Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Sunday, May 26, 2024

Ambitious Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Announced by White House 

On Friday, President Obama, speaking at Carnegie Mellon University, announced the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), a national initiative that enlists the cooperation of industry, academia and the federal government. The AMP's charter is to drive innovative technologies that will revitalize US manufacturing, creating new, quality jobs and helping restore this country's leadership in the global manufacturing marketplace.

American manufacturing just got a major shot in the arm.

This morning, President Obama, speaking at Carnegie Mellon University, announced the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), a national initiative that enlists the cooperation of industry, academia and the federal government. The AMP will be led by Andrew Liveris, chairman, president and CEO of Dow Chemical, and Susan Hockfield, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The AMP's charter is to drive innovative technologies that will revitalize US manufacturing, creating new, quality jobs and helping restore this country's leadership in the global manufacturing marketplace.President Obama Announces Advanced Manufacturing Partnership at CMU

"Today, I'm calling for all of us to come together — private sector industry, universities, and the government — to spark a renaissance in American manufacturing and help our manufacturers develop the cutting-edge tools they need to compete with anyone in the world," the President said. "With these key investments, we can ensure that the United States remains a nation that 'invents it here and manufactures it here' and creates high-quality, good paying jobs for American workers " (Read the full text of the speech here and watch the video here.)

The AMP initiative is based on the recommendations of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) contained in a report titled "Ensuring Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing."

The cover letter to the report says that it "provides an overarching strategy as well as specific recommendations for revitalizing the Nation's leadership in advanced manufacturing."

And it does just that. It does not call for further studies or sidestep the issue of funding. Instead it lays out a course of immediate action. According to the President, "...this partnership is about new, cutting-edge ideas to create new jobs, spark new breakthroughs, reinvigorate American manufacturing today. Right now. Not somewhere off in the future — right now."

Key Points

The report points out that the US has been steadily losing its manufacturing leadership — not just in low-tech industries due to low-wages overseas — but also in the production of high-tech products including those resulting from our own innovation and manufacturing research and development (R&D). This chart from the report says it all.
Other nations are bankrolling their manufacturing sector to push the development of innovative systems and cutting edge R&D. Right now the US lags behind its worldwide competitors in providing the business environment and skilled workforce required for advanced manufacturing.

Individual US companies are hard pressed to justify the investments needed to develop the technologies or create the infrastructure to support advanced manufacturing. Says the report, "Private investment must be complemented by public investment."

It notes that in the past, federal investment has been crucial to the development and growth of major new industries. The report says that it's time for the federal government to step up to the plate yet again. Investments are needed to "overcome market failures, to ensure new technologies are developed here, and technology-based enterprise have the infrastructure to flourish here."

Specifically the federal government should: support advanced applied research programs; co-invest in public/private partnerships to develop widely applicable advanced technologies; support the creation of powerful design methodologies that allow entrepreneurs to design new products and processes; and invest in shared technology infrastructure that will help US companies improve their manufacturing.

In addition, the report recommends tax and business policies that will encourage firms to locate R&D and manufacturing activities in the US and attract skilled workers.

Jumpstarting the AMP

To accomplish all this and more, the report's major recommendation is the creation of what it calls an "Advanced Manufacturing Initiative for America's Future" (AMI). This initiative was not only launched by President Obama this morning, but happily renamed the "Advanced Manufacturing Partnership" (AMP).

Here's a brief summary of some of the steps announced today by the President to kick off the AMP:

  • This summer the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, Agriculture, Commerce and other agencies will initially earmark $300 million to co-invest with industry in innovative technologies that will "jumpstart domestic manufacturing capability essential to our national security and promote the long-term economic viability of critical US industries." Examples cited include small high-powered batteries, advanced composites, metal fabrication, bio-manufacturing, and alternative energy.
  • An investment of more than $100 million will be made available by the Materials Genome Initiative for research, training and infrastructure to help US companies discover, develop, and manufacture advanced materials twice as fast and at a fraction of the cost of today's efforts.
  • $70 million is the goal for funds to support research into next generation robots. Participating agencies include the National Science Foundation, NASA, National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Agriculture.
  • The Department of Energy has an initial goal of raising $120 million to develop innovative manufacturing processes and materials that will allow companies to cut manufacturing costs while using less energy.

A variety of other programs under the AMP banner will involve the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and a number of universities including MIT, Georgia Tech, Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, and the University of Michigan.

The Commerce Department will pony up $12 million to identify public-private partnerships to advance AMP's goals, and the Department of Energy is teaming up with Ford and the National Association of Manufacturers to educate and train a new generation of manufacturers.

Procter & Gamble is looking to help the "missing middle," the small to medium sized manufacturers (SMMs), by making available at no cost advanced modeling and simulation software, an advanced digital manufacturing design tool usually not available to smaller companies.

The Defense Department is investing $24 million in FY11 in domestic manufacturing technology addressing pressing operational needs including improvement in transparent armor, stealth technology, and targeting systems.

NCMS Involvement

An organization whose goals dovetail with the AMP initiative is the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences. NCMS collaborates with industry, government and academia to support a variety of key manufacturing initiatives. The organization is dedicated to helping the missing middle embrace and afford advanced manufacturing technologies that allow them to cut costs, speed up time to market, and be more competitive in the global marketplace.

Responding to today's announcement, Rick Jarman, NCMS president & CEO said, "The AMP concept outlined by the President today is forged upon the recognition that by driving collaboration between talent, investment, and infrastructure, we can revitalize manufacturing in North America and get back to making things. NCMS has a comprehensive national strategy to bring smart manufacturing tools to industry and their supply chain in an accessible, affordable way." (The full NCMS press release is available here. And don't miss NCMS's Matt Sakey's blog on the topic, "Because You Have to Make Things," in the Digital Manufacturing Report.

An Ambitious Goal

The PCAST Report concludes, "The Nation's long-term ability to innovate and compete in the global economy greatly benefits from co-locations of manufacturing and manufacturing-related R&D activities in the United States." It then goes on to warn, "The loss of these activities will undermine our capacity to invent, innovate, and compete in global markets."

But in today's address, President Obama sounded an upbeat note as he described the positive results he expects to see from the implementation of the many AMP initiatives. He commented that not only is the partnership about breathing new life into US manufacturing, but it is also "...about making sure our workers and businesses have the skills and the tools they need to compete better, faster, and smarter than anybody else. That's what we're about. We are America, and we don't just keep up with changing times, we set the pace for changing times. We adapt; we innovate; we lead the way forward."