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Partnership aims to help Midwest manufacturers

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The Obama administration is creating a $4.5 million partnership between the private sector and government to help Midwest manufacturers access high-tech computing to speed up design cycles for future products.

The White House said Wednesday the funding would create a partnership to develop high-performance software for smaller manufacturers and suppliers, helping them reduce the time needed to develop new products sought by large companies. The program is part of a larger focus by the Obama administration on innovation and competitiveness to build long-term economic prosperity.

"What we can do is use this modest amount of money to start this thing off, to make some important progress in developing this software and as it gains momentum, we would expect it to grow in size," said Ron Bloom, a White House adviser on manufacturing policy.

The partnership will bring together large corporations, government agencies, universities and manufacturers to develop the high-performance software. The software is aimed at helping small and medium-size manufacturers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio conduct modeling and simulation of future products and materials. Officials said it could shorten the product development cycle to 8 months from 14 months for most suppliers.

Administration officials said $2 million in funding from the Commerce Department would be matched by $2.5 million from companies such as Deere & Co., General Electric Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and The Proctor & Gamble Co.

The project will be operated by the Council on Competitiveness, a non-governmental organization run by corporate executives, university presidents and others aimed at improving the competitiveness of U.S. industry. Administration officials said the project could be expanded to include manufacturers across the nation.

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