University News

Healey-Driscoll Administration Grants $1.1 Million to Western New England University to Support Advanced Robotic Welding Technologies

Published: January 08, 2024 | Categories: Engineering, All News

State Grant Establishes a New Research and Training Cluster to Support Sustainable Welding, Providing Workforce Development Opportunities for Hundreds of Western Mass Students

WNE College of Engineering students and faculty.

Today, the Healey-Driscoll Administration announced a $1.1 million investment to fund a three-year project at Western New England University (WNE) that fosters the establishment of a research and training cluster in advanced robotic welding technologies. The award will support a collaborative project between WNE's Center for Advanced Manufacturing Systems (CAMS) that will work with Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and local industry partners to grow the advanced welding cluster and deliver new highly skilled workers to employers in the region.

The cutting-edge welding technologies have several applications in high-growth industries, including offshore wind, electric vehicles, aerospace, and manufacturing for national defense capabilities, such as submarines.

The grant, from the Innovation Institute at the MassTech Collaborative and its Technology & Innovation Ecosystem Awards program, aims to strengthen statewide ecosystems by supporting projects that contribute to a competitive advantage for existing and emerging industry clusters. These efforts will improve conditions for job growth, business expansion and creation, development of new products, and increased investment in a region. The project will also engage key players within the advanced manufacturing ecosystem, including Advance Welding in Springfield, Mestek Inc. of Westfield, Nitor Corporation in Southwick, American Steel and Aluminum Corporation in Auburn, MA and Portland, ME, with the potential to increase local manufacturing.

"Retaining the world's best talent is crucial for strengthening Massachusetts' innovation and competitiveness," said Secretary Yvonne Hao of the Executive Office of Economic Development. "This investment creates new opportunities for workforce training in the robotics industry and expands the pathway to rewarding jobs. Massachusetts has a long history of manufacturing excellence and WNE's project will help our state grow in the leading tech industries."

"Revolutionizing and automating old techniques, like welding, is helping to speed up innovation, disrupt industries, and create new jobs," said Pat Larkin, Director of the Innovation Institute at MassTech. "This project will bring amazing workforce training opportunities, that will help accelerate production, increase innovation, and create a competitive advantage for Massachusetts companies looking to expand."

"WNE is grateful for the generous investment from the Healey-Driscoll Administration, a testament to their commitment to advancing innovation and workforce development in the Commonwealth," said WNE President Dr. Robert E. Johnson. "This grant will propel the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Systems (CAMS) at Western New England University into a leading position in exploration and training for advanced robotic welding technologies and provide invaluable hands-on training opportunities for the next generation of skilled workers. This landmark investment marks a significant step toward a more sustainable and innovative future for Massachusetts, and we are proud to play a central role in shaping it."

The project will also sponsor robotic and advanced welding events on the WNE campus, including engagement with Springfield-area high school students to assist with career opportunities in advanced manufacturing, robotics, and automation. WNE will build on its strong relationships with colleges and school districts in the region, including institutions in Springfield, Wilbraham, Monson, and Holyoke.

Outreach efforts will draw interest from undergraduates interested in research and will aim to increase diversity in the sector through increased engagement with women and underrepresented minorities, through groups such as the Society of Women Engineers and the Society of Black Engineers.

"With the onset of cutting-edge technologies in the workplace, an emphasis on training a capable workforce is an imperative," said State Senator Adam Gomez. "A competent workforce will drive economic development and create investment opportunities in the region. I am grateful to the Healey-Driscoll administration for this investment for central and western Mass."

"I want to thank Governor Maura Healey, her administration, and the Innovation Institute at the MassTech Collaborative for their continued belief and investment in our institutions of higher learning here in Springfield and western Massachusetts." said Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno. "This significant $1.1 million grant to Western New England University will provide critical funding to a growing field and provide students with the relevant skills necessary to enter the workforce upon graduation and pursue high paying career opportunities."