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Caguas welcomes LIFT with $1M DoD grant for innovation

As part of its commitment to promoting economic development in Caguas, the municipal administration recently welcomed LIFT, operated by the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute (ALMMII), which received a $1 million grant from the Department of Defense (DoD), through the Office of Naval Research, to support its activities on the island. 

This follows an initial $1.9 million funding from the DoD Manufacturing Technology Program (ManTech), which is managed by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering.

LIFT is a Detroit-based nonprofit public-private partnership between industry, academia and government, serving as an accelerator in the development and implementation of advanced materials, manufacturing processes, system engineering and talent development.

Among its objectives is to improve efficiency and competitiveness in various industries serving the DOD.

“The presence of LIFT in our city represents a potential catalyst for the economic and technological development of Caguas and all of Puerto Rico,” Caguas Mayor William Miranda-Torres said in the resolution authorizing the lease of a municipal space for the institute. 

LIFT, the mayor said, “plays a fundamental role in promoting innovation and research in lightweight manufacturing materials. Its collaborative approach between industry, academic institutions and government will create in our region an environment conducive to addressing technological challenges, accelerating the adoption of advanced technologies and improving the competitiveness of our local businesses. In addition, it will contribute to the generation of specialized jobs, thus fostering a vibrant workforce.” 

The mayor also noted tha LIFT joins Caguas’ innovation district, comprising the Specialized School in Sciences, Mathematics and Technology (Cimatec), the Criollo Center for Science and Technology (C3Tec), the Eastern Central Technology Initiative, and the Business Response and Recovery Center and Incubator.

The 28,043-square-foot leased space is located on the fifth floor of the Lincoln Center Plaza building, with a five-year lease that can be renewed for two additional equal terms.

Miranda-Torres pointed out that LIFT expressed interest in establishing a professional training center in Caguas in September, leading to a search for a suitable municipal location.

Nigel Francis, CEO and executive director of LIFT and ALMMII, emphasized the institute’s national mandate to support manufacturers and their workforce, including establishing the new satellite facility in Puerto Rico.

“There is no doubt that innovation is ‘location-based,’ which means that we not only plan to provide support from our existing ecosystem to support Puerto Rican manufacturers, but we are also developing a committed ecosystem of local manufacturers and helping advance their technologies toward commercialization,” said Francis, who is also LIFT’s executive director.

LIFT’s expansion to Puerto Rico brings the technology program “Leading Innovations for Tomorrow,” while its talent program “Learning Innovations for Tomorrow” has been active on the island for over a year. LIFT will also have a demonstration center where the institute’s national ecosystem can collaborate to design, test and prototype materials, processes and systems. 

Since 2023, LIFT has offered Operation Next in Puerto Rico, a training and accreditation program including curriculums in welding, robotics, industrial maintenance and specialized computer numerical control (CNC) manufacturing.

“LIFT represents an opportunity for our economic growth and positions Caguas, the central eastern region and Puerto Rico at the forefront of innovation and excellence in manufacturing processes,” Miranda-Torres concluded.

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