The National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) is part of the winning coalition led by the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEC) Aerospace Center and WM Keck Center for 3D Innovation to receive one of ten inaugural US National Science Foundation Regional Innovation Engine (NSF Engines) awards.
According to information released by UTEP, the funds will support the Paso del Norte Innovation for Defense and Aerospace Engine (Paso del Norte Engine). The objective of Paso del Norte Engine is to combine innovative concepts with the emerging field of digital engineering and others to help small and medium manufacturers compete in the aerospace and defence markets. This will include the creation of public infrastructure, such as a product and process improvement facility, which is expected to reduce costs for startups and manufacturers while increasing access to cutting-edge design and testing tools.
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The Paso del Norte Engine will initially receive up to $15 million for the next two years, with a potential NSF investment of $160 million for the team over the next ten years.
According to Randy Gilmore, NCDMM Vice President and Chief Development Officer, NCDMM will be part of the Paso del Norte Engine which builds on a decade-long collaboration between UTEP and the County of El Paso, the City of El Paso, Workforce Solutions Borderplex, Rio Grande Council of Governments, El Paso Chamber, and the newest members, El Paso Community College (EPCC) and Spaceport America.
In 2023, NCDMM founded El Paso Makes, a subsidiary that aims to grow the region’s aerospace, defence, and advanced manufacturing ecosystem through education and workforce development, fostering business opportunities, and diversifying the nation’s defence industrial base. Moreover, NCDMM provides the US Department of Defense (DoD) contracting assistance to El Paso suppliers, contract vehicles as necessary, and has invested in El Paso’s Additive Manufacturing capabilities through its America Makes satellite and DRIVE AM at UTEP’s Keck Center.
“The NSF funding opportunity aligns with the overall mission of the NCDMM organisation,” stated Gilmore. “We have a long-standing relationship with UTEP, and as a nationally recognised industry leader in executing successful applied research and development projects to improve DoD weapon and support systems, NCDMM is honoured to be part of the Paso del Norte team. We will work collectively with stakeholders and industry experts to propel the region forward, foster innovations, and expand our nation’s aerospace and defence sector talent stream.”
This announcement delivers on the bipartisan priorities outlined in the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which authorised the NSF Engines programme with a focus on market-driven research and development, innovation, translation, and workforce development. The Paso del Norte Engine will address five of fourteen defence critical technologies identified by the DoD – advanced materials, trusted AI and autonomy, space technology, renewable energy generation and storage, and hypersonics – by focusing on the broad dissemination of those innovations for use by small and medium manufacturers.