President Obama at CMU, signing Sensabot.
President Barack Obama launched a major manufacturing initiative today from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
The initiative — the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) — brings together major U.S. manufacturers and top U.S. universities.
"It seems like every time I'm here I learn something," said President Obama. "For those of you thinking about Carnegie Mellon, it's a terrific place, and you guys are doing just great work."
CMU is one of only six universities participating in AMP upon the initiative's launch.
The speech, from CMU's National Robotics Engineering Center, came on the heels of the launch of CMU's Greenlighting Startups initiative — aimed at accelerating the university's already impressive record of turning campus innovations into new businesses.
"Carnegie Mellon is a great example of what it means to move forward," he said. "At its founding, no one would have imagined that a trade school for the sons and daughters of steelworkers would one day become … one of the region's largest employers and a global research university."
He added, "And yet, innovations led by your professors and your students have created more than 300 companies and 9,000 jobs over the past 15 years — companies like Carnegie Robotics."
"But more important than the ideas that you've incubated are what those ideas have become: They've become products made right here in America and, in many cases, sold all over the world. And that's in our blood. That's who we are. We are inventors, and we are makers, and we are doers."
Prior to the speech, President Obama was led by CMU's Pradeep Khosla, dean of the College of Engineering, through demonstrations of several cutting-edge technologies.
Among them were robotics developed by RedZone — a CMU spin-off company co-founded by CMU's William "Red" Whittaker, a university professor and pioneer in robotics.
"… I just met with folks from a local company, RedZone Robotics, who make robots that explore water and sewer pipes. And I have to say, it is fascinating stuff," he said, describing how the robot crawls through a system, sending video to a citywide database for municipal workers, enhancing productivity and potentially saving cities "millions in infrastructure costs."
The president announced a plan to leverage existing programs and proposals to make a more than $500 million investment to jumpstart the AMP efforts.
"… [I]magine if America was first to develop and mass-produce a new treatment that kills cancer cells but leaves healthy ones untouched; or solar cells you can brush onto a house for the same cost as paint; or … flexible displays that soldiers can wear on their arms; or a car that drives itself. Imagine how many workers and businesses and consumers would prosper from those breakthroughs."
The president underscored that these things aren't science fiction. They exist today.
He continued, "They sprang from the imagination of students and scientists and entrepreneurs like all of you."
"And the purpose of this partnership is to prove that the United States of America has your back, is going to be supporting you — because that's the kind of adventurous, pioneering spirit that we need right now."
This was President Obama's third visit to the university. (Watch video and learn more about his previous visits.)