Innovation center aims to boost small, midsize manufacturing

Dustin Walsh| Crain’s Detroit Business

Ann Arbor’s National Center for Manufacturing Sciences and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. plan to create an innovation center to accelerate manufacturing in the state.

The center, which will be housed in General Electric Co.’s Van Buren Township campus, will provide digital modeling and simulation tools for Southeast Michigan’s small to midsize manufacturers.

The center, announced Tuesday, is supported by a $1 million grant from the MEDC and another $1 million from NCMS members.

NCMS will leverage its software vendor members, including Siemens AG, Microsoft Corp. and GE, to provide simulation software to small and midsize manufacturers in the region in an effort to produce more globally competitive companies, said Alissa Roath, membership services manager for NCMS.

“When you talk about creating jobs and growing the economy in Michigan, these are the kind of long-range opportunities that will really make a difference,” NCMS President and CEO Rick Jarman said in a release.

“With the help of this center, small and midsize manufacturers will be able to deliver solutions faster and expand their supplier reach to large companies. It is incredible to imagine the hundreds of small companies in Michigan that will have the potential to grow as a result of this premier facility.”

The need stems from smaller manufacturers being unable to access a modeling software suite in the traditional sense, Roath said. Whereas large manufacturers can buy the software for use year round, a smaller manufacturer may deem a full suite beyond its budget and may need it only on an interim basis anyway, she said. The center will provide access to the software and technical support.

The innovation center will open to companies in the first quarter of 2013.

Among the first group to use the center will be manufacturers participating in a federally funded program led by the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center, as well as the NCMS. The group was awarded $2.19 million over three years to connect local manufacturers able to support low-volume, custom projects to new global contracts.

The pilot program is open to new-product contract manufacturers — defined as companies that manage, execute and improve the manufacturing function for customers that are developing new products under the customer’s brand. To participate, email

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