Eigerlab front view of buildingAbout The ROCK Program

The ROCK Program is a joint research and development program between commercial component fabricators in the Rockford area and Northern Illinois University (NIU). Resulting collaboration will produce affordable low quantity parts on an “overnight” basis to the U.S. Army. The ROCK Program will draw upon NIU faculty expertise to conduct research with commercial team members awarded by subcontracts.

The ROCK Program had its inception in October 2003, when a meeting was convened in Rockford to brainstorm ideas to revitalize Rockford area manufacturers.

The area’s almost 2000 manufacturing companies have suffered significant job losses and plant closures due to increasing foreign competition and the trend for more and more large manufacturers (OEMs) in the U.S. channeling their production into off-shore facilities. This eliminates their need for U.S. suppliers. A typical Rockford company is a supplier - not an OEM. This is true for both large and small employers. Hamilton Sundstrand, a supplier to aerospace companies such as Boeing, is an example of a large employer (1000+ employees). Many smaller companies also are more specialized suppliers selling their goods and services to OEMs such as Caterpillar, automotive companies or other suppliers.

Most of the area’s 2000 companies employ less than 100 and sell goods and services that are highly engineered or have a high complexity with low volumes of production. For example, the area is considered the fastener capital of the world and, until recently, was also considered the machine tool capital of the world. There is also said to be more tool and die companies in the area than any other place in the United States.

eigerlab bay photoThe outcome of the 2003 meeting was a request by Congressman Donald Manzullo to come up with a program working through the Department of Defense (DOD) to help accomplish this effort. A suggestion was made to the Congressman to fund two efforts: a development of small-sized machine tools for fabrication of parts with micron sized features/tolerances and the other a program to provide technology support to the forming Rockford supply chain organization (now called MARRV – Manufacturing Alliance of Rock River Valley). Both programs were proposed in such a manner as to make them relevant to the United States Army’s advanced technology needs in the area of manufacturing.

Northern Illinois University (NIU), using its diverse technical and business base, under the ROCK Program will work closely with the MARRV supply chain to allow such companies to better respond to government needs.

ROCK Program Highlights

We are located at

EIGERlab Second Floor
605 Fulton Avenue
Rockford, IL 61103
View location map and directions

Contact Information

(815) 316-6370
rockprogram@niu.edu