Students, politicians and business leaders across the Keystone State are joining forces to shape the future of manufacturing.

The deadline for applying for the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED)  the second round of awards for the Manufacturing PA Innovation Program is coming on March 8. The grants, which range from $25,000 to $70,000, target research projects that involve engineering students at the undergrad or graduate level collaborating with a Pennsylvania-based manufacturing company.

Students and companies may apply as a unit or they can request assistance from the DCED to find partners in the process.

“We realized that some of our best resources are the minds and enthusiasm of our students,” said Governor Wolf in a press release. “By helping connect these students with manufacturers and giving them a real-world application for their research, we’re giving manufacturing companies greater ability to harness young talent to develop transformative new processes and technology.”

After the March 8 deadline, the program will award roughly $3 million in support to businesses and research teams all over the state.

The program is administered by a team of experts based at Carnegie Mellon University in collaboration with the DCED team in Harrisburg.

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Colleen Mantini, who helps guide the program in addition to her work as Director of State Partnerships for the Engineering Research Accelerator, says the Pittsburgh region is well positioned to benefit from the growing program, which began in July of 2018.

“Given the substantial advanced manufacturing expertise that exists at local universities, the region is well represented in the list of seventeen awards,” given in 2018, says Martini. “We expect that this number will grow as DCED makes additional awards this spring.”

Mantini notes that Pittsburgh area companies included a wide variety of sizes and specialties such as the Union Orthotics & Prosthetics Company, where students from Robert Morris University are studying ways to add 3D printing to the crafting process. At U.S. Steel, a University of Pittsburgh engineer is experimenting with new, extra-strong alloys for steel pipes.

“The projects span a variety of technologies and a mix of more fundamental discovery projects with activities focused on narrow technical issues,” says Mantini.

The fellowship program is an offshoot of the governor’s Manufacturing PA initiative which was first launched in 2017.

The governor has made workforce development, particularly in manufacturing, a key pillar of his administration’s work.

During his recent budget address to the state legislature, Wolf proposed $10 million in additional funding to the state-run jobs and training portal PAsmart.gov. His goal is to “fill more advanced manufacturing positions, help more non-traditional students obtain the training they need to compete in the job market and create more jobs at better wages for more Pennsylvania workers.”