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Remarks at National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute pilot announcement, Youngstown, Ohio

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
Remarks at National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute pilot announcement, Youngstown, Ohio

Thank you, Brett [Lambert]. And thanks to Mike Garvey and the team here at M-7. It is great to be in Youngstown for this announcement and it’s good to be here with Gene [Sperling] and with Frank [Kendall].

The Department of Commerce has been closely involved in building a strategy to support 21st century manufacturing, and I’m pleased to have with me several key members of the Commerce team: Patrick Gallagher is director of our National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and Michael Molnar leads our Advanced Technology National Program Office at NIST.

As you just heard from Gene Sperling, the president’s commitment to American manufacturing has been strong since Day One.

Because of the actions that he took—such as rescuing the American auto industry from collapse—as well as the resilience and hard work of businesses in states like Ohio—we’ve seen the strongest growth in manufacturing jobs since the 1990s, with over half a million new jobs over the past 30 months. 

These are good-paying jobs with benefits that provide economic security for middle-class families. While there is still more work to be done before our economy fully recovers from the deepest recession since the Great Depression, it is clear that manufacturing is playing in important role in driving economy growth and hiring. In fact, between 2009 and 2011, manufacturing accounted for 38 percent of growth in our overall economy (GDP).

The question now is: how do we support and even accelerate this resurgence in manufacturing?

I don’t need to tell all of you that manufacturing is already a strong driver of American innovation—for example about 70 percent of our R&D occurs in the manufacturing sector.

And all of us know that the U.S. continues to lead the way in attracting some of the best researchers in the world, who uncover some of the most groundbreaking discoveries, and whose work, in turn, supports the world’s most dynamic entrepreneurs and new business startups.

But there are many strong, viable ideas that don’t make it to the development and commercialization stage, for which tech transfer from lab to market doesn’t quite work, or there are products we invent here in the U.S. that end up being manufactured elsewhere, and we lose out on the opportunity for the business growth and jobs that are generated by those new products.

In a competitive global economy, we need close links between invention and production, and we need strong incentives for new products that get invented here to be produced here.

That’s why the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation is so important. This network will help accelerate and unleash the most promising ideas in American manufacturing—ideas that lead to more good jobs here at home. It will provide links between researchers, entrepreneurs and producers, helping the tech transfer process. And it will create a U.S.-based community that will attract and keep advanced manufacturing here in America.

The institutes in the NNMI will bring together the best minds from industry, academia, and government. Each institute, located in a particular region and focused on a particular high-innovation industry sector, will focus on maximizing the unique strengths and assets that already exist in their region while also working to attract new innovations and businesses.

Everyone has a role to play in making these regionally-focused institutes succeed:

  • Governments at the local, state and federal levels can provide funds to get the institutes started. And existing resources, such as Commerce’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership which has technical experts in every state working with small companies, can provide critical on-the-ground support;
  • Local universities and community colleges can make commitments to train students and workers—equipping them with the specific skill sets they need;
  • Local innovation incubators and venture capital providers can help bring in entrepreneurs, mentors, and startup know-how;
  • And both small and large manufacturers can contribute not only funds but also equipment, materials, and labor to get the institutes off the ground—as dozens of them have in the project we are announcing today.

In other words, we’re not interested in building your grandfather’s research institute. The approaches that worked for us in the 20th century aren’t good enough anymore.

Instead, we need to build a 21st century model that reflects a strategic, global approach to competitiveness and innovation. This model has to be based on close partnerships between the academic and business world, with support from government as well. This type of collaboration is absolutely essential to ensure that Made in America remains a strong slogan well into the future.

That’s what we’re doing here in Youngstown. We are establishing a pilot project that will be focused on additive manufacturing.

Additive Manufacturing promises not only to make current parts faster and with less waste, but also to quickly construct parts and even whole products that are expensive and time-consuming to manufacture with existing technologies. 

Our NIST labs are working with the additive manufacturing industry to develop a standard test artifact, something like this to check equipment performance. This will set a standard for performance that can increase confidence for manufacturers and their customers.

We know that there’s a lot more we need to understand to take full commercial advantage of this new technique.

That’s why we want this institute to focus on fostering and maturing the transformational technologies promised by additive manufacturing.

The vision is to build a series of institutes, like this. That’s why the president is calling on Congress to invest $1 billion to help launch up to 15 new NNMI institutes next year.

Why is this so important? Why now?

The global economy is more competitive than ever before. And in the wake of the recent recession, it is harder for single companies and their investors to come up with all the human and financial capital needed to leverage new and truly game-changing technologies.

It is essential that we foster partnerships to accelerate development of ideas that could generate a whole field of new products, increasing prosperity and economic growth at the same time.

This type of institute is particularly important for small manufacturers—and the people who like to tinker with new inventions and prototypes.

  • Through these new hubs, they’ll be able to try out cutting-edge equipment, test new products, and explore new processes—with more shared risk and lower costs.
  • And for those tinkerers and inventors, perhaps after a series of false starts, they often will hit an ‘aha’ moment, uncovering an idea that works.  
  • These institutes help foster the environment where more of those moments will happen.  

We want more businesses and more workers to believe that the right approach is: “Build it here and sell it everywhere.”

The institute we are announcing today and the network of new institutes that will follow will help make that happen. They will foster an even more vibrant culture of innovation in American manufacturing. They will support new business and growth and transformation in existing businesses. And they will help ensure that we pass along a stronger economy and a bright economic future to the next generation.

Thank you.