A consortium of partners announced this week a proposal to solidify Kentucky as a federally designated Regional Technology and Innovation Hub (Tech Hub) through the U.S. Economic Development Association (EDA) Tech Hubs Program. The proposed Generating Advanced Manufacturing Excellence with Technology and Innovation for Metals of Essential Products (GAME TIME) Tech Hub brings together public-private partners including the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC), University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development to secure domestic metals supply and global competitiveness that will propel the region and nation forward.
The EDA Tech Hubs Program was enacted as part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 to establish 20 federally designated centers of innovation across the country. The Tech Hubs Program is launching with $500 million in appropriated funding in 2023 with $10 billion authorized over five years.
“Kentucky is home to a robust and growing minerals and metals cluster,” said Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear. “With a concentration of major industry partners, strong research and development assets, and durable public-private partnerships, Kentucky is poised to make significant advances in this sector, increasing economic competitiveness and generating even more high-quality jobs for Kentuckians. With an EDA Tech Hub designation, we can solidify our commonwealth as the global leader in metals innovation and production.”
Retaining U.S. competitiveness in metals manufacturing and critical minerals supply is essential to economic and national security. The U.S. is the world’s largest importer of steel and imports more than 50% of its aluminum requirements. Yet, technological advancement and innovation are necessary to ensure economic competitiveness and domestic supply chain security for U.S. manufacturers.
“With significant planning and a history of investments in manufacturing and metals assets, resources and technology development capabilities, Kentucky is poised for this. The University of Kentucky is ready to support the Hub region to outpace the world in metals and manufacturing innovation for domestic supply chain security,” said Ian McClure, associate vice president for research, innovation and economic impact and executive director of UK Innovate at the University of Kentucky. “New, scalable technologies in recycling, critical minerals production and metals manufacturing, and a diverse and prepared workforce for high-wage jobs in the Hub region will catalyze Kentucky’s metals producers and the original equipment manufacturers they supply, and the U.S. will secure its supply chain for critical sectors such as energy, transportation, automotive, defense and aerospace.”
If awarded, the proposed GAME TIME Tech Hub will leverage the EDA investment to double down on technology development efforts that address metals processing and recycling, critical minerals extraction, manufacturing energy use, automation and other factors that threaten Kentucky’s, and by extension, the nation’s metals manufacturing competitiveness.
The proposal includes development of two technology “Implementation Centers,” one in each of Louisville and Lexington. These state-of-the-art spaces will be used by industry to scale research and development, provide workforce training and showcase technology to support industry adoption and new venture development. Additionally, the proposal emphasizes initiatives to increase workforce capacity for highly automated metals production processes.
“Kentucky has been taking strategic action for over a decade to build advanced manufacturing and materials innovation capacity,” said KSTC President Terry Samuel. “Through K-12 STEM initiatives, R&D and commercialization efforts, and collaborative industry partnerships coming to fruition through Tech Hub consortium partners such as the Metals Innovation Initiative, we’ve developed a solid game plan establishing Kentucky as the national epicenter for metals production.”
The consortium is led by the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation and includes the Kentucky Metals Innovation Initiative (MI2), University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Kentucky State University, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, Kentuckiana Works, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Kentucky Community and Technical College System, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Louisville Metro Government, City of Frankfort, LIFT and Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute.
“Given its current industrial base, natural resources, geographic location and supply chain infrastructure, Kentucky is poised to be the key region for finished, fabricated and coated metals and critical minerals innovation and production,” said Will Metcalf, associate vice president for research development and strategic partnerships at the University of Louisville. “The GAME TIME Tech Hub will equip a diverse and ready workforce with high-paying and innovation-enabled jobs, outpace the world in next-generation manufacturing and materials technologies to support manufacturers in priority industries, and positively transform Kentucky’s economy.”
The EDA is expected to announce designated Tech Hubs in October. If selected, the GAME TIME Tech Hub is eligible to apply for implementation funding estimated to be $65 million with additional funding opportunities up to $500 million in the future.