At Manufacturing Summit, Kamen spells out ARMI’s promise

But workforce could be NH’s Achilles heel, he warns

Inventor Dean Kamen stressed the need for New Hampshire manufacturers to get involved in workforce development efforts now, or else cry alone in their coffee, so to speak.

Kamen’s direct yet enthusiastic speech was the highlight of the 15th annual Governor’s Advanced Manufacturing and High Technology Summit, held Friday at the Grappone Center in Concord.

The conference, with registration maxed at 320 attendees, provided just the audience Kamen needed, as he informed them of the new Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute/BioFabUSA.

ARMI, as it’s often referred to, is one of 12 manufacturing institutes founded across the country, initially created by a federal grant but sustained by industry and university support.

“Everyone in this room, no matter what business you’re in – trust me, you’ll want to be part of this,” said Kamen of the nascent regenerative organ industry.

Kamen said the new industry required a “super well-trained workforce” from nearby engineering and medical schools.

Kamen has flown around the country, making connections for ARMI with educational and medical institutions as well as 81 companies.

He told NH Business Review before his speech that the fear is not that ARMI won’t succeed, but that it could move elsewhere.

When approaching outside businesses to work with ARMI, Kamen said their top concerns have been lack of workforce and infrastructure, which Kamen elaborated by listing education and health care talent pools.

‘Better alternative’

But Kamen did name two businesses that have chosen to move to or open locations in New Hampshire because of ARMI.

Kentucky-based Advanced Solutions, which manufactures a sophisticated robot to print biotissue materials, is moving its research and development team to the Manchester Millyard, he said. Likewise, a young woman working on precisely controlled near field electrodynamics will be moving from her incubator in Kendall Square in Cambridge, Mass., to the Millyard.

“I told her we have a better alternative for her,” Kamen told the audience. “She ought to move up to New Hampshire. We can get her better resources and better support and get a substantially better rate on 6,000 square feet, and she’s in the process of moving up.”

Kamen said he thought New Hampshire could bring more people from Cambridge and other areas once they see “we’re building an industry.”

Gov. Chris Sununu spoke earlier in the day about the Amazon proposal serving as “the first step to start talking very seriously about going in and pulling the workforce.”

He discussed his proposal, summed up as “all of the benefits of Boston without all the headaches.”

“I’m not just trying to beat up on Boston, but let’s talk about the realities of the traffic and the taxes and the bureaucracy, and the fact a millennial will have to pay $4,000 for a two-bedroom apartment. That’s unsustainable,” said Sununu, who said he would be targeting efforts to attract students in their second semester at Boston post-secondary schools to look at career opportunities in New Hampshire.

“You can take the word ‘Amazon’ out of that proposal and put ‘Gus’s Flower Shop’ or ‘Microsoft’ on the cover and it’s still just as valid,” said Sununu. “We’re not giving them anything most of you already know we have. We’re just reminding people how great it is to be here. And we’re already getting other companies knocking on our door because of that proposal.”

Research lab initiative

Earlier in the day, Phillip Singerman, associate director for innovation and industry services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, spoke about the network of 12 manufacturing institutes and the goals behind their creation.

“We increasingly import and we import high-technology goods,” said Singerman of the U.S. trade imbalance. “This, of course, is very serious and affects the heart of our domestic economy and also significantly affects our national security. We are increasingly dependent upon foreign countries and foreign companies for critical materials, critical supplies, critical drugs. Not only are we dependent upon foreign sources but we often are ignorant of it.”

But the federal government and U.S. Department of Defense have been watching this issue closely, and has noted the success of research labs in manufacturing-heavy Germany.

“The notion was to recreate our regional innovation ecosystems by combining these various assets,” Singerman said of the multitude of public and private partners.

While part of the strength of the American economy is its competitiveness, “from a national perspective, we need to restore that capability, and that was the purpose of our manufacturing innovation institutes,” he said.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership National Network is serving as a resource for manufacturers in connecting with the Manufacturing USA institutes.

Next month, New Hampshire’s MEP will launch a portal of 500 manufacturers in the state, highlighting their specialties and workforce needs.

“We’ll distribute it to all of the high schools and middle schools that we have been in contact with, and others as we move forward. It’s like the place where you go to see how we can build a future workforce in manufacturing, so that’s going to be powerful,” said Zenagui Brahim, director of the NHMEP.

The portal will also serve to connect manufacturers with the regenerative manufacturing work at ARMI as well as learn new technologies developed through the institute.

“We’re going to have one of our employees be embedded at ARMI, and we’ll be working with ARMI to deploy the technology nationwide through the MEP system and getting new members to participate” said Brahim. “We’re the arm of ARMI, connecting manufacturers nationwide.”

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