Why America Needs a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

December 11, 2012

In perhaps the boldest initiative to revitalize American manufacturing since the 1988 passage of the Omnibus Foreign Trade and Competitiveness Act, the Obama Administration has proposed investing $1 billion―to be matched by private and state funds―to create a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The Institutes that make up the Network would each focus on a significant, industry-defined innovation challenge. They would be full-service innovation hubs that support user facilities, conduct technology roadmapping, provide education and training, engage with small and medium manufacturers, and carry out applied research, with an emphasis on manufacturing processes. NNMI holds the potential to bridge the gap between industry and academia and to stimulate investment in American manufacturing facilities and enterprises as a new wave of global competition in manufacturing is breaking across the economic landscape.

This event featured the release of a new paper authored by David Hart in conjunction with ITIF that explains why creating a national network for manufacturing innovation is crucial to America’s manufacturing competitiveness and should thus receive high priority from policymakers. The report further articulates key principles that should guide the development of the NNMI, including: how the specific Institutes should be selected, funded, and governed; what roles small manufacturers, large manufacturers, universities, community colleges, state and federal agencies, and other actors should play in the Institutes; and what benefits the United States should expect to accrue by establishing an NNMI.