In a speech at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University on Friday, US President Barack Obama announced a plan to inject millions of dollars into university research as a way to develop manufacturing innovations that can employ thousands of domestic workers and hopefully buoy the sluggish economy. Though details of the plan are still somewhat hazy, officials told The Chronicle of Higher Education that six universities will have a chance at $500 million through a National Science Foundation-style granting scheme, and cited initial grants of $100 million for developing new manufacturing materials and $70 million for robotics research. The six universities named in the initial stage of the project are Carnegie Mellon, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, and Stanford University.
The plan was conceived by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Obama's circle of science advisors suggested he turn to universities to kick start the types of innovation in which many corporations are hesitant to invest due to a lack of short-term payoffs. "Investing in manufacturing based on new technologies can provide high-quality, good-paying jobs for American workers," Eric Lander, director of director of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and co-chairman of the advisory panel, said at a press briefing last week.
The $500 million figure isn't guaranteed, however, with some of the funding coming from future budget increases that Obama has requested but that haven't yet been passed by Congress. More universities are expected to participate in the program at an unspecified later date.