Obama introduces initiative at NREC
President Barack Obama spoke on the morning of Friday, June 24, at Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), located in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood.
Obama addressed an excited crowd of about 150 invite-only guests, the majority of whom were chosen by the White House in addition to a select list chosen by Carnegie Mellon. The invitees included students, faculty, university leadership, alumni, and corporate partners. The president announced a new initiative called the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), a national effort to unite industry, universities, and the federal government to invest in innovation and technology with the purpose of creating high-tech manufacturing jobs and becoming a more globally competitive nation. According to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, the president’s plan is slated to invest at least $500 million in existing programs and proposals.
Obama introduced his new proposal at a time when national unemployment rates were at 9.1 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “If we want a robust, growing economy, we need a robust, growing manufacturing sector,” Obama said. “And that’s why we’re here. Carnegie Mellon is a great example of what it means to move forward.... Innovations led by your professors and your students have created more than 300 companies and 9,000 jobs over the past 15 years.”
Bruce Brown, CEO of Proctor and Gamble, attended the president’s address. Brown cited research institutions such as Carnegie Mellon as “part of the United States’ competitive advantage.” He agreed with the president on the importance of advanced manufacturing. “I think advanced manufacturing is really important to a vibrant U.S. economy. It’s also very important to innovation, because we know at P&G that breakthrough consumer innovation relies on advanced manufacturing to produce large quantities of consumer-preferred products consistently and reliably at low costs,” Brown said.
Obama’s visit to Carnegie Mellon was announced June 17 by the White House, leaving university affiliates one week to prepare for his visit. It was his third visit to Carnegie Mellon since 2008 and his second as president. “It seems like every time I’m here, I learn something. So for those of you who are thinking about Carnegie Mellon, it’s a terrific place, and you guys are doing just great work,” Obama said.
Before his televised address, the president toured the NREC facilities with CIT Dean Pradeep Khosla, where he saw demonstrations of Carnegie Mellon’s own cutting-edge engineering and robotics, as well as technology produced by RedZone Robotics, Proctor and Gamble, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Khosla later remarked that he was impressed with the quality of the president’s questions during the tour. According to Khosla, Obama asked specifics about the uses of the technology, job creation potential, and its impact on people’s lives. Regarding the launching of the AMP, Khosla said, “I think that this public-private partnership is the right model of doing business. I think it brings the best from both sides, and that it allows us to work toward a common goal and make progress.”
William “Red” Whittaker, founder and director of Carnegie Mellon’s Field Robotics Center, was pleased with the president’s visit. “Robotics is a growing and going game, and it is really changing the way we live and work. It’s very fulfilling and very satisfying to see today.”
Carnegie Mellon is one of five universities involved with the AMP, along with MIT, the University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, and Georgia Tech. Other AMP members include chief executive officers from manufacturing corporations such as The Dow Chemical Co., Johnson & Johnson, Stryker Corp., and Honeywell.