One response to “Materials Genome Initiative”

  1. Dave Vandenbout

    In the late 80’s, I participated in a DARPA-funded, multi-university project on concurrent engineering. It’s goal was strikingly similar to that of the Materials Genome Initiative: to radically reduce the amount of time needed to develop engineering concepts into commercially available products. This would be done by developing new software tools and integrating them throughout the design cycle to produce more interactions between research, design and manufacturing (sound familiar?). Total funding was around $100M spread over five years (as I recall). Our initial testbed was jet engine turbine blade design and General Electric was the corporate contact/target for this project.

    In reality, this project was used as a means for the current Senate majority leader to funnel funds into a university in his home state. Nothing substantial ever came of it. It would have been more useful if we had shoveled all that money into a big pile at the kickoff meeting and burned it while we passed around a bottle of Jack Daniels.

    I’ve read the Materials Genome Initiative white-paper; it sounds like more of the same. I assume placing “Genome” in the title is meant to invoke positive associations with the successful Human Genome Project. But HGP only met its mission schedule because Craig Venter mounted a parallel, private effort that threatened to eclipse the government project. I doubt that will be repeated here. If the delay for moving materials concepts from the lab to the public could be cut in half for an outlay of $100M over a single year, then companies would have already jumped all over it.

    As the Initiative progresses, it might be interesting for you to dig around and see who got the funding for this effort approved and where the money ends up going. I hope, at least, that some of it finds its way into your pocket.