Earlier this year, the U.S. Government (USG) announced it will launch a competition for its ninth Manufacturing Innovation Institute (MII) led by the Department of Defense (DoD). The technical focus area for this Institute will be Synthetic Biology.
Funding will be commensurate with the other DoD MIIs with similar expectations for cost-share from non-Federal sources of 1:1 or greater.
According to the USG, Synthetic Biology (SynBio) promises to deliver a new class of manufacturing that will provide the U.S. with domestic capabilities to manufacture critical resources, providing supply chain security. SynBio manufacturing also has the potential to create entirely new classes of products with defense applications, such as chemicals and materials with advanced properties that could be used in austere environments. The combination of defense priorities addressable by SynBio manufacturing and the commercial potential of these innovations in food, agriculture, fuel, pharmaceuticals, and other consumer products, will create new opportunities for U.S. manufacturers.
The DoD has launched and continued strategic partnerships with eight manufacturing innovation institutes: America Makes, Manufacturing x Digital (MxD), Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (LIFT), American Institute for Manufacturing (AIM) Integrated Photonics, NextFlex, Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), BioFabUSA, and Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM). These Institutes are expected to bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies, and the states to accelerate innovation by investing in industrially-focused and national security-related manufacturing technologies. These efforts should bridge the gap between basic research and product development, provide shared assets to help companies access cutting-edge capabilities and equipment, and create an unparalleled environment to educate and train students and workers in advanced manufacturing skills.
Each Institute serves as a central point of manufacturing excellence, providing the innovation infrastructure to support regional manufacturing hubs and ensuring that our manufacturing sector is a key pillar in a sustainable economy.
This MII will foster an end-to-end ‘ecosystem’ in the U.S. for Synthetic Biology including cohesive scale-up manufacturing and downstream processing capabilities, integrated test & evaluation capacity, and data operationalized for design for manufacturing, all coupled with workforce development and a focus on ethics and biosecurity. The MII should encourage government, industry and academia to come together with the goal of organizing the currently fragmented U.S. capabilities in synthetic biology and better position the U.S. relative to global competition. The Synthetic Biology MII will also enable universities and small to medium enterprises to participate in and benefit from the MII’s manufacturing advances. The MII will need to be structured to address both DoD and commercial applications.