President Barack Obama headed to North Carolina State University Wednesday to promote a new manufacturing initiative aimed at creating energy-efficient computer chips, fulfilling a promise he made during last year's State of the Union address.
Obama, who has frequently had to "pivot" his attention back to the still struggling economy, hopes to jump start the manufacturing sector with his $200 million deposit on innovation split between five federal agencies – Commerce, Defense, Energy, NASA and the National Science Foundation.
N.C. State won a portion of the funding by creating a high-tech manufacturing hub, capitalizing on the university's technology and research development programs and pairing it with material providers, manufacturers and "end-users, " like John Deere and Delphi, according to the White House.
"Today's announcement is another step forward toward fulfilling the president's vision for a full national network of up to 45 manufacturing innovation institutes, which will also require legislation from Congress," the White House said in a release.
The Next Generation Power Electronics Institute, as the N.C. State effort is dubbed, is paired with support from the Energy Department and will focus on "the development of wide bandgap semiconductor devices and industry-relevant processes."
The White House said there are on-going competitions for two Defense Department-aligned manufacturing institutes, scheduled for announcements "in the coming weeks." One will focus on digital manufacturing and design, and the other will target lightweight and modern metal manufacturing.
Manufacturing has been one of the country's hardest hit industries, as cheaper labor opportunities have shifted jobs overseas and technological advances have eliminated overall need for workers. But the White House says that trend is slowing, claiming that manufacturers have added 568,000 jobs over the last four years and that since the end of the recession, manufacturing production has grown at its fastest rate in more than 10 years.