CMR faces budget cuts, changes focus

The Center for Manufacturing Research at Tech is pushing through expected budget cuts and has a strategic plan underway to narrow its focus areas to “the next big things” in manufacturing research.According to Kenneth Currie, who is a professor and director of the Center for Manufacturing Research, the plan is to align the CMR’s focuses with changing national trends as well as with faculty expertise.

The CMR is taking different technology strategy plans from a number of national and international agencies in order to discover the common themes in what people are saying are the next big things. Then, they will look at Tech’s capabilities, resources, and faculty expertise in order to try to align themselves with national technologies. This will lead to a decision on focus areas and to a strategy for new investments.

To make the reinvestments a reality, the CMR will have to look into its internal state budget.

“The idea is that if we are more focused, then we can concentrate more of our resources in those specific areas,” Currie said. “So it will simply mean that we will be less diffusive in the way that we allocate existing resources, and it will probably be a gradual process.”

The center is projecting the strategic plan to be finished by July 2010.

Reinvestment will start next fiscal year and the center should see full-on realignment by July 2011.

The CMR is currently receiving stimulus money and maintenance of effort funds, but this will run out in July 2011. They are also expecting 20 percent budget cuts.

The CMR may not have much money to reinvest after the cuts, but they are hoping that as they realign and refocus, they will be able to meet the budget cuts and still be able to invest in new ideas along the focus areas. The cuts could also mean that some individuals who are receiving funding and benefits from the center may not be able to do so in the future if they are not aligned with the new focus areas.

Faculty will still be able to submit requests for CMR funding, but a committee will decide what gets funded and what does not, based on whether the idea is aligned with the focus areas.

In the past, the CMR has been able to pick up funding for grad students who are involved in research with CMR faculty, but the CMR may not have resources available to do so after the budget cuts.

“There will be some hard decisions to make later on, and I think that student funding will be given more of a priority than anything else in terms of making decisions about how resources are realigned,” said Currie.