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UT Arlington Research Institute Manufacturing Symposium

June 3, 2015


Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Let me right at the outset apologize that you are now listening to boring remarks after an exciting networking session. Walking around the area, I could feel the electricity and excitement in the room, the energy that is driving the Metroplex forward, and the tremendous level of talent that is fueling a resurgence in the competitiveness of American manufacturing.

It was a treat to have Joe Quinn, senior director of issue management and strategic outreach for Walmart Corporate Affairs, with us earlier. His presence not only underlines the partnership being developed here at UTARI and The University of Texas at Arlington through the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation fund established by Walmart, the Walmart Foundation, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, but it also emphasizes Walmart’s commitment to enhancing U.S. manufacturing and through that the competitiveness of our nation.

There is no doubt that the manufacturing sector is a crucial part of our economy. In 2013, the National Association of Manufacturers estimated that 9 percent of the nation’s workforce was directly employed in the manufacturing sector effectively supporting more than 12 million workers directly and 17.4 million jobs in total. Perhaps more importantly, every dollar spent in manufacturing resulted in $1.32 being added to the nation’s economy, making it a tremendous driver for growth and prosperity.

Unfortunately, the U.S. manufacturing base has shrunk significantly over the past 20 years, driven by the desire to gain lower costs and higher profit margins through use of overseas locations and labor, leading to an eightfold increase in exports. As a result, other nations, especially in Asia, are now challenging, or have even surpassed, America’s position. Only recently have we realized that this migration has not only resulted in a lowering of quality of products and a loss in economic capital, but also a significant decrease in human capital as experienced workers are retiring without a ready stream of highly skilled people to take their places. A recent report by Deloitte showed that from 2004 to 2013, U.S. manufacturing lost a minimum of $17 billion annually due to unfilled positions, with the loss increasing exponentially to over $45 billion in 2012 and 2013

The resurgence of U.S. manufacturing, powered by streamlined production lines, automated processes and advanced technologies that incorporate advanced robotics, artificial intelligence, advances in control theory, and emerging manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing, is creating a further additional demand for highly skilled personnel. Taking into account the retirement of baby boomers, the need to rebuild a U.S. manufacturing base to grow the economy, and the realization for the need to reassert U.S. leadership in manufacturing, it is estimated that an additional 3.4 million workers will be needed over the next decade. Of these, nearly 2 million jobs are expected to remain unfilled due to a shortage of workers with the skills necessary to operate in a 21st-century advanced manufacturing environment. We have challenges but these also provide tremendous opportunities for all of us in the Metroplex as we race to fill the void.

It is thus fitting that we are gathered here today at The University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute, which has its origins in automation, robotics, and manufacturing, to discuss the future of affordable, flexible automated solutions to bring manufacturing back to our nation. Your presence here today is a tremendous signal of the need for university-industry collaboration both as related to the education of a highly skilled future workforce through our academic programs and the need for partnerships focused on rapid development of new technologies and innovative solutions to crucial manufacturing issues.

At UT Arlington, we are fortunate to have been able to recruit Dr. Mickey McCabe late last year to serve as the executive director of UTARI to lead our efforts in focused applied research, technology transfer, and commercialization. Dr. McCabe joined UT Arlington last fall from the University of Dayton in Ohio, where he served as vice president for research and executive director of the University of Dayton Research Institute and was credited with forging innovative partnerships with business and industry and leveraging state and federal funds to more than double the annual sponsored research activity at the nationally ranked, private university.

Dr. McCabe helped the University of Dayton secure a $20 million Innovation Center in partnership with Emerson Climate Technologies and a $51 million partnership with GE Aviation to create the Electrical Power Integrated Systems Center, where researchers simulate and test complete electrical power systems in airplanes. Both Emerson and GE Aviation have located research centers on the Dayton campus.

He not only understands how to forge collaborations with the corporate sector, involving small and big business, but also has significant expertise in creating partnerships among federal agencies, the university, and the corporate sector with the goal of strengthening our state’s economy and helping to grow current businesses and attract more business to the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington Metroplex and to Texas.

For those who have not interacted much with us before, let me provide a very brief description of UT Arlington. With a total online and on-campus population of just over 50,600 in the ’14-’15 academic year, UT Arlington is the second-largest academic campus in the UT System and among the five largest in the state of Texas, serving students from across Texas, from all 50 states in the nation, and from over 100 countries across the globe. Instruction is offered through both in-person and online modalities, and about 31 percent of our students take at least one course online.

Our College of Engineering grew by 25 percent this year with just over 6,000 students and is headed to exceeding 10,000 students before 2020, with the college being ranked ever higher at the national level. Overall spring enrollment has increased 43 percent over the past five years, driven by increases in academic reputation and by innovative strategies implemented to meet the needs of working students, including flexibility of offerings, streamlined admissions processes, and staggered start dates for specific high-demand online degree programs. Just two weeks ago, we awarded an estimated 5,000 degrees, giving a total of 10,000 new graduates this year—over 65 percent of whom historically stay in the North Texas area, further adding value to our regional economy.

