SRS research lab seeks partners for ‘smart manufacturing’ center

December 10, 2015

Savannah River National Laboratory is hoping to generate regional interest in an “advanced manufacturing center” that could create at least 100 high-tech jobs off site.

The research and development arm of the De­partment of Energy’s Savannah River Site announced Tuesday that it is seeking public, private and academic partners to develop a 70,000-square-foot facility to work on “smart manufacturing” innovations including 3-D printing, anthropomorphic robotics and virtual reality-based training.

The announcement was made through a solicitation in Federal Business Opportunities, the government’s Web-based procurement site, by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC, the lab’s operator.

“Advanced manufacturing is a cornerstone of the continuing transformation of SRNL,” lab Director Terry Michalske said in a prepared statement. “This proposed collaborative partnership will build on the growing number of advanced manufacturing partnerships we already have underway with academic and economic leaders, create new jobs in the region, and develop the future workforce.”

The response date for the “Advanced Man­u­fac­tu­ring Collaborative” initiative was listed as Jan. 4, with discussions potentially leading to an official request for proposals.

Based on the solicitation, the desired site would be ready no later than December 2018 and be located next to an accredited university 20 miles or less from the lab to bolster collaborations with local business and industry.

Given those parameters, the logical location would be near the University of South Carolina Aiken, whose curriculum includes a degree program in industrial process engineering.

Will Williams, the president of the Aiken-based Economic Development Partnership, said his organization could be a potential partner, as it serves as the industrial recruiter for Aiken, Edgefield and Saluda counties. As the owner of a 100,000-square-foot spec building in Sage Mill Industrial Park, it’s experienced in real estate development.

He said the lab is looking for development partners “outside the fence” because many of its existing facilities – inaccessible to those without government security clearance – are nearing 60 years old. Plus, half its workforce is approaching retirement age.

“They need to attract new talent,” he said. “If you were a young engineer, would you want to go to an old, antiquated building or a shiny new one?”

Williams said the development, if it materializes, could have “tremendous potential for Aiken County and this region” and would easily create much more than 100 jobs if it were to develop the next must-have technology for manufacturers.

“It could be our version of Cyber Com­mand,” Williams said.

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