A Progress Report on Modeling & Simulation for the Economy

Last week Aneesh Chopra addressed the inaugural National Modeling and Simulation Coalition with an update to an important R&D initiative focused on an industry of the future. In May 2010, an interagency working group made five priority recommendations to deliver on the promise of modeling and simulation (M&S) tools that spur productivity in advanced manufacturing, health care and education. We reported on our progress:

  1. Lowering Barrier to Entry: To lower the cost and training barriers on the use of M&S tools by small and medium sized manufacturers (SMEs), the Economic Development Administration and the U.S. Council on Competitiveness launched the National Digital Engineering and Manufacturing Consortium (NDMEC) last March focused on pilot activity in the Midwest. We reported on early success stories last month so we took this occasion to announce a challenge – Purdue University’s Manufacturing HUB.org launched an Apps Competition to develop easy-to-use, application specific simulation capabilities using OpenFOAM- an open source code for computational fluid dynamics.
  2. Lab to Market: NASA launched code.NASA.gov - a directory of 25 open sources codes released for a range of M&S applications that can now “fuel” further development in meeting related market needs. We’ve seen the results of commercializing federal R&D during a briefing by P&G to the President on the outcomes of a decade long partnership with Los Alamos National Labs (LANL). The resulting “Reliability Technology” initiative – a methodology to increase the “uptime” of complex manufacturing lines will scale to other manufacturers in the coming weeks through a simple web-based RT calculator that will facilitate process reliability benchmarking. We are confident this analysis will result in greater “insourcing” and strengthen manufacturing profitability.
  3. Health Care applications:  FDA’s 2011 strategic plan on Advancing Regulatory Science included computer modeling and simulation, and personalized medicine.  To explore research opportunities and value proposition for M&S of medical devices, Dr. Jeff Shuren, Director, FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) and Aneesh hosted a business roundtable last fall with CTOs of medical device manufacturers including Baxter, Boston Scientific, CR Bard, GE Healthcare, Siemens, Smith-Nephew, TriReme Medical and Zimmer. Informed by leaders from academia and the private sector, CDRH aims to foster simulation‐based engineering by leveraging established open‐sourced anatomic and physiologic models and data sharing to revolutionize the regulatory evaluation pathway for medical devices and their development. In addition to accelerating innovation and the regulation process, this effort would enable virtual clinical trials and personalized medicine improving cost, speed and the quality of care. Drs. Donna Lochner and Tina Morrison, staff at FDA’s medical devices center, are coordinating new research in this area and making certain that, in the future, manufacturers have a clear and predictable understanding of how computer modeling and simulation tools may be used in new device submissions.
  4. Cloud Computing:  To scale M&S tools across hundreds of thousands of SMEs, and in the spirit of the White House Startup America initiative emphasizing the importance of growth companies, Autodesk committed to a line of cloud-based M&S tools that will be available to SMEs at affordable rates. Details will be available in the weeks ahead but click here for information on Autodesk’s existing “Clean Tech Partner Program” offering dramatic discounts for startups. Inspired by Autodesk’s announcement, ProTRAX Cloud, a web based power plant concept training simulator, shared its plans to launch a new website in the coming months that realistically replicates power plant functions enabling training of power plant operators 24x7. Stay tuned for more market-based application innovations.
  5. Education: The recent Framework for Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), developed by a National Research Council committee of leading scientists, engineers, and educators, identified modeling and simulation as a key area for experimental investigations by K-12 science students. To bring M&S tools in K-12 classrooms, NASA and CK-12 Foundation are poised to release, by the end of this month, a “flexbook” - Modeling and Simulation for High School Teachers: Principles, Problems, and Lesson Plans.  Subject matter expert authors were solicited via Challenge.Gov and a broad announcement from Virginia Secretaries of Technology and Education. Chapters include M&S in education, business, and training. Ready-to-implement lesson plans include Flight dynamics, DNA, Bridge construction, Water filters and control of a vacuum cleaner robot.

We wish the new coalition the very best as they work to strengthen America’s capacity to harness M&S to solve some of our most challenging problems. 

Sridhar Kota is the Assistant Director for Advanced Manufacturing at OSTP

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