LIFT, Department of Defense Announce Plans To Expand Institute Operations to Puerto Rico

Institute will begin convening local stakeholders to advance technology and talent development

DETROIT – LIFT, the Detroit-based Department of Defense national manufacturing innovation institute, today announced plans to begin technology and talent development operations in Puerto Rico in support of the Island’s manufacturing base and workforce.

The institute, a nonprofit public-private partnership between industry, academia, and government, is supported by $1.9 million in funding from the Department of Defense Manufacturing Technology Program, overseen by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. LIFT will immediately begin convening local stakeholders to further assess how it can meet the innovation the needs of the Island’s manufacturers as well as prepare the workforce to work in the advanced manufacturing sector.

LIFT, founded in 2014, as one of the original Manufacturing USA institutes, serves as a technology accelerator, working at the intersection of materials science, manufacturing processes, systems engineering and talent development to enhance our national economy and national security. This connection enables the institute, and its more than 300 organization ecosystem to advance technologies – such as hypersonic materials development and lightweight armor systems – into commercial industry and into the hands of the warfighter quickly, all while preparing the workforce for the advanced manufacturing jobs available today and better preparing it for the jobs of the future.

“As a national manufacturing innovation institute, we have a national mandate to support manufacturers and their workforce wherever we can, and that includes expanding beyond our headquarters facility in Detroit,” said Nigel Francis, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, LIFT and echoed by Victor Claudio, Chief Financial Officer and of Puerto Rican heritage. “There is no doubt that innovation is “place based,” which means we not only plan to bring the support of our existing ecosystem to support Puerto Rican manufacturers, but we plan to develop an engaged ecosystem of local manufacturers and help advance their technologies towards commercialization.”

To lead its efforts on the Island, LIFT has hired Juan M. Aguayo-Leal as the new Director of LIFT Puerto Rico. Aguayo-Leal is a former infantry paratrooper, operations and logistics officer with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in the U.S. Army and former Director of Business Development for the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico with over 25 years of experience in business communications.

“Bringing a national manufacturing innovation institute to the Island will transform its manufacturing base and set it on a path for growth well into the future,” Aguayo-Leal said. “Over the last eight years, LIFT has developed a world-class ecosystem of manufacturing experts and a track record of moving technology concepts into commercialization while training the next-generation of workers, both of which will be tremendous for Puerto Rico’s future.”

“The DoD institutes were created to move the needle in advanced manufacturing technology and talent across the country in support of the warfighter, and this expansion by LIFT truly meets that mission,” said Tracy Frost, Director, Department of Defense Manufacturing Technology Program. “The promise of LIFT and its ecosystem combined with Puerto Rico’s robust manufacturing industry and military heritage will lead to success for the Island and the nation.”

Manufacturing accounts for nearly half of the gross domestic product of Puerto Rico and the Island has a long history of manufacturing and a diverse manufacturing economy, including biotechnology, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, agroecology, aerospace, electronics, computing, engineering and construction, and apparel.

LIFT will bring to Puerto Rico its technology program, Leading Innovations For Tomorrow, and its talent program, Learning Innovations For Tomorrow. Both programs are led out of LIFT’s Detroit headquarters facility, which operates as both a showcase for the “art of the possible” and the future of manufacturing, and a “sandbox,” in which the Institute’s national ecosystem can come to design, test and prototype new materials, processes, and systems.

LIFT also plans to deliver Operation Next, an innovative training and credentialing program providing a blended learning curriculum to active-duty soldiers and National Guard and Reserve members on the Island, enabling them to earn nationally portable, standards based, industry recognized credentials in high demand manufacturing fields.

LIFT, operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute, is the Detroit-based, public-private partnership between the Department of Defense, industry, and academia, committed to the development and deployment of advanced manufacturing technologies, and implementing talent development initiatives to better prepare the workforce today and in the future. LIFT is funded in part by the Department of Defense with management through the Office of Naval Research. Visit or follow on LinkedIn at LIFT or on Twitter @NewsFromLIFT to learn more.