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Directorate for Engineering
Division of Design, Manufacture, and Industrial Innovation

The Division of Design, Manufacture, and Industrial Innovation (DMII) supports fundamental academic research in design, manufacturing, and industrial engineering. DMII also manages crosscutting industrial innovation programs that encompass major components of NSF.

Technological advances, increasing global competition, and the Internet have combined to make today’s manufacturing activities increasingly integrative, such that the distinction between “manufacturing” and “service” has become blurred. The mission of the Engineering Design and Manufacture research programs is to address this rapidly changing environment; the challenge it poses to the Nation’s economic well-being; the expanding opportunities of the emerging service sector; and the need for an educated technical workforce for the manufacturing and service enterprises of the future.

To address this mission, DMII identifies and supports fundamental research on issues that span the areas supported within the Engineering Directorate—from design to manufacturing to service. These areas include size scales from the “nano” environment that will drive tomorrow’s manufacturing processes to the “macro” or global enterprise scale that defines the production systems of the traditional manufacturing sector and extends into the growing service sector of the future. DMII-funded research includes an emphasis on environmentally benign manufacturing and a sustainable industrial economy, and seeks to address those fundamental issues that will deepen our understanding of the processes and systems that comprise modern design, manufacturing, and service enterprises and benefit society. The Division maintains a commitment to the integration of research and education and the education of a diverse engineering workforce that will be responsive to the needs of industrial and service enterprises.

The former focuses on the mathematical aspects of design, service, and enterprise systems; the latter addresses the physical aspects of materials and manufacturing processes.

DMII's Industrial Innovation Programs support small business and organizational innovation research as well as programs that seek collaboration with industry. These programs are crosscutting and span all areas supported by the Engineering Directorate and many other parts of NSF.

Engineering Decision Systems Cluster

The Engineering Decision Systems Cluster provides funding for fundamental research on theory and methods that guide and support decisions about the design and operation of products and enterprise systems. The programs are distinguished by their focus on methods that:

  • are founded in mathematics, statistics, decision sciences, economics, and information technology, as opposed to the natural and social sciences; and
  • address the prescriptive derivation of preferred choice, as opposed to descriptive characterization of scientific and engineering phenomena.

Much of the research is computational and/or exploits capabilities of the Internet but development of commercial software or networks is not supported. Similarly, incorporation of the research into educational programs is encouraged, but supported projects must have significant research content.

1. Engineering Design (ED)

Focuses on fundamental theory and general-purpose tools for conceptualization and description of engineered products and systems, including analysis of alternatives and selection of preferred choices. The program embraces a holistic view of design that recognizes that choices are best made in a total-system, life-cycle context. ED does not support the design of specific products or systems, but instead seeks novel advances in generic design theory and methodology.

2. Operations Research (OR)

Is concerned with generic tools for modeling and optimization of engineering design, manufacturing, and service enterprise operations. Emphasis is on improving basic analytical and computational techniques, especially where their potential for impact on relevant engineering and operations management problems is apparent.

3. Manufacturing Enterprise Systems (MES)

Addresses research that is focused on design, planning, and control of operations in manufacturing enterprises, including the associated procurement and distribution supply chains. Contributions should extend the range of analytical and computational techniques applicable to these enterprise operations and advance novel models that offer policy insight or the prospect of implementable solutions. Research in MES is typically performed with the guidance or collaboration of appropriate industrial partners.

4. Service Enterprise Engineering (SEE)

Addresses engineering issues particular to the service sector. Contributions should extend the range of analytical and computational techniques addressed to service enterprise operations and advance novel models offering policy insight or the prospect of implementable solutions. However, the measurement and conceptualization of service processes as engineered systems may themselves represent a contribution in some applications. Research in SEE is typically performed with the guidance or collaboration of appropriate industrial partners.

Manufacturing Processes And Equipment Systems Cluster

The manufacturing enterprise requires the integration of appropriate scientific, engineering, and mathematics disciplines with design objectives within a systems framework where the desired outcome is a viable product or service. Product realization, integrated product and process development (IPPD), and concurrent engineering are all aspects of the manufacturing enterprise. The drivers for the manufacturing enterprise are the economic, energy, and environmental issues that define viability in terms of cost, delivery, and performance. The major developments in manufacturing during the past 30 years include computer-integrated manufacturing; automation in robotics and flexible manufacturing systems for lean and agile manufacturing; artificial intelligence and Internet-based systems for distributed manufacturing; quality assurance; net shape processes; additive, layered, and beam processing, including solid freeform fabrication and surface modification; and open-architecture manufacturing systems. However, research is needed in order to make macro-, meso-, micro-, and nanomanufacturing more productive, predictable, efficient, economical, environmentally benign, and globally competitive.

