Planting the Seeds for a U.S Manufacturing Renaissance

In September 2013, President Obama launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) 2.0. It calls for the establishment in the U.S. of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). Composed of multiple regional institutes, each institute will focus on a specific technology. Yet all institutes are intended to collaborate and utilize existing resources in academia and industry to develop a sustainable research –to-manufacturing infrastructure.

Revitalizing American Manufacturing Act

The initial concept is to create a network of 15 institutes and then expand that number over the next 10 years to 45. In 2014, the President signed the Planting the Seeds for a U.S Manufacturing RenaissanceRevitalizing American Manufacturing Act into law, which authorized congress to make an initial investment in the program. These are intended to be matched by state and private funds which must meet or exceed the federal amount, typically $70 million. The federal funds are typically channeled through the Departments of Defense or Energy. As of March 2015, there are five sites that have been selected so far:

  1. Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation in Knoxville, Tenn.
  2. Digital Manufacturing & Design Innovation Institute in Chicago, IL
  3. Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (development of lightweight alloys, materials and metal foams to improve vehicle fuel economy) in Detroit, MI
  4. PowerAmerica (development of high-power, high-efficiency semiconductors) in Raleigh, N.C.
  5. America Makes (3-D printing) in Youngstown, Ohio

These five sites represent $330 million in federal funding matched by $473 million in non-federal funds. Proposals for more sites are being solicited:

  • Flexible Hybrid Electronics
  • Smart Manufacturing
  • Integrated Photonics
  • Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles
  • Clean Energy Manufacturing

Many others will likely follow. The NNMI joins other initiatives already launched like the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the National Robotics Initiative, and the “Materials Genome Initiative,” aimed at increasing the speed and reducing the cost of new materials development. There are also funding initiatives such as Startup America administered by the SBA.

The Race to Become Better at Manufacturing

The U.S. faces competition in the race to become better at manufacturing. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has announced “Industry 4.0,” a program to use digital technology to connect industrial products and logistics. Merkel feels this is an area where Germany can be the leader, having lost out in other areas such as semiconductors and consumer electronics.

Even China, known as the low-cost manufacturing center of the world, is turning to robotic technology development to maintain its cost advantage. The Pearl River Delta manufacturing area in Guangdong province is looking to implement more robotics in its manufacturing. Municipalities in the province are adopting policies intended to spur robotics company startups and encourage installation of robots in assembly lines. They are also backing up these policies with hundreds of millions of yuan in subsidies to robot producers and manufacturers that install robots in their facilities. Spending on robots in Guangdong is expected to reach 943 billion yuan (about $152 billion U.S.) over the next three years.

More information on the NNMI is available at http://www.manufacturing.gov/ 

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