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Michigan Robotics Week Kicks Off With Industry Executive Forum

STERLING HEIGHTS (WWJ) -- Michigan's fifth annual Robotics Week kicked off Tuesday with a new event, the Michigan Robotics Industry Executive Forum. Organized by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, the day-long event drew more than 100 business leaders and technology innovators to the Maneuver Collaboration Center on the General Dynamics Land Systems campus in Sterling Heights.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder challenged attendees to move beyond the ultra-technical and develop a unified message about the economic promise of advanced robotics.

"Michigan can lead robotics technology," Snyder stated, "Not just the politicians in Lansing, but everyone. Michigan can lead robotics technology in the United States."

The governor's speech set the stage for candid breakout sessions, in which expert panelists discussed business realities and challenges faced by the robotics industry in Michigan and across the country. Breakout topics included manufacturing automation, autonomous vehicles and dual-use technologies for both defense and civilian use. WWJ's Matt Roush moderated two of the sessions.

"Robotics isn't exactly a new field, in the sense that automation has been around for a long time," said NCMS president and CEO Rick Jarman. "But that's not the extent of robotics technology today. And the extent of the technology is only one challenge. We have to consider the business realities, manufacturability, not to mention regulations that may not exist yet. Robotics isn't new as a concept, but it's scaling to a whole new place today. Governor Snyder's enthusiasm and support is indispensable for Michigan robotics -- another key ingredient is collaboration. Industry, defense, academia, and government all need to work together."

The breadth of topics under discussion at the Executive Forum mirrored the vast economic opportunities emphasized by Jarman and Snyder alike. Throughout the day, hour long panels covering automation, driverless vehicles, and dual-use technology transition sparked lively discussions on everything from autonomous vehicle legislation to convincing the state's grade schoolers to explore engineering and manufacturing.

The event included demonstrations of robotics applications from Executive Forum participants, including a driverless car from the University Of Michigan School Of Engineering, autonomous cargo transport from Ann Arbor-based Cybernet Systems, new aerial drone technology from Ann Arbor-based SkySpecs, plus technologies from Rochester-based autonomous vehicle equipment maker iTrack LLC and General Dynamics.

Phil Callihan, Director of Strategic Projects at NCMS and the event's lead organizer, sees long-term potential for a day like this.

"The Executive Forum is a chance for technology leaders to meet and chart a path forward," he said. "Michigan has a great opportunity to be the global leader in autonomous vehicle technology."

On Thursday, April 10, NCMS and the University of Michigan will host Michigan Robotics Day on UM's North Campus. This public event celebrates robotics technology throughout the state, featuring displays from Michigan innovators and presentations from thought leaders in the field. Visit for event details.

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences is the global leader in cross-industry collaboration, leading award-winning R&D programs, international consortia, business alliances and commercialization efforts for innovation. Nearly three decades spent managing collaborative partnerships across multiple sectors have provided NCMS with a unique outlook on the connections that drive trends and effects in industry. The non-profit membership consortium is highly sought for its unique industry intelligence perspectives, award-winning collaboration model, and manufacturing technology initiatives. Visit for more information.

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