Manufacturing Readiness Grants support Industry 4.0 innovation in Indiana.

PWR Manufacturing Team

Photo courtesy of PWR North America

From aerospace engineering to automotive production, Indiana has a long legacy of manufacturing expertise. The Industrial Revolution brought a new wave of immigrants and business opportunities to the state. And by the 1920s, more Hoosiers were working in factories than any other industry.

Now, after a century of progress, Indiana has the highest density of manufacturing jobs in America. In fact, one in every five Hoosiers works in advanced manufacturing, and more than 25% of Indiana’s economic output is based in the industry. We’re the #2 State for Auto Production and a global manufacturing hub—home to leading companies such as Cummins, Rolls-Royce, Raytheon, and Allison Transmission.

But our manufacturing leadership is no accident. It’s the result of decades of investment in the industry, building our talent pipeline and creating an ecosystem where manufacturers thrive. 

An important part of that ecosystem is Conexus Indiana—an initiative of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP). Conexus is a powerful network of nonprofits, universities, and industry leaders focused on advancing Indiana’s manufacturing and logistics industries. They create opportunities for local companies, train Hoosiers for high-demand jobs, and help Indiana adapt to industry innovation. 

Right now, the manufacturing industry is evolving at a rapid pace. Industry 4.0 technology has revolutionized nearly every aspect of the industry, and manufacturing companies are finding themselves at a crossroads: embrace innovation or become obsolete. 

However, innovation often comes with new equipment, and that can be cost-prohibitive for small businesses. That’s why Conexus Indiana partnered with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to launch the Manufacturing Readiness Grants program—an initiative that’s paving the way for the next generation of Hoosier innovation. 

Man working on machine at SoChatti

Photo courtesy of SoChatti

Machines at Addman Engineering

Photo courtesy of Addman Engineering

What is the Manufacturing Readiness Grants program?

Manufacturing Readiness Grants help Indiana businesses embrace smart manufacturing technology. Grant recipients can receive up to $200,000 in matching grants to reimburse the cost of new, tech-enabled production capital. This provides a direct incentive for small businesses to invest in innovation, while helping them overcome the financial barriers to modernization.

These grants are available to manufacturers of all sizes and all sectors, so long as they operate within Indiana. There is a minimum 1:1 match requirement for all applicants, but in return, these grants help businesses implement new technologies to boost their profitability, increase their productivity, and improve their overall competitiveness. 

“Technology plays a critical role in Hoosier manufacturing as we continue to build a tech-savvy economy of the future,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers. “The Manufacturing Readiness Grants program [will help] secure Indiana’s competitive advantage globally, encouraging further capital investment and positioning us to become an even more dominant player in the advanced manufacturing age.”

The Manufacturing Readiness Grants program originally launched in April 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, many companies were struggling to stay in business, and budget restrictions kept companies from adopting new technology. 

In an effort to bolster our economic recovery, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb recommended that the IEDC allocate funds to a new Economic Activity Stabilization and Enhancement (EASE) initiative. The initiative included $4 million in Manufacturing Readiness Grants to support business growth during the pandemic. 

The Manufacturing Readiness Grants program proved itself immediately successful. Within just six months, the program yielded more than $50 million in matching commitments from dozens of Indiana companies. This rapid success resulted in an additional $20 million from the Indiana General Assembly to fund future rounds of grants through 2023. 

“The Manufacturing Readiness Grants program is clearly a powerful tool to ensure that Indiana companies—at all levels of the globally competitive supply chain—adopt new technologies that are important for the future of Indiana’s manufacturing economy.”

- Mitch Landess, Vice President of Innovation and Digital Transformation at Conexus Indiana

Hoosier manufacturers leverage state grants to stay globally competitive.

Manufacturing Readiness Grants can be used for a variety of smart manufacturing technologies. In fact, the program has already impacted more than 20 industry sectors, including automotive, aerospace and defense, agriculture, construction, consumer packaging, and healthcare.

With the help of these grants, Indiana manufacturers are more equipped to meet the challenges of a rapidly evolving industry. They help make expensive equipment more accessible, so more companies can harness the latest in industry innovation. 

“Hoosier businesses continue to invest in smart technologies like cobots, machine vision, and 3D printing to increase competitiveness, productivity, and profitability,” said Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers. “We’re on the cutting edge of a digital transformation, and our state’s advanced manufacturers and logistics companies are accelerating toward Industry 4.0.”

But most importantly, grant recipients say that Manufacturing Readiness Grants help them overcome other adoption hurdles, such as talent shortages, integration risk, and workforce training. Thanks to these grants, businesses are able to focus on their expansion—without worrying about technology costs. 

For example, True Essence Foods is leveraging the grant to commercialize their innovative food preservation technology. Indianapolis-based manufacturer Ikelite used their grant to implement in-house manufacturing for their underwater camera housing. And Addman Engineering purchased a new VELO3D laser powder bed printer, a machine that can manufacture just about any metal or polymer part. 

