Nebraska ‘robotics cluster’ to receive $25 million from Biden challenge to train more workers in high-tech ag jobs

By: - September 2, 2022 12:16 pm

A tractor works a Midwest corn field. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

 LINCOLN — A Nebraska coalition seeking to increase the state’s workforce in robotics and automated manufacturing in agriculture will receive $25 million through a workforce initiative of President Joe Biden.

On Friday, the White House announced that the Heartland Robotics Cluster is one of 21 recipients nationally in the $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge, launched by the president as part of his plan for economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Heartland Robotics Cluster is a coalition, led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, that includes Invest Nebraska, community colleges in Norfolk and Omaha, and the Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership. 

“Today, we start the long process of investing in our state’s automation infrastructure and growing the future talent pipeline in automation, robotics, computer vision and AI,” said Dan Hoffman of Invest Nebraska, which organized the cluster and led the application for the federal funds.

In a YouTube presentation, officials with Invest Nebraska said that increased use of automation and innovation in agricultural-related industries is critical in Nebraska due to its workforce shortage. They said they also hope to increase start-ups in the ag and manufacturing arenas.

According to a press release, the Robotics Cluster will use the funding to expand programming and robotics equipment at Nebraska Innovation campus at UNL, increase robotics engineering curriculum at UNL and Metro and Northeast community colleges, and increase workforce outreach in rural areas.

UNL announced that it will use $10 million to build robotics-related research and teaching labs at Kiewit Hall, the Scott Engineering Center and Splinter labs.

 The cluster also plans to provide demonstration “spaces” of new technologies for manufacturers, and to work with private industry to expand the use of technology.

The $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge  is funded via the American Rescue Plan Act, and, according to its website, is an effort to “boost economic recovery from the pandemic and rebuild American communities, including those grappling with decades of disinvestment.”


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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.