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Governor Reynolds, IEDA announce manufacturing roadmap for Iowa

Gov. Kim Reynolds, along with the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and the Iowa Innovation Council, last week released the state’s Manufacturing 4.0 plan, a 120-page report commissioned by IEDA and prepared by TEConomy Partners.

The new report, Seizing the Manufacturing 4.0 Opportunity: A Strategic Plan for Iowa’s Manufacturing Industry, lays out a roadmap to help Iowa manufacturers remain globally competitive through a fourth industrial revolution that emphasizes automation and smart technology. 

The report comes after IEDA formed an industry-led Manufacturing 4.0 initiative in 2020 with the goal of creating a strategic plan to take on the Industry 4.0 challenges of adopting technology, increasing productivity, competing for talent and ongoing globalization. The fourth industrial revolution—or Industry 4.0—includes the Internet of Things, additive manufacturing, advanced robotics, augmented reality, cybersecurity and more. These digital technologies may not replace jobs, but they will transform how work is performed, including how products are designed, fabricated, consumed and serviced.

According to the report, 226,000 Iowans work in more than 4,100 manufacturing establishments across the state. These thousands of workers and the products they manufacture make up $30 billion (17%) of Iowa’s GDP.

“Iowa’s ability to compete globally will hinge on its successful transition to new operating models, especially for small-to-medium-sized manufacturers who will face mounting pressure from the larger manufacturers they supply,” read the report.

The Manufacturing 4.0 plan includes five strategic priorities:

  • Adopting and utilizing Manufacturing 4.0 technology
  • Enabling Infrastructure for Digital Technologies
  • Improved Supply Chain Linkages
  • Accelerating Manufacturing Startups and Scale-Ups
  • Ensuring an Effectively Trained Manufacturing 4.0 Workforce

“At the core of this first Manufacturing 4.0 strategy is addressing how to “de-risk” significant technology investments and where the public sector and public-private partnerships have roles to play in doing so.”

Some of the issues raised by industry leaders related to adopting new technologies included: significant costs for small and medium-sized businesses, rural broadband infrastructure, a need for staging investments, and keeping up with the rapid rate of tech obsolescence.

The report highlighted several organizational and infrastructure assets within the state for the industry to draw from and partner with. Some examples and highlights included Iowa’s research universities, CIRAS, TechWorks, and Quad Cities Innovation Hub.

To read the Manufacturing 4.0 executive summary and full report, visit

Governor Reynolds, IEDA announce manufacturing roadmap for Iowa | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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