By: Micki Vandeloo, President, Lakeview Consulting
Does your manufacturing business have the next big idea? Do you wish to utilize Industry 4.0 technologies such as automation and big data to improve the efficiency of your operations? If you are a forward-thinking company, you may be eligible to receive grants to reward your innovative nature!
As more and more manufacturers reshore products from China and other countries, they need to be able to make more, and a greater mix of, products. The only way many manufacturers can do this, particularly in the face of a VERY tight labor market, is by implementing advanced technologies.
Fortunately, as states realize this, more are releasing grant programs to support this investment, which can be significant for many companies. These are typically called Industry 4.0 or Manufacturing Readiness grants. Here are some examples:
Michigan Industry 4.0 Technology Implementation Grant
Companies will need to clearly define which technology will be implemented and establish a timeline, budget and anticipated outcomes of the project. Technologies eligible for this grant program include hardware/software related to the following I4.0 categories, and preference will be given to transformative technologies (denoted with a * below): Additive Manufacturing & Advanced Materials* Artificial Intelligence* Big Data Cloud Computing Cybersecurity Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) Modeling, Simulation, Visualization & Immersion Robotics/Automation* Connected Worker Platforms & Wearables. Grants provide a 50% reimbursement for qualifying I4.0 technology costs up to $25,000.
Manufacturing Assistance Program Empire State Development
The Manufacturing Assistance Program (MAP) provides capital grants up to $1 million to manufacturers for projects that will increase their productivity and / or competitiveness. MAP funds must be used for capital investments in machinery and equipment. Projects may also include Industrial Effectiveness consulting and or worker skills training. Empire State Development (ESD) MAP assistance is capped at $1 million. Award amounts are based on the magnitude of the improvements and their overall benefit to the company; the amount of private investment leveraged; and the economic impact of the manufacturer within its regional economy. Grants of up to $1,000,000 are awarded.
Tips for Accessing Advanced Manufacturing Grants
Here are some tips for accessing grants, if your state offers them:
Make sure you check what items or costs are eligible to be covered under the grant.
I recommend clients pull out their strategic plan or capital expenditures (CapEx) plan to develop a “wish list” of needed equipment, then review grant opportunities to determine what will fund those expenditures.
Remember that grants don’t fund work that has already happened or equipment already purchased.
I cringe when I hear that a manufacturing client has invested in technologies before checking to see if they can qualify for a grant. Unfortunately, if they have already purchased the equipment, they will not qualify for funding through a grant program.
Prioritize state funding over federal funding to support innovation.
The federal government has some highly publicized grants to fund innovative projects (think SBIR/STTR and industry specific innovation grants), but these are highly competitive grants. If you are planning an innovative project, check your state’s listing of grants to see if there is anything offered at the state level rather than pursuing federal grants. State grants, while offering lower dollar amounts, are also less competitive, leaving you a better chance of obtaining funding to support your project. If you want to keep an eye on current and new grants to fund advanced manufacturing, subscribe to the Manufacturing Grants Database. This is a low-cost and easy way to stay on top of the funding landscape.
If you are investing in advanced technologies to improve efficiency and expand product offerings, kudos to you! Make sure, though, that you make sure you are not leaving money on the table by not considering grants to fund your investments!