Revisiting The Manufacturing USA Institutes

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released Revisiting the Manufacturing USA Institutes: Proceedings of a Workshop, which summarizes presentations and discussions about the Manufacturing USA institutes. 

The Manufacturing USA initiative seeks to reinforce U.S.-based advanced manufacturing through partnerships among industry, academia, and government. Started in 2012 and established with bipartisan support by the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014, the initiative envisages a nationwide network of research centers for manufacturing innovation.

To monitor the progress of the Manufacturing USA initiative and build on the proceedings of an inaugural May 2017 workshop (Securing Advanced Manufacturing in the United States: The Role of Manufacturing USA), a second workshop was convened to “explore how effective the Manufacturing USA institutes have been at creating partnerships among industry, academia, and government; facilitating collaboration and co-investment to nurture manufacturing innovation; accelerating commercialization; and fostering a skilled manufacturing workforce.”

Summaries of the discussion centered around the following themes: 1. increasing U.S. competitiveness by improving knowledge creation and technology diffusion; 2. developing an advanced manufacturing workforce; and 3. supporting supply chains and small and medium-sized manufacturers.

Key points made by multiple presenters and discussants include:

  • The U.S. needs to locate both its production and innovation domestically to maintain – or reverse the decline of – its competitiveness
    • Willy Shih (Harvard Business School) discussed the link between manufacturing and innovation and what China is doing. 
    • Patrick Gallagher (University of Pittsburgh) indicated that the Manufacturing USA institutes were established so the U.S. has the know-how to make things and can be of “tremendous value to national security.”
    • Joseph Fox (Ashland) stated that “IACMI’s mission is to drive the adoption of advanced composites which have so far been used on the Boeing 787, the BMWi3, and wind turbine blades.”
    • Erica Fuchs (Carnegie Mellon University) shared that in moving manufacturing overseas, U.S. companies may lose incentive to pursue the most advanced technologies, such as the case with optoelectronic semiconductors, automobile bodies, solar, and batteries.
  • Networking and collaboration opportunities made possible by Manufacturing USA can yield great benefits
    • Ira Moskowitz (Massachusetts Technology Collaborative) explained how the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is using the institutes to provide connections between entities across the state and leverage its investments and that the institutes’ convening capability helps small and medium-sized companies in particular.
    • Kathleen Kingscott (IBM) discussed the importance of having the right partners in the innovation space and the usefulness of the partnership groups facilitated by Manufacturing USA institutes, which include large companies with broad capabilities and small ones with niche expertise in valuable technology areas.
  • Investments in the advanced manufacturing institutes have thus far been insufficient
    • Erica Fuchs expressed that “we are not putting in money at a scale that we have in the past toward this problem” and compared it to the investments in new semiconductor technologies to “be an order of magnitude less than we were making along for SEMATECH, which was just doing one-to three-year out equipment upgrading.”
  • System-wide metrics that align with program goals and take into account the needs and priorities of partners would be useful
    • Kathleen Kingscott indicated that IBM evaluates the institutes on what they expect to get out of it, the partners, how much technology IBM puts in, the intellectual property, and the time frame.
  • The institutes would benefit from more time
    • Emily Stover DeRocco (LIFT institute) stated that “in four-plus years you cannot be mature enough to understand how to bring to scale initiatives that are largely funded and grassroots-driven in regional economies across this country.”
    • William Bonvillian (MIT) indicated that “the design around a five-year time frame is problematic on its face.”
    • Ira Moskowitz stated that it takes at least 10 years to develop disruptive technology and that cutting off funding would be “very counterproductive.”

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