Manufacturing 4.0 Assessments Exceed Expectations

Manufacturing 4.0 Assessments Exceed Expectations

Iowa manufacturers are eager to incorporate advanced technologies into their enterprises. That was clear by the overwhelming response to the Technology Investment Grant Program led by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). The goal of the effort is to assist Iowa manufacturers in becoming more competitive by adopting and leveraging new smart technologies.

“The level of interest and excitement among companies was far beyond what we could ever have imagined,” said Mike O’Donnell, CIRAS program director. “We underestimated how much a small contribution from the state could impact the readiness of manufacturers to embrace technology.”

As part of its Manufacturing 4.0 plan, IEDA provided $1.9 million in technology investment grants to manufacturers with 3 to

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75 employees. More than $5 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act was added, making more than $7 million in grants available to small- and medium-sized manufacturers.

CIRAS supported the process through pre-application assessments to help leaders make informed decisions on their investments. Although original expectations were 50 to 100 on-site reviews, the CIRAS team conducted more than 230 on-site assessments before that phase ended in October.

“We assessed the entire business, spending time on their factory floor and in the office to get a full understanding of strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities,” said O’Donnell. “And then we’d return with a one-page summary that said, ‘Here’s what we think are your biggest opportunities for technology, and here are some things we think you need to work on.’”

More than 115 manufacturers were awarded grants to purchase specialized equipment ranging from advanced software to collaborative robots and much more. Clients who received grants have already reported an economic impact totaling nearly $70 million.

Increasing technology adoption is one of five priorities in IEDA’s strategic plan for the manufacturing industry. Other priorities focus on infrastructure for digital technologies, supply chain connectivity, workforce training programs, and help for start-ups and scale-ups. CIRAS is involved in these efforts, partnering with other institutions and agencies including Iowa community colleges, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, the University of Northern Iowa, Professional Developers of Iowa, the Iowa Department of Education, and Iowa Workforce Development.

“As we move forward into the next stage, we’re developing resources for people to use and partnerships that will be fruitful to manufacturers,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell noted that other states are launching similar programs. He regularly receives calls for information on Iowa’s plan for manufacturers.

“Iowa is leading the nation in this effort, and that has been great to see.”

For more information, contact Mike O’Donnell at 515-509-4379 or