Sam Keller's TEC Blog

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to Rejuvenate American Manufacturing

The Obama Administration has created a National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) to help rejuvenate American manufacturing by advancing diffuse novel manufacturing technologies.

In a recent article titled “Making America an Industrial Powerhouse Again” published in Working Knowledge from the Harvard Business School, Professor Gary Pisano gives his thoughts on how this initiative should be undertaken.

Historically, federal dollars flowed through various agencies to invest in basic and applied research resulted in enormous economic pay-offs in industries such as semiconductors, computer hardware and software, aerospace, telecommunications industries, the internet, advanced computer graphics and biomedical innovations.

There is no reason why the same logic should not apply to manufacturing in areas like biotechnology, nanotechnology, advanced materials, computer science, optics, and various engineering disciplines.

History provides some guidelines for making sure the NNMI lives up to its potential: 
  • Government-funded research is most productive when it lays broad foundations rather than targets specific technologies for use in particular industries, and not specific companies - the failed attempt to subsidize "green energy" companies like Solyndra is an example of what not to do. Placing commercial bets requires a depth of understanding of markets and customers that only the private sector possesses, not the Federal Government.
  •  Keep a balance between exploratory research and commercial need and resist the temptation to develop technologies that the private sector has no interest in.
  •  Don't focus on regional economic interests, but engage academic and industrial partners from around the country.
  •  Do focus on leveraging talent: Better machines, better software, or even better intellectual property are all highly mobile factors in today’s world. Talent, on the other hand, is much less mobile. And the only way to get that talent is for companies-both domestic and foreign-to do their R&D here. If the NNMI can build a first-rate talent pool of scientists, engineers, and workers with deep expertise in manufacturing disciplines, it will go a long way toward making the United States an industrial powerhouse again.
Click here to see the full article.