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Obama Announces Launch of Innovation Institute in N.C.

By Bill Leonard  1/21/2014
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Acting on a promise in his 2013 State of the Union address to promote U.S. high-tech manufacturing and create more jobs, President Barack Obama traveled to Raleigh, N.C., on Jan. 15, 2014, to announce the launch of a new high-tech manufacturing and innovation institute at North Carolina State University.

The president told the nearly 2,000 people gathered that 2014 would be a “year of action” for creating new job opportunities.

Clearly frustrated by the gridlock in Washington, D.C., Obama said he would use his executive powers to push forward new job initiatives.

“The challenge of making sure everyone who works hard can get ahead in today’s economy is so important that we can’t wait for Congress to solve it,” Obama said. “Where I can act on my own, without Congress, I’m going to do so. And today I’m here to act.”

The Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute is a consortium of private-sector employers and universities that will research and develop the next generation of energy-efficient semiconductors and electronic devices. The institute will receive $70 million from the Energy Department over the next five years. In addition, the state government joined more than a dozen North Carolina businesses and universities to match the federal funding.

Sources familiar with the issue said that Obama’s comments were a preview of his 2014 State of the Union, which he’ll deliver on Jan. 28. In his address to the nation, the president is expected to tout the new innovation hub and outline a new array of job-creation initiatives. He may also take the opportunity to discuss several executive actions he plans for propelling his economic agenda, sources agreed.

“This can be a breakthrough year for America,” Obama said. “The pieces are all there for bringing back more of the jobs we’ve lost over the past decade.”

The institute’s launch fulfills part of a proposal that Obama made in January 2013 to develop 15 high-tech innovation centers across the country. He requested $1 billion to help fund the initiative but did not get congressional approval. The White House is now moving ahead with previously approved funding to launch three innovation hubs.

The president has repeatedly pointed out that approximately 60 similar innovation and manufacturing hubs operate in Germany.
The N.C. State University site was selected after the Obama administration held a nationwide competition for federal funds.

According to White House officials, the remaining two innovation hub sites, funded through the Defense Department, will be announced soon.

Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.

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