Last Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker participated in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) Day on Capitol Hill event. She was joined by Sen. Sherrod Brown, Reps. Joe Kennedy and Tom Reed, several business leaders and the directors of the newly established pilot Institutes of Manufacturing Innovation. NNMI Day was an opportunity to showcase the successes of the four pilot institutes in North Carolina, Youngstown, Chicago, and Detroit in the areas of additive, digital, electronics, and modern metals manufacturing. In early 2014, President Obama announced a new competition for the next manufacturing innovation institute, focused on composites materials and structures, which is the first of four additional institutes the President committed to launching this year in his State of the Union address, for a total of eight pilot institutes nationwide.
During the event Thursday, Hill staffers and other attendees had the opportunity to hear from the pilot institute directors and several private sector partners about how a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation would help improve U.S. competitiveness, increase domestic production and accelerate development of an advanced manufacturing workforce.
The following are three main takeaways from the speakers and panelists:
- Manufacturing innovation is vital for America’s
United States can attribute between one-third and one-half of its economic
growth to technological and scientific innovation. There are four pilot NNMI
institutes practicing this leadership in new and exciting ways across the scope
of American manufacturing. The Department of Commerce is committed to the
President’s vision of creating a full national network of up to 45
manufacturing institutes over the next 10 years, which will require Congress to
pass legislation. An American network of innovation institutes would play a
vital role in enhancing U.S. industrial competitiveness by supporting
development of technologies that will enable U.S. manufacturers to develop the
cutting edge tools needed to compete in the global marketplace. Support for
this network of industry-driven commercialization hubs will help strengthen
U.S. innovation and competitiveness, two key priorities of the Commerce
Department’s “Open for
Business Agenda.” A strong manufacturing sector is critical to
our intellectual and innovative capacity, and collaborative research between
America’s leading manufacturers is essential to keeping our high-tech
industries right here in the U.S.
- Federal government seed money spurs private sector to invest. The NNMI framework is a formula for success because it harnesses American manufacturing as a collective and cooperative effort. The pilot institutes are comprised of industry, academia, and government partners – who would not have come together at the same scale without the federal investment. Part of the pilot institutes’ success, thus far, is that each commitment of federal dollars has been matched (and in some cases more than matched) by industry partners. After fierce competition, the first pilot institute in Youngstown, Ohio focused on 3D printing and opened with an initial federal investment of $50 million. It is called America Makes and this regional partnership – through the private sector, NGOs and academic institutions – more than matched that amount. The initial consortium has now grown to more than 100 members who work together to help expand our nation’s capabilities in this new technology. The Chicago Institute focused on digital manufacturing and design innovation, which sparked further interest in NNMI. Again, the federal government dedicated $70 million in funding. This time, the winning team more than tripled the federal commitment, putting up $240 million of their own dollars. Because of the interest, the city of Chicago is not the only beneficiary. The winning team includes universities and companies from throughout the greater Midwest region.
- Modern manufacturing is evolving. There is plenty of opportunity for American leadership. Manufacturing has undergone a series of changes over the past decade from a rush to low-cost manufacturers to increased reshoring in recent years. The manufacturing sector in the United States is evolving with many businesses joining together to fashion products and processes from across many different geographies. This evolution requires a focus on getting products from the lab to the marketplace in a collective and cooperative fashion. The Federal government is uniquely qualified to act as a catalyst in this space.
Just as the United States will not be competitive in advanced manufacturing without strong infrastructure for precompetitive research, it will not be competitive without highly skilled workers. National Manufacturing Day, which takes place this year on October 3rd, celebrates the contributions of manufacturing the United States economy and the wide variety of careers that it offers. Consider hosting or attending an event this year. More resources and information is available at www.mfgday.com