Almost every industry around the world is benefiting from advancements in robotics, automation and artificial intelligence technologies, including defense, health care, logistics, finance and consumer goods. But these technologies can only go so far. Companies still need a talented workforce alongside their machines.
People in the state of Michigan understand that relationship. For more than a century, this workforce has built, crafted and created everything from cars to pharmaceuticals with the help of machines. And while the recession had a negative impact on the state’s manufacturing sector, it has since rebounded with a dramatic increase in new jobs that incorporate automated and intelligent systems. For instance, in the auto industry, new jobs are being created around self-driving and connected vehicle development programs. However, these roles require new skills and different training than positions in the past. Therefore, if Michigan wants to compete with other global centers of innovation, the state needs to encourage and help the next generation of workers embrace and become experts at new technologies.
To tackle this issue, Macomb County plans to create a nonprofit Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center aimed particularly at increasing awareness and opportunity within the robotics environment.
Why a Robotics Center?
Macomb County is home to a large community that has experience in manufacturing, mass production, supply chain industries and technology and product development. The region is positioned to expand further in this area given:
- Southeast Michigan’s technology and manufacturing executives being optimistic about growth in revenues, spending and hiring talent.
- Southeast Michigan being more competitively positioned for technology professionals to build their careers than Silicon Valley because of the lower cost of living, networking opportunities and leading academic institutions.
- Southeast Michigan being ripe for technology companies to do business due to the region’s ability to retain talent, achieve a greater return on investment and lower the cost of capital.
These factors all help make the case for a center focused on robotics and innovation. Our region is ready, we just need to offer the tools to further train our workforce and build opportunities for the next generation of talent. A robotics center will help us do just that.
What will it do? Who will it serve?
The new facility will launch later this year at the Velocity Collaboration Center in Sterling Heights. Once open, its mission will be partnering with businesses, educational organizations, nonprofits and startups to offer tools, programs, expert assistance and open access to an independent, digital- and electronic-based environment for creative people. It will be a facility and ecosystem which offers co-sharing and individual workspaces, computers, software and related technologies. It will also feature a tooling and fabrication shop, engineering and computer science assistance, business development assistance and mentors from leading automotive, defense, manufacturing and technology firms, all in an open, collaborative environment.
“Ultimately, we hope to bring existing engineering talent from major employers across Southeast Michigan into an environment where new ideas and technologies can be created,” said John Paul Rea, director of MCPED. “The possible benefits are endless.”
MCPED, in partnership with the city of Sterling Heights, the Macomb Intermediate School District and Macomb Community College, hopes the center can partner with and serve the following audiences:
- High school FIRST teams
- Workforce development agencies
- Four-year education institutions and community colleges
- STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) initiative groups (K-12)
- Regional economic development organizations and chambers of commerce
- Regional school districts
- Multiple think tank/research institutions
- Manufacturing Extension Partnership
- Highly active network of venture capitalists and philanthropists
- Green-mobility cluster initiative
- Business accelerators
Its success will be evaluated through the following metrics:
- Measurable impacts
- Community support
- Participant progress
- Education attainment
Ultimately, if positive outcomes are reported and a wide-range of audiences are served, the Robotics Collaboration and Innovation Center will become an asset for the community for many years to come. Stay tuned for more details on its launch and to learn how you can get involved.
Megan Ochmanek is a communications specialist for the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development.