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Blog Category: National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

Why the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation?

Why the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation?

Guest blog post by Barb Ewing, Chief Operating Officer for the Youngstown Business Incubator, and Scott Deutsch, Manager, Communications & Special Programs for the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining

Youngstown Business Incubator is home to the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (“America Makes”), the pilot program for the President’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation.

Too often, when we think about manufacturing, we think of large, multi-national corporations that once dominated the economic landscape.  However, as corporations continue to downsize and revamp operations, Small to Mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly becoming the life blood of the nation’s manufacturing economy.

Large companies generally have the extra resources – both human and financial -to assume the risks associated with adopting new technologies. They view these investments as critical to becoming more efficient and flexible on a global scale. While the leadership at smaller firms may also recognize the potential benefits, limited technical expertise in house, challenges with their workforce and small (or nonexistent) capital budgets make it more difficult for SMEs to make those same kind of investments.

That’s where the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) can come into play. The NNMI are public private partnerships aimed at accelerating the development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies for making new, globally competitive products.  Each institute in the network is an exciting new collaboration space for industry and academia to speed up innovation.  They are positioned to “bridge the gap” between basic research and industry needs.  The focus is to de-risk and scale up new materials and processes to solve the priority problems of industry.

New Manufacturing Institutes will Spur U.S. Innovation and Competitiveness

Across the country, communities are clamoring to land the next Manufacturing Innovation Institute, new “hubs” supported by the Obama Administration that are spurring the types of advanced technologies that will help grow the U.S. economy. Today, President Obama announced two new National Network for  Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) institutes, funded by the Department of Defense, which will focus on lightweight modern metals (Detroit) and digital manufacturing and design (Chicago). America’s leadership in cutting-edge technologies like these is exactly what we need to create high-quality jobs and opportunity here at home.

The whole idea behind the NNMI is to create public-private partnerships that bring together manufacturers, academics, and non-profits to bridge the gap between applied research and product development to ensure America remains globally competitive in the most exciting and promising emerging industries. In other words, NNMI institutes will help spur the technological advances needed to help the U.S. economy maintain its competitive edge. Here at Commerce, support for this network of industry-driven commercialization hubs is a key part of our “Open for Business Agenda.” 

Following the 2012 launch of a successful, additive manufacturing-focused NNMI pilot institute in Youngstown, Ohio, President Obama announced competitions in May 2013 to create three new institutes with a federal commitment of $200 million across five federal agencies – Commerce, Defense, Energy, NASA, and the National Science Foundation. With today’s announcement, all three institutes have now been selected. 

But we are not stopping here. The President also announced a new competition today for the next manufacturing innovation institute, which will focus on advanced composites. This is the first of the four additional institutes the President committed to launching this year in his State of the Union address, for a total of eight institutes nationwide.

The President has called for building out the initial network of 15 manufacturing innovation institutes to 45 over the next 10 years, which will require legislation from Congress. Getting this done is one of our top priorities at the Department of Commerce. With the enactment of current bipartisan and bicameral legislation, the “Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013,” we can open technology-neutral competitions that respond to much broader industry needs.

A strong manufacturing sector is critical to our intellectual and innovative capacity, and collaborative research between America’s leading manufacturers is essential to keeping our high-tech industries right here in the U.S. To learn more about NNMI and efforts to support advanced manufacturing, please visit:http://manufacturing.gov/nnmi.html.