Comments Responding to Administration RFI for National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing

ITIF submitted comments in response to the Trump administration’s request for comment on the development of a new National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing. ITIF commends the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Trump administration for doing so because manufacturing matters immensely to the U.S. economy. Manufacturing remains a key provider of high-wage jobs and supports a significant number of jobs in downstream industries. Manufacturing also provides the most important source of R&D and innovation to the U.S. economy and underpins a robust defense industrial base. Manufacturing revitalization will also be the most important way for the United Stats to stop running chronic trade deficits.

Yet manufacturing is subject to a host of market failures that justify policy intervention. The development of complex new technology platforms is expensive and complex, meaning that “rational” companies are reluctant to invest in next-generation technologies. Firms underinvest in workforce training, research and development (R&D), and new capital equipment and machinery, in part because these benefits “spill over” to competitors. Small manufacturers lag in adopting best practices. Further, as manufacturing is the most significant traded sector of the U.S. economy (meaning manufacturers compete in international markets) if they lose market share (whether fairly or unfairly because the competitor is assisted by mercantilist policies), then not only are America’s domestic manufacturers hurt, but so too are their suppliers and the companies that depend on the spending of the suppliers and manufacturing workers. This “traded-ness” explains why virtually every U.S. state, whether led by a Republican or Democratic governor, has implemented policies to support traded sectors, especially those in advanced manufacturing.

Accordingly, the administration should develop a sophisticated National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing. ITIF’s submission responds to seven key strategic question asked by the administration in its request for public comment regarding the plan. ITIF articulates what key near- and long-term objectives and metrics should guide the plan and provides policy recommendations for how the U.S. innovation system can more effectively transfer R&D results into new manufacturing technologies and products manufactured here in the United States. The submission also provides insights into the innovative tools, platforms, and technologies that are required to achieves advances in advanced manufacturing and provides recommendations for improving manufacturing workforce talent development and STEM education.

Among other policy recommendations, the report calls for permanent funding of the Manufacturing USA program and for more significant investment in the Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP). It also calls for expansion and continued refinement of other manufacturing-support programs such as the Manufacturing Engineering Education Grant (MEEG) program, the Industry/University Cooperation Research Center (I/UCRC) and Engineering Research Center (ERC) programs, the I-Corps and Energy I-Corps programs, and the Advanced Technology Education (ATE) and NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) programs. The submission also notes that energy-related manufacturing innovation is subject to a distinct set of challenges and as such needs a distinct set of policy levers, such as support for lab-to-market programs like the Department of Energy’s the Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program (LEEP).