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October 24, 2012 | Tom Ballard

AMP! to bring advanced manufacturing focus to region

The White House announced earlier this month that a consortium led by Tech 20/20 had won nearly $2.4 million to launch the Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Center of East Tennessee (AMP!).

The award was the largest among 10 made nationally to public-private partnerships to help revitalize American manufacturing. In addition to Tech 20/20, the other AMP! partners are the University of Tennessee’s Center for Industrial Services (UT CIS), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Pellissippi State Community College (PSCC).

In recent interviews with, two of the AMP! principals discussed the program priorities and the specific roles of their organizations.

John Morris, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Tech 20/20, said his organization will provide overall coordination as well as implement two initiatives – establishing a regional Advanced Manufacturing Consortium, very similar to the national Oak Ridge Carbon Composites Consortium, and expanding efforts underway in the robotics area.

“We want to bring manufacturers in the region to a higher awareness of advanced manufacturing techniques and bring workforce capabilities to the level needed,” said. “This collaborative proposal will bring focus to ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) and build a cluster around advanced manufacturing.”

Morris explained that five federal agencies funded various parts of the AMP! program. They are the Departments of Energy and Labor and three components of the Department of Commerce – Economic Development Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Small Business Administration.

Paul Jennings, UT CIS Executive Director, said that his organization’s responsibilities involve “moving ideas from concept through ideation to commercialization.” Since he was named UT CIS leader several years ago, Jennings has been emphasizing helping existing manufacturers adopt new manufacturing processes and technologies.

The new funding will allow manufacturers in the 20-county AMP! region to utilize UT CIS staff to explore establishing an internal Innovation Management System. Jennings said his staff will offer workshops for manufacturers to better understand this concept and select two or three companies annually with which UT CIS will work more intensely.

Morris said that the third key partner – Pellissippi State – will develop a certificate program for additive manufacturing. PSCC and ORNL’s MDF are located just off Hardin Valley Road on opposite sides of Pellissippi Parkway.

One of Tech 20/20’s key efforts will be focused on helping support the Smoky Mountains Regional FIRST Robotics Competition that will hold its third annual event for high school students in March and creating a new competition for college students.

Morris said that Oak Ridge businessman Buzz Patrick has been hired as Director of Advanced Manufacturing at Tech 20/20 to be project manager.

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