CIRAS and Manufacturing 4.0 Grants Help Iowa Manufacturers Adopt New Technology and Grow

Pyrographics laser assisting with printing process.
Pyrographics laser assisting with printing process.

More than ever, Iowa manufacturing is turning to technology to stay globally competitive. However, with limited time and resources, finding the right technology is a challenge.

CIRAS, recognizing that challenge, partnered with the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) to drive technology implementation in small manufacturers. Eligible companies could apply for up to $75,000 in IEDA Manufacturing 4.0 Technology investment grants, which could be used to purchase equipment to increase productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness. Companies were required to match the grant amount.

As a prerequisite for a grant application, IEDA required an assessment from CIRAS to evaluate potential changes and impacts these funds would help create. Soon after the program was launched, it became evident that interest would far surpass predictions. In response, CIRAS swiftly adapted to prevent application delays. This involved engaging the majority of CIRAS staff and key partners to expand capacity. The grant program expanded to encompass multiple phases, with more than 330 assessments, nearly ten times over initial estimates.

Douglas Machine and Engineering retrofit on large DeVieg machine.
Douglas Machine and Engineering retrofit on large DeVieg machine.

Iowa companies are seeing the impact.

“CIRAS told us about the grant,” said Dan Svec of Pyrographics in Des Moines. His company, which creates custom merchandise like mugs and glassware, received $20,000 to utilize lasers to increase speed and accuracy in a printing process.

“It was something we knew already, but they brought in a lot of expertise and narrowed down what type of technology we needed. CIRAS made it so easy and to the point that we had to do it,” Svec said. That’s what he sees at his company, which, like most manufacturers, struggles to maintain an adequate workforce. “Our investment in technology already is paying for itself in labor savings.”

Loras Schaul, owner of Douglas Machine and Engineering in Davenport, said “with the assistance from CIRAS, the company received $50,000 from IEDA to update the electronics in a boring mill and another $25,000 grant to update CAD software. “CIRAS informed us of how the program could improve our existing equipment. They made it easy. I probably only invested three or four hours of time into the process.”

“We help businesses see things they might have missed and suggest ways technology can make their processes better,” said Andrew Friend, CIRAS Industry 4.0 lead. Even after the IEDA grant, CIRAS keeps doing free virtual assessments for manufacturers to find areas for improvement. Making Iowa manufacturers more efficient with technology is crucial, especially now. The pandemic led to high product demand, but manufacturers struggled to hire enough employees. “It’s not about replacing people with machines; it’s about making the most of the people they have so they can grow,” said Friend.

For more information, contact Andrew Friend at or 515-520-2803.


This story highlights the impactful outcomes of our previous grant initiatives, though please note the grant is currently not available.