June 24, 2016 Capitol Update

In this issue:


President Obama recently announced that the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) will lead the new Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute in partnership with the Department of Energy. The winning coalition, headquartered in Los Angeles, brings together a consortium of nearly 200 partners from across academia, industry, and non-profits—hailing from more than thirty states—to spur advances in smart sensors and digital process controls that could improve the efficiency of U.S. advanced manufacturing.

The Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute is the ninth manufacturing hub awarded by the Obama Administration. The new institute will focus on innovations like smart sensors that could dramatically reduce energy expenses in advanced manufacturing, strengthening the U.S. manufacturing sector and positioning the United States to lead the manufacturing of tomorrow. The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition will work to accelerate the development and adoption of advanced sensors, data analytics, and controls in manufacturing, while trying to reduce the cost of these technologies by half and radically improving the efficiency of U.S. advanced manufacturing.

The President also announced this week the launch of five new manufacturing hub competitions, which will invest nearly $800 million in combined federal and non-federal resources to support transformative manufacturing technologies from collaborative robotics to biofabrication of cells and tissues, to revolutionizing the ways materials can be reused and recycled. With the new competitions underway, the Administration is on track to meet the President’s goal of a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) of 15 institutes underway across the country before the end of his Administration.

For more information, visit: http://ppec.asme.org/featured/president-obama-announces-winner-of-new-smart-manufacturing-innovation-institute-and-new-manufacturing-hub-competitions/


In addition to announcing a new NNMI institute, the White House has worked to highlight other opportunities in the Making and Maker Movements to celebrate this year’s National Week of Making (June 17-23).

In his Presidential Proclamation commemorating the National Week of Making, President Obama touted the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing: “Technologies like 3D printing and desktop machine tools are rapidly lowering the costs of production; additional sources of capital such as crowdfunding are reducing barriers to getting started; and the democratization of technology is empowering more makers, helping to boost entrepreneurship and stimulate American manufacturing. Over the last 6 years, we have added over 800,000 manufacturing jobs and introduced next-generation manufacturing hubs. Just as the personal computer and the Internet transformed our Nation over the last several decades, these new opportunities can inspire the next generation of students, innovators, and entrepreneurs to carry forward our legacy of ingenuity.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) also recently awarded five, new, early-concept grants to enable the future of do-it-yourself technological innovation known as making, and to catalyze new approaches in STEM learning. The awards, each for $300,000 over two years, are intended to take radically different approaches, apply new expertise, or engage novel disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives to the future of making. The grants are part of an on-going effort by NSF to support do-it-yourself technological innovations.

For more information about the National Week of Making, please visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/nation-of-makers

The full text of the Presidential Proclamation can be found at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/06/16/presidential-proclamation-national-week-making-2016.

More information on NSF’s Week of Making activities is available at: http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=138994&WT.mc_id=USNSF_51&WT.mc_ev=click


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced nearly $16 million in funding to help businesses move promising energy technologies from DOE’s National Laboratories to the marketplace. This first Department-wide round of funding through the Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) will support 54 projects at 12 national labs involving 52 private-sector partners.

The TCF is administered by DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions (OTT), which works to expand the commercial impact of DOE’s portfolio of research, development, demonstration and deployment activities. In February of 2016, OTT announced the first solicitation to the DOE National Laboratories for TCF funding proposals. It received 104 applications from across the laboratory system for projects in two topic areas:

The two topic areas are as follows: Topic Area 1- Projects for which additional technology maturation is needed to attract a private partner; and Topic Area 2- Cooperative development projects between a lab and industry partner(s), designed to bolster the commercial application of a lab developed technology. All projects selected for the TCF will receive an equal amount of non-federal funds to match the federal investment.

DOE’s national labs have supported the critical research and development that lead to many technologies in the marketplace today, including the batteries powering electric vehicles, the foundation of Internet servers, and the optical digital recording technology behind DVDs. These first department-wide TCF selections will expand the Department’s efforts to catalyze the commercial impact of today’s portfolio of research, development, demonstration, and deployment activities to increase return-on-investment from federally-funded research, and to give more Americans access to cutting-edge energy technologies.

A list of TCF selections, as well as the Topic Area 2 projects and their private sector partners, can be found at: http://energy.gov/technologytransitions/office-technology-transitions.


President Obama recently signed into law an update to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The bipartisan bill is the first update to the TSCA since it was originally enacted in 1976 and received broad support in both the House and Senate.

The TSCA provides EPA with authority to require reporting, record-keeping and testing requirements, and restrictions relating to chemical substances and/or mixtures. Certain substances are generally excluded from TSCA, including, among others, food, drugs, cosmetics and pesticides. The Act does however address the production, importation, use, and disposal of specific chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls, asbestos, radon, and lead-based paint.

A major part of the TSCA reform effort was to require the EPA to evaluate a broader range of chemicals based on the health risks they pose. Previously, EPA was unable to take any regulatory action on many known chemical hazards due to the restrictions on their authority under the original TSCA. The new updates to the TSCA include:

  • Mandatory requirement for the EPA to evaluate existing chemicals with clear and enforceable deadlines;
  • New risk-based safety standards;
  • Increased public transparency for chemical information; and
  • Consistent sources of funding for EPA to carry out the responsibilities under the new law.

To learn more about this recently passed law, go to: https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/frank-r-lautenberg-chemical-safety-21st-century-act


A U.S. District Court judge in Wyoming stuck down the Administration’s rules governing oil and gas extraction on federal lands this week. Judge Scott W. Skavdahl, appointed by President Obama, said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lacked the authority to regulate fracking and that the Administration’s rules amounted to an end-run around the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which sought to limit EPA’s ability to regulate hydraulic fracturing.

The BLM’s rules were the first federal standards for fracturing on land leased from the federal government and covered a range of activities that included well construction, wastewater handling, and chemical disclosure. The BLM spent four years drafting the rule, which was first issued in March 2015. The final rule quickly drew lawsuits from several drilling entities and states, including Colorado, North Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, and the Ute Indian Tribe.

The Administration can still appeal the ruling. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, a former petroleum engineer, has stated that the BLM’s rules are needed to ensure safety and public disclosure about drilling on public lands.

For more, visit: http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/


A new study published in CBE-Life Science Education has found that courses that engage college students in hands-on scientific research can dramatically increase a student’s odds of completing a STEM degree. The study is the best analysis to date of how participation in course-based undergraduate research projects affects students’ educational outcomes.

The study is based on results from a decade-old Freshman Research Initiative (FRI) at UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences that puts first and second year undergraduate students in faculty-led labs. The study found that the FRI program increased a student’s likelihood of graduating with an undergraduate degree from 66 to 83 percent, and that a student’s likelihood of graduating with a STEM degree increased from 71 to 94 percent. In total, the study included more than 4,000 students who participated in the FRI program.

Early successes at UT Austin have led six other universities to replicate the FRI program’s approach.

For more information, visit: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160601110723.htm

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