Many of our academic programs—including engineering, nursing, social work, taxation, and landscape architecture—are ranked nationally, and our online degree programs in nursing and education are national models in quality and innovation. Consider that we are ranked No. 3 in agile software development; our College of Nursing and Health Innovation is ranked No.7 in the nation for online programs; and our College of Engineering jumped 12 ranks on the list of graduate programs in an environment where moving upward by one or two steps is considered an achievement.

UT Arlington faculty members are among the very best in their disciplines. We have one member in the National Academy of Sciences, two in the National Academy of Engineering, and 10 fellows of the National Academy of Inventors. That last number is fully one-third of all National Academy of Inventors fellows across the state of Texas.

Over the past years, our faculty members have been awarded more than 100 patents. The UT Arlington Research Institute now houses our Office of Technology Management, and we have just opened a new outpost in Silicon Valley that will bring UT Arlington technology and intellectual property to companies and entrepreneurs looking to turn that technology into jobs and economic outcomes.

Entrepreneurship and innovation not only are alive at UT Arlington, they are thriving. What you see here today is just the tip of the tremendous research being done in areas such as robotics, biomedical engineering, advanced materials, and manufacturing.

Later today, Dr. Aditya Das, our senior research scientist at UTARI, will be describing progress in the development of a robotic small motor assembly and testing system aimed at reducing the cost of manufacturing small electronic goods through the Walmart Foundation Innovation Fund grant program.

Let me, however, share a few other examples of applied research that is ongoing at UTARI.

Dr. Gian-Luca Mariottini, a faculty member in our Department of Computer Science and Engineering, has partnered with Grand Prairie-based Innovative Conveyor Concepts to develop a robotic-vision solution for an automated golf ball sorting system to replace a tedious manual process of sorting balls by brand and model for repackaging. In less than a year’s time, Dr. Mariottini’s team developed high-level algorithms that interact with multiple high-speed, high-precision cameras that efficiently read the logos and model numbers of golf balls as they move along a conveyor belt track enabling rapid sorting. The robotic-vision system has already been used by ICC to sort and send for repackaging more than 5 million golf balls with rates of 97 percent or better accuracy. It is noteworthy that the algorithms developed for this can not only be used in other cases where rapid detection is essential, but that similar algorithms can also be used in the field of endoscopic vision to help guide surgical cameras used by doctors in operating rooms.

In another case, the UT Arlington Research Institute is collaborating with small business partner Chipotle Business Group in a National Science Foundation program called “Partnerships for Innovation: Accelerating Innovation Research-Technology Translation” to develop a prototype low-cost, hand-held device for arsenic detection. Arsenic is one of 10 chemicals the World Health Organization lists as a major public health concern, with millions of people at risk of chronic exposure in developing countries. Chronic exposure can lead to serious health problems, including fatal cancers. The arsenic analyzer developed by Drs. Dasgupta and Das builds on UTARI’s core competencies in miniaturization, micro-assembly, and MEMS and holds the promise of becoming an affordable and environmentally friendly method of detecting arsenic levels in water, determining what is drinkable and what is not in remote areas and thus improving health and the human condition around the world.

The Chipotle Business Group is providing the critical push to move the device from prototype to the commercial market. We appreciate the partnership UT Arlington has forged with Chipotle, and I’d like to recognize Scott Evans, president and co-founder of this Texas-based technology company, who is with us today.

Partnerships like the ones UT Arlington has developed with the Walmart Foundation, ICC, Chipotle Business Group, Lockheed, and others are critical to bridging the gap that often exists between university labs and real-world applications. And we are committed to enabling true collaboration with the aims of using research to solve key problems faced by our industrial partners, technology transfer, and commercialization, strengthening business for all of Texas.

Now, it is my privilege to introduce the Honorable State Senator Kelly Hancock, a true friend of business, an ambassador for our region, and a strong supporter of economic development activities.

Senator Hancock was first elected to the Texas Legislature in 2006 as a member of the Texas House serving District 91. He served three terms in the Texas House of Representatives as a strong advocate for the core conservative values of limited government, lower taxes, and strong family values before being elected to the Senate, where he continues to champion key causes of importance to the well-being of our region and state.

Numerous organizations have recognized Senator Hancock for his efforts in promoting fiscal responsibility and conservative values, including the Texas Conservative Coalition, the National Coalition for Capital, and the Texas Conservative Roundtable. He has been recognized as a "Courageous Conservative," a "Champion of Small Business," and a "Lone Star Conservative Leader." Senator Hancock also received the 2015 Guardian of Small Business award from the National Federation of Independent Business.

Through the years, we at UT Arlington have gained from his support and guidance, and he has championed the role of UTARI as a means of catalyzing innovation and economic development while ensuring that the University develops a strong, highly skilled workforce. His foresight is leading to a growth in businesses across the state and is clearly seen in the tremendous growth in technology-enabled jobs and the economic boom in the Metroplex. Please help me welcome our friend, a dedicated public servant, and a leader in the state—Senator Kelly Hancock.