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Manufacturing Network Could Spur Competitiveness: Report

By Ideas Lab Staff January 10, 2013

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation releases a paper in support of a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.

In a paper presented at an ITIF event last month, authors David Hart, Stephen Ezell and Robert Atkinson argued that a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation could play a vital role in revitalizing U.S. manufacturing and encouraging competitiveness.

President Barack Obama established the network last year. According to the proposal, up to 15 institutes around the country will serve as regional manufacturing hubs that encourage investment in regional innovation infrastructure and make U.S. manufacturing facilities and enterprises more competitive.

The ITIF paper lays out key challenges facing U.S. manufacturing and calls for a federal role in fostering manufacturing innovation and encouraging the private sector, among others, to develop stronger collaboration.

“The United States lacks an integrated, well-funded national network of large-scale, industry-led manufacturing innovation centers,” the paper states. “Leading manufacturing nations around the world, from Germany to Taiwan, have such centers, which accelerate technology deployment, operate demonstration facilities and test beds, support education and training, and perform applied research on new manufacturing processes, among other activities. The proposed National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) would fill this void.”

The paper’s authors also discuss five key principles to govern the design of the network, according to a summary of the paper. These include collaboration among academia, business, government and other partners, as well as a “bottom-up competitive process” managed by the federal government to identify innovation focus areas and select collaborative teams.

At an ITIF event in December, ITIF President Rob Atkinson called the network the “most important thing” the nation can do for the manufacturing sector. A post about the event also praised the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, calling it “the boldest initiative to revitalize American manufacturing since the 1988 passage of the Omnibus Foreign Trade and Competitiveness Act.”

And while the paper concludes that there is “no single silver bullet” to revitalize the industry, it also states that creating the national network would fill a void in the current innovation system and send a message to the world that “the United States is no longer taking manufacturing for granted.”