Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service has been learning how to use a 3D metal printer, Chris Hill from the CIRAS Technology Assistance Program explains how the printer works.
Iowa manufacturers face a tough choice in the coming years: Fail to adapt to new technology and fall behind, or try to keep up and risk a wave of crippling digital attacks.
As executives and state officials push toward Industry 4.0 — with factories and machines outfitted with sensors that constantly communicate with one another — cyber security experts worry defenses won’t keep up. Companies will be vulnerable to hackers bent on shutting down a business just for the story.
Professors at Iowa State University hope to be on the front lines of fortifying the defense. The U.S. Department of Energy asked university officials earlier this year to apply for a $70 million grant to launch the Cybersecurity Research Institute in Ames.
“It would really put Iowa State on the map, if we were to get this, as the place to go for cybersecurity in advanced manufacturing,” said Surya Mallapragada, associate vice president of research at the university.
The Department of Energy requires local investment in the project. And on Friday morning, the Iowa Economic Development Authority unanimously approved spending $1.2 million for the institute — assuming the federal government picks Iowa State.
Iowa Innovation Council liaison Gail Kotval said private companies and other groups would provide another $16 million toward the institute, bringing the total investment to $87 million. She said the Department of Energy asked less than half-a-dozen universities to apply to lead the program, and the federal agency should make a decision in December.
A spokesperson for the Department of Energy declined to disclose Friday who the other applicants are.
Mark Williamson demonstrates new scanning technology during the opening of ISU’s digital manufacturing lab, CIRAS, on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 in Ames. The center was funded with a $100,000 contribution from Alliant Energy and $250,000 from the Iowa Economic Development Authority.ISU digital manufacturing lab opening on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 in Ames. (Photo: Brian Powers/The Register)
If Iowa State is picked, electrical and computer engineering professor Manimaran Govindarasu would lead the team. The group would include researchers from other universities like Washington, Washington State, Penn State and Texas at El Paso.
Mallapragada said the grant would pay about 15 Iowa State researchers and professors. In addition to other universities, five Iowa companies would work with the institute: Emerson, Danfoss, Vermeer, 3M and AgCertain.
Ames Laboratory, a Department of Energy national lab, would also work with the institute.
Kotval said the program is part of the National Network of Manufacturing Institutes, an Obama-era investment in research for the future of the sector. Nearby institutes include a center on digital manufacturing in Chicago and an additive manufacturing institute in Youngstown, Ohio.
Mallapragada said the institute would focus on automation security, supply chain security and systems’ awareness of their own vulnerabilities. It would also educate businesses and help train workers.
The money from the Economic Development Authority would fund tools that test whether machines are vulnerable to hacks, as well as whether a machine can realize something irregular is happening within itself.
“This tool would help detect those intrusions or anomalies in real time,” Mallapragada said. “It would allow the industry to do something about that, not be negatively impacted because of these cyber attacks.”
Industry experts say cybersecurity is a problem for the future of the business. Manufacturing Leadership Council Executive Director David Brousell said the majority of his group’s members expect to be hacked more in years to come than they do right now. Companies’ investments in the future are only making them more vulnerable, he said, but they can’t afford to let competitors pass them by with robots that make production faster and cheaper.
“The number of electronic connections we’re making is enormous — and the more you electronically link products and processes, the more vulnerable they become to cyberattacks,” Brousell told the National Association of Manufacturers last month.
Iowa Innovation Corporation President Jim Register said fears about the rise of machines have become concrete in recent years. The Amazon Echo is perched on a homeowner’s end table, always listening. Google’s predictive text in emails leads a writer to send the wrong message.
Register said strong cybersecurity should be on every manufacturer’s mind. He hopes the new institute will provide solutions to small and mid-sized companies, the groups that can’t afford a slick staff of tech experts to oversee the most minute glitches.
“Those folks may be challenged due to economic issues or the knowledge base of the founders,” he said. “They might be my age or older, running the company and not attuned to some of the things that go into advanced manufacturing. (The institute) wants to help with that.”
Tyler Jett covers jobs and the economy for the Register. Contact him at 515-284-8215 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.
Your support makes work like this possible. Subscribe at DesMoinesRegister.com/Deal.
Read or Share this story: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/2019/11/22/iowa-state-could-become-national-cybersecurity-institute-headquarters-86-million-national-cybersecur/4237264002/