In what promises to be a catalyst for significant growth in bioindustrial manufacturing and an economic opportunity for Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents today unanimously approved agreements for the University’s Twin Cities campus to serve as the primary site of the Bioindustrial Manufacturing And Design Ecosystem (BioMADE), a new, federally supported Manufacturing Innovation Institute (MII).
BioMADE is an independent non-profit organization created to compete for the MII, which it was awarded in October. The Department of Defense awarded BioMADE at least $87.5 million in federal funds over seven years, which will be matched by more than $180 million in additional funding from non-federal sources. A public launch for the project is scheduled for this spring.
“The BioMADE agreements approved today by the Board will position the University to support this national effort and position Minnesota as a leader in cutting edge biomanufacturing. We greatly appreciate the time and energy invested in developing this unique collaboration and are excited about moving forward,” said Board of Regents Chair Ken Powell. “We know BioMADE will benefit from being headquartered amidst our University’s academic and research expertise and our state’s talented workforce, just as Minnesotans will benefit from growth of new jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.”
“This is a transformational opportunity for our University and our region,” said University President Joan Gabel. “Just as a DoD award to advance semiconductor manufacturing helped transform Austin, Texas into a high tech community, and, more recently, as a federally supported robotics lab at Carnegie-Mellon is catalyzing an economy of robotic innovation in Pittsburgh, BioMADE will establish Minnesota as the central hub for the growing bio-based economy, which is already estimated to be $1 trillion annually worldwide.”
According to University Vice President for Research Chris Cramer, ”This is a vitally important step for our state and for the nation. Because of our relationships with BioMADE, we’ll be helping to lead the way to a future bio-based economy that will not only create new and improved products of all kinds, but will also do so while using far more sustainable raw materials and manufacturing processes.”
“With the Board’s approval and the hard work done by the University and BioMADE to reach these critical agreements, the project can begin the considerable organizing work of hiring staff, establishing its headquarters, and coordinating with its many partners across the nation,” Cramer said.
The focus of the new institute is bioindustrial manufacturing, which involves the creation of chemical compounds and materials by engineered microbes such as bacteria, yeast and algae. These processes can yield entirely new products and technologies, and offer sustainable alternatives to legacy production methods reliant on non-sustainable resources such as fossil fuels. Bioindustrial manufacturers are developing fire-resistant composite materials for aerospace applications, next-generation biofuels and films for electronic touch screens and circuit boards. At the University of Minnesota, researchers are developing products such as anti-biocorrosion coatings for ships and harbors and enzymes that can purify drinking water.
The successful proposal for BioMADE to become a manufacturing institute included more than 30 companies, 33 universities, 24 community colleges and six nonprofits across 31 states. It originated from the Emeryville, Calif.-based Engineering Biology Research Consortium (EBRC). The Consortium has a mission to create an “end-to-end ecosystem” that will secure America's future in the bioindustrial manufacturing field, focusing on manufacturing innovation, education and collaboration, particularly in fields outside of medicine.
The Board of Regents’ next regularly scheduled meeting is Feb. 11-12, 2021. Visit regents.umn.edu for more information.
- Campus Affairs