GAITHERSBURG, Md. – Manufacturing USA is working. That’s the overarching conclusion of an independent study conducted by Deloitte with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense.
According to the study, the first eight advanced manufacturing institutes established between 2012 and 2016 have reached a critical mass of valuable connections among 1,200 participating companies, universities and government agencies. Those connections are accelerating the innovation needed to develop new products and markets, helping alleviate a shortage of technically trained manufacturing workers, and building a sustainable national manufacturing research infrastructure. (An additional six institutes have now launched, for a total of 14.)
"There are early signs that [the] institutes are reaching ‘tipping points’ where the organizations see membership as necessary to their own success and seek out membership without being prompted,” wrote the study authors.
Deloitte’s review examined the effectiveness of the Manufacturing USA’s program design, assessed progress made toward achieving program objectives, and recommended areas where Manufacturing USA and its institutes could enhance programs.
The first eight Manufacturing USA institutes were established by the Department of Defense or Department of Energy. Federal funding of $600 million was matched with $1.3 billion of initial private investment from institute members. Each institute has its own technology focus—ranging from lightweight materials to energy efficiency—but all share the goal of securing the future of manufacturing in the U.S. through innovation, collaboration and education.
The study team’s conclusions flow from dozens of stakeholder interviews with agency personnel, institute leadership and staff, CEOs and leaders of Fortune 500 companies, and independent external experts in manufacturing from prominent research universities and industry groups. The team made site visits to the eight institutes and used crowdsourcing applications to determine how a diverse array of institute participants benefitted from the Manufacturing USA network and how it could better serve them.
Seven specific recommendations for improvements focus on developing strategies for long-term growth and sustainability, maintaining institute focus on U.S. national priorities, making the most of existing programs in workforce development and other resources and more.
The institutes have already attracted hundreds of members, including “influential U.S. companies such as Boeing, GE, Johnson & Johnson, Lockheed Martin, Ford,” and others of various sizes and at different points along the supply chain and R&D pipeline. The evaluation found that the institutes have created “true public-private partnerships that are successfully uniting academia, industry and government across the country.”
Deloitte found “numerous examples of companies connecting and working together in ways that would not have occurred independent of the institutes.” These various projects are helping to reduce the cost and risk of experimentation, which means that each member’s investment goes farther.
Manufacturing USA addresses the so-called “valley of death” between research and commercialization by convening members that conduct work along different parts of the R&D spectrum and reducing risks. By breaking down market barriers in the right technological areas, the program facilitates the acceleration of U.S. manufacturing R&D.
A major focus of the Manufacturing USA network is workforce development—ensuring that there are enough workers with the right skills to meet the needs of advanced manufacturers. The report notes that “baby boomer retirements, the technical complexity of manufacturing work, a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills deficit among students, and persistent negative perceptions make it difficult for companies to fill critical roles in a timely manner.”
The report highlights the institutes’ most effective initiatives that reduce the talent gap through industry workforce assessments, community engagement events, post-secondary apprenticeship programs, and coordination on the creation of effective industry- and skill-based credentials.
Another priority for the network is that institutes become self-sustaining. A key strength that will help them achieve sustainability is the approach taken by Manufacturing USA, which not only gives each institute enough autonomy to meet the needs of its industry members, but also provides oversight to ensure federal investments are being spent wisely.
The Manufacturing USA network was authorized by the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014
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Download the report: Manufacturing USA: A Third-Party Evaluation of Program Design and Progress