“This isn’t just a matter of a local shop serving local customers. We’re now a very specialized shop serving global entities,” said Bob Markey, Executive Vice President of Addman Engineering. “When new customers and young professionals come to Indiana to see how we’re doing it, the impact reaches beyond the local community and Addman’s bottom line.” 

Technology like this empowers companies to expand their manufacturing capabilities—and their global impact. Years after receiving their grant, PWR North America still credits the Manufacturing Readiness Grant for taking them to the next level. 

In 2020, PWR North America was enthusiastic about expanding into vehicle electrification, autonomous vehicles, and the aerospace and defense industries. But the pandemic halted their plans—until they received a Manufacturing Readiness Grant. 

PWR North America was one of the grant’s first successful applicants, receiving $162,500 to help onshore their manufacturing. These funds allowed them to invest in state-of-the-art technology and integrate machine-vision verification to a new advanced laser cutting system. 

“The [Manufacturing Readiness Grant] was really what tipped the scales,” said Steve Rasso, General Manager at PWR. “Now, we’re on the gas, and we’re not going to lift. The laser is really the first step on a much, much bigger plan for us to grow capability here in Indianapolis—and then we’ll be off to the races.”

Person Manufacturing at PWR

Photo courtesy of PWR North America

Exterior of PWR North America

Photo courtesy of PWR North America

Manufacturing Readiness Grants make an impact on our economy.

Two years later, the Manufacturing Readiness Grants program has made a difference for both Hoosier businesses and our state’s economy. In 2022, Conexus Indiana partnered with Purdue University to assess the impact of the Manufacturing Readiness Grants program. The data from this study confirmed what recipients were saying: grant funding led to new jobs, increased wages, and higher revenues.

As of the 2022 Impact Report, Conexus has awarded grants to 212 companies across 60 Indiana counties, amounting to $17.4 million in financial support. This investment has resulted in over $138 million in matching funds and the potential for an estimated $22 million in new wages. On average, grant recipients projected $2.5 million in revenue growth per project, and the required 1:1 match paid off in dividends—leveraging a staggering 7:1 return on investment for the state. 

“Our data shows that Indiana companies are clearly benefiting from the Manufacturing Readiness Grants program,” said Ryan Henderson, Director of Innovation & Digital Transformation at Conexus Indiana. “Automation and advanced technologies continue to help companies grow and add new positions, providing additional opportunities for Hoosiers to succeed in the advanced manufacturing industry.”

The study also debunked the common misconception that automated tech would replace current employees. In fact, the grant showed that smart manufacturing technology actually supports job creation and retention. Companies that adopted Industry 4.0 technology added an average of five new positions and increased wages by $196,000 per project. Rather than displacing workers, investing in innovation creates opportunities for workers to perform higher-value, more fulfilling jobs. 

“When people hear ‘automation,’ they automatically jump to ‘they’re going to take away someone’s job,’” said John Brigham, Head of Engineering at Ikelite. “The reality is that when a machine or robot is doing what it’s supposed to be doing, humans have more capacity to dream up a new solution or develop a new design. The monotony is taken out of many of their daily duties.”

Ikelite Camera

Photo courtesy of Ikelite

Ikelite Camera

Photo courtesy of Ikelite

Conexus is fueling the Industry 4.0 revolution in Indiana.

For over a decade, Conexus Indiana has helped drive innovation, support local companies, and solidify Indiana’s leadership in advanced manufacturing and logistics. But few initiatives have been as unequivocally successful as the Manufacturing Readiness Grants program. The program helped bring a new wave of Industry 4.0 technology to Indiana. It gave businesses hope during an unprecedented time, and it inspired companies to invest in their future like never before.

The Manufacturing Readiness Grants program also proved to be a successful model for industry investment, demonstrating the true potential of matching grant programs. This model gives Indiana a strategic way to invest government funds while leveraging millions more in private investment. In the coming years, Indiana will continue to see the impact of this strategy, as our companies lead the next generation of advanced manufacturing innovation. 

“Manufacturing is in Indiana’s DNA. We build things,” said Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb. “The demand for the Manufacturing Readiness Grants program has proven time and time again to us that these investments help Hoosiers build things better.”

Thanks to programs like the Manufacturing Readiness Grants, Indiana remains one of the best markets in the United States for manufacturers—big and small. We create opportunities for new entrepreneurs, invest in training for skilled talent, and support our businesses as they grow across the globe.

Together, these investments help manufacturers thrive in Indiana, leading the way toward the next generation of smart manufacturing. In the coming years, organizations like Conexus Indiana will continue to drive Industry 4.0 innovation in Indiana—and ensure that our state remains a global destination for top manufacturing talent. 

“Manufacturing is the biggest part of Indiana’s economy, and we have to make sure the small and medium manufacturers are leaning into technology to succeed,” said Jean Rydberg, President and CEO of Ikelite. “No one is just a button pusher. We’re all designers, creators, and innovators—and that’s why we are striving to train all of our workforce on the new software and machine.” 

Learn more about Conexus Indiana and the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership

Man standing in front of equipment at Ikelite

Photo courtesy of Ikelite