ROCKFORD, IL - (November 9, 2015) - Today, representatives from the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), a UI LABS collaboration, along with Senator Dick Durbin, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) and Northern Illinois University (NIU) President Dr. Douglas Baker, announced a new DMDII pilot chapter in Rockford.

“This first chapter is a big win for the Rockford community and for manufacturers across the country,” said Dr. Dean L. Bartles, Chief Manufacturing Officer for UI LABS and Executive Director of DMDII. “As we work to revolutionize American manufacturing, DMDII is expanding our physical reach beyond our Chicago base and bringing the power of our national institute to other regional areas.”

“NIU’s Office for Regional Engagement – Rockford was integral in the co-creation and development of the DMDII chapter model,” said Caralynn Nowinski Collens, Chief Executive Officer of UI LABS. “We will rely on this relationship to take the digital technologies developed from DMDII projects into the workplaces of small- and medium-sized manufacturers across this community. This first chapter will be the basis of the many chapters that will open from coast to coast.”

The launch expands DMDII’s existing relationships and partnerships within this important economic hub in Illinois, including Northern Illinois University and the Rockford Area Economic Development Council. By connecting with Rockford-area small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), DMDII will rely on its national expertise and local execution to help digitize the supply chain of American manufacturing and develop the workforce of the future.

“Northern Illinois University is proud of our collaboration with DMDII to develop this innovative chapter model,” said NIU President Douglas Baker. “We are the first chapter of DMDII, in keeping with our university’s and with Rockford’s strong track record of driving manufacturing innovation and being at the forefront of training the workforce of tomorrow.”


“DMDII’s network and the resources it is assembling to improve America’s manufacturing industry are continuing to expand, starting right here in Illinois,” said Governor Bruce Rauner. “This first chapter in Rockford will increase the competitiveness of companies within our state and cement Illinois’ leadership status as the place to go for manufacturing innovation.”

Rockford is DMDII’s pilot chapter, setting the stage for future expansion across the United States. This effort is also an outgrowth of the strategy for the Illinois Manufacturing Lab, a partnership between the University of Illinois and UI LABS, to deliver advanced manufacturing solutions to Illinois companies while providing a collaborative platform for launching economic revitalization strategies across the state. The new chapter will use existing local resources to connect SMEs, particularly in the Rockford area’s aerospace manufacturing supply chain, in technology transition and workforce development to help digitize American manufacturing. SMEs will also have access to the resources and output of the Illinois Manufacturing Lab.

“Manufacturing is a critical component of our state and national economy,” said Senator Dick Durbin. “By connecting regional and local talent with DMDII’s national network, we will continue to strengthen our local workforce while leading the nationwide manufacturing revolution. With a strong aerospace manufacturing industry and numerous ties to defense manufacturing, Rockford is the perfect choice for DMDII’s pilot chapter. The Department of Defense has an enormous stake in ensuring that our country’s manufacturing evolves into a more agile and collaborative industry. The partnership announced today will move us closer to that goal.”

There are nearly 700 manufacturers in the Rockford region, with multiple diverse clusters of advanced manufacturing capabilities. Manufacturing-related jobs provide nearly a quarter of the region’s employment -- twice the national average in manufacturing employment and manufacturing accounts for a third of the gross metropolitan product (GMP) in the Rockford metropolitan statistical area.

“To position Rockford as a global leader in advanced manufacturing, we must ensure our region's companies and workforce can access the latest technology and knowledge,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos. “By plugging our small and medium sized manufacturers into DMDII's network of larger manufacturers, educational institutions and digital production experts, we'll not only connect industry to these advanced tools, but we'll also help train our great workers for new jobs created by the digital manufacturing revolution."

“Placing our institutes in close proximity to communities rich in manufacturing history such as Rockford enables DMDII to accelerate to small and medium companies the benefits of the institute’s activities,” said Adele Ratcliff, Director of Manufacturing Technology of the Department of Defense. “It is potentially a model that can be replicated across the nation.”

Northern Illinois University has signed a memorandum of understanding with DMDII to be the lead organization for the Rockford area business and manufacturing community, and will work with local leadership to recruit new partners and organize the new chapter. Partners that have signed on to lead the effort include: Rockford Area Economic Development Council, Rockford Area Aerospace Network, and Rockford Chamber of Commerce Manufacturers Council. The Rockford region is positioned to be a model community in the renaissance of American manufacturing and is prepared to be a central node in DMDII’s national network.

A second chapter, to be located in the Quad Cities, will be announced shortly. “We see many opportunities for the chapter model to be adopted, adapted and scaled throughout the country,” said DMDII’s Bartles.

“Rockford-based inventors are responsible for countless innovations related to manufacturing. We look forward to working with DMDII and members in our region to advance the next major breakthrough,” said NIU President Baker.




UI LABS solves large-scale societal challenges by forming industry-driven consortia to close the gap between innovation and commercialization. UI LABS is developing a portfolio of applied research and commercialization labs that lead to a return on investment for its partners, improve local, regional and national competitiveness, and transform entire industries.

The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) is UI LABS’ first program. DMDII is transforming American manufacturing to be the most competitive in the world through adoption of digital manufacturing technologies. Learn more at