It’s been unavoidable for me to end up a de facto contributor for science and technology down in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina – the combination of intellectual energy and quality of life is what brought me here, after all (oh, and the opportunity to live in the same town with my wife). So I must make the opening disclosure that I am a half-time faculty member at North Carolina State University in the English department of our College of Humanities and Social Sciences. I am also a state employee at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
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But, even here, it’s rare to have the sitting U.S. president visit your university campus not just to pontificate, but to announce that it will be home to a six-university, 18-company innovation institute for manufacturing technologies. President Obama will be speaking from NC State’s tennis complex at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time to announce the award of one of the three research hubs he alluded to in the State of the Union address last year. The address will be carried live on WRAL.com, the website for our local CBS affiliate.
According to station, the “Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute” will be headquartered on NC State’s Centennial Campus and include these other university partners: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Arizona State University, Florida State University, University of California at Santa Barbara and Virginia Tech. The companies known thus far are Cree, Delta Products, John Deere, Toshiba, and Vacon.
WRAL reports that President Obama will visit Vacon prior to his speech at NC State. Vacon’s Durham/Research Triangle Park facility is its U.S. R&D center and laboratory for high-power AC drives.
The Institute will apparently focus on semiconductor technology to manufacture more efficient power electronics. I’ll have more detail later but the RTP area has had a research presence in applied semiconductor research since the 1960s. North Carolina has also long been a manufacturing state, investing in technology to replace jobs lost in the furniture and textile industries.
The U.S. Department of Energy will invest $70 million in the consortium over the next five years, with that amount matched by companies and state governments. The state of North Carolina will contribute $10 million.
I’ll update this post as more information becomes available throughout the day.
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