$200K Lift for Innovation & Commercialization Center

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – One of the manufacturing hubs in the same Manufacturing USA network as America Makes will assist the local partners collaborating on the proposed Mahoning Valley Innovation & Commercialization Center.

The Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow – or Lift – hub, based in Detroit – will provide $200,000 to the local partners, led by the Youngstown State University Research Foundation, said Michael Hripko, president of the foundation and associate vice president for research at YSU.

Lift is a sister organization to America Makes, formerly known at the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.

“Whereas America Makes is focused on 3-D printing, Lift is focused on the overall lightweighting of materials and manufacturing,” Hripko said. The YSU foundation applied directly to Lift for the funds.

Other partners include Eastern Gateway Community College, Choffin Career & Technical Center, Columbiana County Career & Technical Center, Mahoning County Career & Technical Center, STEM Academy, Youngstown City Schools, Youngstown Business Incubator and the city of Youngstown.

The partnership secured $3 million last year in the state capital budget for the center, and the partners are seeking additional state and federal funds.

The Lift funding will permit the partners to bring on local personnel to “set up the operating system” for the center, which could include anything from scheduling to curriculum to development. In turn, the operating system will go “a long way toward us being able to articulate our value proposition to potential funders,” Hripko said.

The process also will help to define the scope of services and physical properties of the center, he said.

The center will serve as “the first of its kind for the manufacturing industry, creating a teaching factory by replicating the concept of teaching hospitals” used across the United States, according to a news release issued Thursday.

It will share facilities, equipment and instructors to train individuals – “a continuum of ages from high school on up,” Hripko said – in advanced manufacturing technologies and will offer stackable, portable credentials that can culminate in a certificate or degree, and provide the opportunity for full-time employment with industry partners.

“We want to make sure that a career and technical center student can move seamlessly into a community college education and to a university education having all of the credits transfer seamlessly,” Hripko said.

“We envision certifications for participants,” he continued. “Each of the academic partners will offer courses and curriculum. What we hope to do is overlay a skilled trades or an operator certification in advanced manufacturing. Since we have all of the resources, we want to fully leverage them for all the workforce and education benefits possible.”

One objective of the collaboration – and one of the reasons Lift is participating — is to produce a template “for how this joint-use facility can be implemented anywhere in the nation” and applied to other initiatives with similar needs, he said.

“This model of a shared facilities, shared equipment, shared faculty, shared training and education pathways that the Mahoning Valley has come up with is an answer to what has been a national dilemma for years,” said Emily DeRocco, director, education and workforce development, Lift.

“We’re excited about this model and being able to replicate it and bring it to scale on behalf of manufacturers,” she added.

Federal and state governments have poured “incredible amounts of money into buying equipment” for institutions, including community colleges and universities, DeRocco said. Those purchases tend to be a “one-shot deal” as equipment ages and newer technologies aren’t represented in the learning experience.

“So educating the manufacturing workforce across the country is plagued by an inability to introduce students to a workplace environment that’s up to date,” she said.

The creation of this “replicable model” is one of the most compelling reasons for the partnership, DeRocco added, and “one of the most potentially impactful” initiatives that Lift has invested in.

Pictured: Preliminary rendering by MS Consultants of the proposed Mahoning Valley Innovation & Commercialization Center.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.