A long feature article and related editorial in Business West detailed the collaboration between the new Precision Manufacturing Regional Alliance Project (PMRAP) with two departments at UMass Amherst, including Professor Sundar Krishnamurty and other faculty members in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department. The collaboration fosters open dialogue designed to develop ways in which research at UMass Amherst can help area manufacturers create new products, develop more efficient processes, and use lighter, stronger materials. Business West said the setup “is expected to drive innovation that will eventually lead to growth in a vital sector of the economy — and job creation.” Professor Krishnamurty called the partnership a “two-way communication street.”
At a press conference in December to announce the PMRAP, funded by a $600,000 NSF grant, participants used words like “historic” and “breakthrough” and “potential” as they discussed what amounts to a unique partnership between the region’s precision-manufacturing sector, departments at UMass Amherst, and other players, designed to foster innovation and create jobs.
The PMRAP was conceived to open up the lines of communication, keep them open, and build a bridge between a still-strong sector of the economy and one of the state’s leading research institutions, said Krishnamurty, one of two MIE researchers closely involved with the project.
“I think this is a very unique opportunity for us to collaborate with small and medium-sized manufacturing facilities,” Krishnamurty said. “Our valley is known for its manufacturing expertise, but nevertheless, industry on the whole, and especially in Western Massachusetts, is being challenged by increased competition globally, aging facilities and technologies, and insufficient labor.”
Krishnamurty said the PMRAP is unique in that it is focusing on smaller precision manufacturers, and also on innovation that will take place in a few years, not 10 or 20, as is the case with most such initiatives. Therefore, it has strong potential to become a model for other regions and universities, he said, noting that there are already some presentations being planned for a year from now, at which PMRAP participants will discuss how their work can be emulated.
More importantly, though, he said, the project could foster job growth, help area companies maintain market share, and increase market share. (January 2010)