to cheaper labor markets, the jobs that remain in Indiana are good ones. They pay more than the average in other economic sectors, and they account for about 20 percent of all jobs.

The new center will be designed to give existing companies, start-up enterprises and firms considering relocation to Indiana access to the intellectual and technical resources of Purdue. This access will help them develop and implement state-of-the-art technology and practices in their business operations.

Advanced manufacturing is often thought of as existing only in high-technology fields, such as nanotechnology and certain areas of the biosciences, but every type of manufacturing enterprise needs to apply advanced processes to be competitive.

Our vision for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing includes its supporting hardwood, automotive and food processing enterprises, as well as fields like nanotechnology.

With federal funding in the pipeline and strong leadership in place in the person of John Sullivan, the next step is to secure state funding through a grant from the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund. The Center for Advanced Manufacturing has the potential to transform the largest sector of Indiana's economy. If we can do that, Indiana will take a great stride toward improving its competitive position in the global economy.