The goals of the Manufacturing Processes and Equipment Systems Cluster are:

  • to support research that will advance our understanding of the manufacturing processes, machine tools, and systems within the broad scope of unit manufacturing processes; and
  • to bring about manufacturing innovations that have an impact on the economy and society.

The cluster emphasizes research that employs a blend of analytical, computational, and experimental efforts to address three key research issues: predictability, producibility, and productivity. These issues are key to enhancing performance, efficiency, quality, and the reduction/elimination of adverse environmental effects in manufacturing to make U.S. industries globally competitive.

1. Manufacturing Machines and Equipment (MME)

Focuses on generating the fundamental knowledge for building next-generation machines and equipment and their applications for materials processing, parts manufacture, assembly, inspection, and other operations. It supports theoretical and experimental research in mechanism, surface integrity, monitoring and control, metrology, part fixturing, environmental effects, performance, and productivity improvements related to micro-, meso-, and macromachining processes and manufacturing equipment.

2. Materials Processing and Manufacturing (MPM)

Supports the innovation of novel manufacturing processes and methodologies for making useful products from new and recycled materials through the understanding and control of the behavior of materials during processing. Typical research activities include the net shape processing of metals, ceramics, polymers, and composite materials. The program does not support research in the processing of semiconductor materials such as Si and GaAs.

3. Nanomanufacturing (NM)

Supports innovative, fundamental research in the science and technology of nanostructured materials, components, and systems leading to potential breakthroughs in the manufacturability of new industrial products or enabling useful services and new applications. Emphasis is on theoretical and experimental research that addresses the underlying necessities for predictability, producibility, and productivity in manufacturing at the nanoscale.

Industrial Innovation Programs

1. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Offers opportunities and incentives for creative small businesses that are involved in science, engineering, education, or technology to conduct innovative, high-risk research on important scientific and technical problems. Research supported by the SBIR Program should have significant potential for commercialization and public benefit. This three-phase program offers incentives for converting federally supported research carried out in Phases I and II into commercial application in Phase III, which is funded by private capital.

2. Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)

Links entrepreneurs with the academic research community and encourages commercialization of government-funded research by the private sector. Proposals submitted to the STTR Program must have small-business principal investigators, but up to 60 percent of STTR funding may be used to support university subcontracts necessary to assist in the commercialization of research products by the small business firm. STTR is a three-phase program that offers incentives for converting research done in Phases I and II to commercial application in Phase III, which is funded by private capital. The difference between SBIR and STTR is in the requirements for partnership of the small business sector with the academic community.

3. Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI)

This initiative aims to encourage industry/university partnerships by making funds available for the support of an eclectic mix of industry/university linkages. Specifically, GOALI provides support (1) to conduct research and gain experience with production processes in an industrial setting; (2) for industry scientists and engineers to bring industry's perspective and integrative skills to academe; and (3) for interdisciplinary industry/university teams to conduct long-term projects. GOALI supports faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students in developing creative modes of collaborative interaction with industry through individual or small-group projects, and supports industry-based fellowships for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. GOALI targets high-risk, high-gain research that focuses on fundamental topics that would not have been undertaken by industry, and supports the development of innovative, collaborative, industry/university educational programs and the direct transfer of new knowledge between academe and industry.

4. Innovation and Organizational Change (IOC)

Seeks to create and apply fundamental new knowledge with the aim of improving the effectiveness of the design, administration, and management of organizations, including industrial, educational, service, government, and nonprofit and voluntary organizations. The program encourages dissemination of knowledge gained from research to organizations and institutions that can design and implement improvements based on what has been learned. The Directorates for Engineering; Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences; and Education and Human Resources jointly support IOC. The program places a priority on investigator-initiated research that advances our understanding of the fundamental processes and structures of organizations in a variety of institutional contexts. Prospective IOC research might draw on or include organizational behavior and theory, industrial engineering, industrial/organizational psychology, organizational sociology, and public administration and management science. Proposers should work with partner organizations in business, nonprofits, governmental agencies, and educational institutions.

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