What I’m watching: Parts Unknown
(It’s as much about economic development as it is about food. RIP Tony.)
What I’m listening to: Chvrches
What I’m reading: Vanity Fair
One example of a successful public-private partnership in Greater Portland is the OMIC R&D facility in Scappoose, an Oregon community located northwest of Portland.
OMIC stands for Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center, and it provides two crucial services to the region: Industry leaders turn to the center to develop and test solutions to technical problems, and higher education institutions count on the facility to provide hands-on experience in metals and machinery work.
OMIC is modeled after the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center in Sheffield, England. It was the first of 15 similar centers throughout the world that bring industry and academic partners together to fill the gap between private funding and government funding for research that can solve industry challenges, making processes faster, safer and cheaper.
Delegations from Greater Portland traveled to Sheffield to see the center and learn how we might be able to create a similar operation here. We took notes, and several years later, along with support from the state, OMIC R&D was a reality.
OMIC began operating in 2017 out of its 34,000 square-foot facility, with the support of seven industry members (including Boeing, Daimler Trucks North America and Vigor) and three research universities, as well as a long list of community partners and stakeholders.
Today, OMIC has 25 members and continues to grow. Some of its industry members provide in-kind contributions in the form of advanced manufacturing machines. The companies allow OMIC to lease the tools for free for a couple of years before switching them out for brand-new machines.
This arrangement is a win-win: OMIC researchers and students gain access to cutting-edge technology, and the companies get the chance to show off their best equipment (see photos of the facility here). In fact, OMIC is running out of room for new tools, and is looking to add another building on its campus to accommodate 3-D printing and injection mold machines.
OMIC also conducts research for companies. Boeing recently came to OMIC with a sponsored challenge. The aerospace company drills millions of holes.
Precision is crucial in Boeing’s work, so the company drills each hole twice: once to punch a slightly undersized hole in the metal, and then once more to ensure the hole is exactly the right size. Boeing asked OMIC to explore ways to streamline this process.
So OMIC turned to its member companies that specialize drilling holes. The companies were sure they could come up with a solution. Now, six specialized manufacturers are conducting research, testing their tools on different metals and cutting holes of different sizes.
When the research is finished, the manufacturers that are satisfied with the results can share them with Boeing, and the other companies will have the information they need to make improvements to their tools. All of OMIC’s members get access to the general information about the tool performance.
What’s more, students get to participate in this research for Boeing, because Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) owns and operates OMIC. These students include five Oregonians who received four-year scholarships to OIT via the DeArmond Foundation. The students, now freshman, will have the opportunity to intern at OMIC or member companies to build on the skills they learn in the classroom.
OMIC is a shining example of what is possible when higher education and industry work together. The center is providing invaluable training for the future workforce, and conducting research that helps multi-national companies work smarter. This work is improving our regional economy, but it’s also having a global impact.
Here’s to the power of collaboration!
Anna Marum manages marketing and communications for Greater Portland Inc.
Greater Portland Inc provides support and services to companies seeking to relocate or expand in Greater Portland, a region that spans two states and seven counties. A true public-private partnership model, Greater Portland Inc is supported by more than 70 public-sector partners and private investors who are committed to advancing regional economic development through job growth and investment. Greater Portland Inc and partners shape the region’s economic future and market the region to the world. Learn more at greaterportlandinc.com.