Nebraska Robotics Coalition Gets $25-M Federal Grant


    The Biden administration is sending $1 billion dollars worth of federal grants for manufacturing, clean energy, farming, biotech and more to 21 regional partnerships across the nation, including one in Nebraska.

      The Heartland Robotics Cluster, a coalition seeking to increase Nebraska’s workforce in robotics and automated manufacturing in agriculture, is getting $25 million  

      The coalition is led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and includes Invest Nebraska, community colleges in Norfolk and Omaha, and the Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership. 

      There were 529 applicants to the Commerce Department for the grants, a figure that was narrowed to 60 finalists and 21 winners.

      The grants are part of the $1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus relief package that Biden signed into law in March of last year. 

     Most of the money in the package was meant to address immediate needs, but those grants are part of a longer-term effort to revitalize parts of the country that have needed an economic jolt. 

    Dan Hoffman of Invest Nebraska, which organized the Heartland Robotics cluster, says the $25-million starts the long process of investing in the state’s automation infrastructure and growing future talent in automation, robotics, computer vision and AI

    The Robotics Cluster will use the money to expand programming and robotics equipment at UNL’s Innovation campus and increase robotics engineering curriculum at UNL as well as Metro and Northeast community colleges.

     Specifically, UNL will use $10 million to build robotics-related research and teaching labs at Kiewit Hall, the Scott Engineering Center, and Splinter labs.

      The cluster also plans to increase workforce outreach in rural areas, provide demonstration “spaces” of new technologies for manufacturers, and work with private industry to expand the use of technology.