Growing Right Before Our Eyes… From the Desk of Nigel Francis, LIFT Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director

Nigel Francis

I have written here before, and stated in many presentations that LIFT as an institute, is like an iceberg – what people see when they come visit our Detroit facility is an awesome 100,000 square-foot facility with a great group of people working here each day, with growing utilization of our industrial commons. What they don’t always see is the broader network of national industry and education experts from across the country working on LIFT’s behalf. This ecosystem is of national importance and is of critical importance to LIFT and its members.

The same is true with the ongoing work we are doing in support of the Department of Defense and the warfighter. Most people know that when LIFT was created in 2014, it was awarded $70 million over five years – which was matched with industry dollars – to fulfill its mission. What has not been discussed much is that the Department of Defense has seen enough value in LIFT that not only has it extended its contract with the institute for a year, but is has continued adding dollars to our contract for additional projects, allowing us to continue our mission.

Our current financial ceiling is over $90 million, and it won’t be long before the federal government has made a $100 million investment in our institute.

While that work has been happening behind the scenes, our connectivity and influence within the DoD and its military branches has continued to grow. Our team is working with not only the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Office of Naval Research, as we always have, but have built partnerships directly with the United States Army and the United States Air Force, NASA and the SBA/SBIR program.

With that, we are working to rapidly support the highest priorities of the U.S. military and ensure it has the most advanced solutions available.  This includes hypersonics – weapons systems that can travel at speeds upwards of Mach 5, and lighter, yet stronger, armor systems.

With our history in materials research and our increased focus on processes and smarter systems, we are well positioned to be the leading institute in developing these new military solutions of the future… and more.

Our main mission has been to advance American manufacturing in support of the U.S. economy and national defense. I am proud to say that we are achieving that mission as our institute grows right before our eyes, and have recently visited the Office of Management and Budget to ensure our national leadership understands what we are doing and its importance to the nation.

The LIFT Learning Lab Coming to Fruition
Earlier this month, students from Detroit’s UPrep University Prep Science & Math High School (UPSM), along with industry and community stakeholders, had the opportunity to preview the LIFT Learning Lab. As previously announced, the Learning Lab will house 100 UPSM students during the 2019-2020 school year as they take part in LIFT’s “IGNITE: Mastering Manufacturing” curriculum.

There is no doubt that this first Learning Lab will serve as the model for similar labs across the state and around the nation to help close the skills gap which exists in advanced manufacturing, specifically as it relates to producing high-level manufacturing technicians.

The challenge will be to coalesce industry, government and education around these labs and strategically placing them in locations which will have the most impact.

Of course, before we get there, we must ensure that this first lab successfully launches and has the impact locally we expect it to. If you have not had the opportunity to tour the lab, I encourage you to do so when you are in Detroit.

In essence, our Learning Lab is like a prototype system which we will optimize in real-time and perfect before we replicate and scale up nationally. Further, the Detroit lab will serve as the center of that learning ecosystem and be the place what we carry out continuous improvement activities first, as we strive to ensure that our learning “products” remain compelling and relevant in a rapidly changing manufacturing framework.