DMDII, City Tech to Accelerate Growth as Independent Organizations

DMDII, City Tech to Accelerate Growth as Independent Organizations

Digital manufacturing institute to be renamed MxD

Feb. 28, 2019 (CHICAGO) — UI LABS announced today that its two labs — the City Tech Collaborative and the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) — will stand as independent organizations, now that both have achieved strong momentum and robust fiscal health.

DMDII, which launched in 2014 with $80 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, will now be called MxD, which stands for manufacturing times digital. It is backed by up to $60 million in defense funding over the next five years.

MxD’s mission is to drive the digital future of manufacturing, pioneering new technologies that make America’s industrial base and warfighters more resilient and agile.

“Because of their success to date, both labs are now ready to stand on their own and continue to drive change and impact in their respective industries,” said Caralynn Nowinski Collens, UI LABS’ CEO. “They are in very strong positions to fully take control of their own futures in these high-growth markets.”

UI LABS played an essential role in standing up MxD and City Tech as they built out their respective teams, grew membership, launched projects and secured financial support. As each lab has matured, the need to share space and resources has waned while their missions and partners have become more distinct.

Collens will remain CEO of UI LABS through the transition. Once completed, Collens will serve on the MxD board. The UI LABS brand will sunset, and all employees will be absorbed by either MxD or City Tech. Chandra Brown and Brenna Berman will continue to lead MxD and City Tech, respectively.

Berman previously was chief information officer for the City of Chicago. Brown previously was CEO of a metal manufacturing company and then deputy assistant secretary of manufacturing at the U.S. Commerce Department, where she helped envision the nationwide network of 14 manufacturing institutes that includes MxD.

MxD has attracted more than 300 partners, including Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, Rolls-Royce, Siemens, and McKinsey & Company. It has conducted more than 60 research projects with partners in more than 35 states.

MxD is facilitating factory worker training using augmented reality, updating legacy machines for the digital age, and reducing error and scrap in high-value parts. If the United States can fully embrace the digital revolution, McKinsey estimates that the country could achieve $3 trillion in manufacturing output by 2025, a 20 percent increase.

“I want to congratulate UI LABS for a job well done,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “They’ve stood up two innovation centers that are flourishing within their respective industries and have put Chicago on the forefront of the smart cities and smart manufacturing revolutions. This work will only accelerate with fresh funding and new partnerships in the coming year.”

In one high-impact project, Caterpillar and researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign created new algorithms and methods for manufacturing large parts. The resulting software reduces a machine’s volumetric error by more than 80 percent and detects insufficient stock every time, reducing the overall cost of manufacturing waste.

“There is no shortage of opportunity in the digital manufacturing space,” Brown said. “It’s at the center of the nation’s manufacturing strategy and integral to the economic competitiveness of our partners. MxD is poised to capture this potential with a renewed focus.”

These organizational changes also are an opportunity for City Tech to build upon its impressive start. In partnership with 10 corporations, two foundations and the federal government, it has launched 15 technology pilot projects, including five under way now.

“We are excited for City Tech’s next phase of growth and innovation,” said Julia Stasch, president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, City Tech’s largest funder. “City Tech will align with complementary partners to become this country’s go-to resource for cities looking to incorporate smart technology that responds to the needs of all — from local communities to business leaders.”

Among its early successes, City Tech has built digital maps of Chicago’s underground to help construction workers avoid cutting utility lines; used incentives to ease CTA Red Line traffic ahead of Cubs games; and installed sensors in permeable pavement and other green infrastructure to prove they divert rain from overburdened sewers.

City Tech also launched a cybersecurity training program for women this year and is working with Cleveland and Toronto to replicate its own Civic User Testing program, in which residents provide feedback on the design of new government and civic technology products.

“With UI LABS’ help, we’ve built a process for testing new technology, policies and processes that can address urban challenges,” said Brenna Berman, City Tech’s executive director. “And we’ll continue to remake city services and infrastructure with advanced technology, but with new partners that will enhance our ability to co-innovate with cities.”

About MxD

MxD is where innovative manufacturers go to forge their futures. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, MxD equips factories with the digital tools and expertise they need to begin building every part better than the last. As a result, our more than 300 partners increase their productivity and win more business. Learn more at

About City Tech

City Tech transforms cities into testbeds for new ideas. We remake essential city services and infrastructure using advanced technology, and then expand these solutions to other cities. With our partners, we are diverting rainwater from overloaded sewer systems, easing subway congestion during large events, and launching a digital directory of public health services in Chicago. Learn more at