The University of Louisville has received a five-year grant totaling $2 million to help minority-owned manufacturing businesses adopt additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology.
The grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), will launch the Kentucky MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center, one of only four such programs nationwide.
“There’s huge economic potential in additive manufacturing,” said Sundar Atre, endowed chair of manufacturing and materials at UofL and a lead on the new grant. “I see the pathway to a multibillion-dollar economy built around this in Louisville — it’s not unrealistic. With this new program, we will work to make that ecosystem open to everyone.”
The new center will build on the work of Atre and his team at UofL’s Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science & Technology (AMIST), housed in the J.B. Speed School of Engineering. AMIST will use its faculty, staff and 10,000 square feet of dedicated facilities to provide minority-owned manufacturing businesses with product design, technology support, talent pipeline and business development assistance in additive manufacturing.
AMIST has put a strong focus on helping manufacturers adopt these disruptive technologies. The institute already supports training for minority-owned businesses in West Louisville and recently launched a new program to provide small- and medium-sized manufacturers with training, mentorship and UofL-backed research, development and consulting.
“We know Kentucky’s manufacturing industry has a rich and proud history,” said Will Metcalf, associate vice president for research development and strategic partnerships in UofL’s Office of Research and Innovation, who leads the grant with Atre. “This is a chance to leverage UofL’s research strengths to empower manufacturers within our community to use this technology and engineer a future economy that’s built around disruptive, inclusive innovation.”
The Kentucky MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center will provide technical and business development assistance to build capacity of minority-owned companies, expand manufacturing ecosystems and facilitate contracts and financing. Miguel Estién, acting national director of the MBDA, said efforts to improve equity for minority-owned businesses could add close to $5 trillion per year to U.S. economic output.
“Supporting and promoting this community is a good investment,” he said. “Money spent in the minority business community stays in the community. It is good for the U.S. economy, and it enhances our credibility as a nation because it should be our aspiration to make the economy work for everybody.”
UofL also recently received a $50,000 pilot grant to fund work to expand access to additive manufacturing technology for minority-owned, innovation-focused startups in Louisville. That grant, from the U.S. Small Business Development Administration’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition to support STEM entrepreneurs, is led by UofL Assistant Professor Kunal Kate, who also will help lead the Kentucky MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center.
Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said the new center builds on the state’s demonstrated success in manufacturing.
“Through this effort, UofL’s AMIST is opening doors to manufacturing to all our citizens by being one of only four such programs nationwide recognized by the Minority Business Development Agency for its innovative work,” Coleman said. “We need to be more inclusive in manufacturing and expand opportunities for women and minorities. I applaud AMIST’s efforts in creating an inclusive, innovation ecosystem around new economic opportunities for all Kentuckians.”