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Nations Establish R&D Networks to Boost Manufacturing Competitiveness

June 05, 2013

As developed nations slowly rebuild economies damaged by the Great Recession, many are looking to innovation and manufacturing to spur their economic revival. Similar to President Obama's proposed National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (See the March 14, 2011 issue of the Digest), several foreign government are developing networks of manufacturing research and development (R&D) centers to strengthen the ties between research and industrial needs. Recently, the European Union (EU) announced a €100 million ($131 million US) commitment to establish five pilot advanced manufacturing R&D centers within its member states. The EU joins Australia and the United Kingdom in the list of countries that have proposed focused, large-scale, national networks in recent years.


In February, the Australian government announced that it would commit AUD $500 million ($475.7 million US) over four years to establish and support up to ten "Industry Innovation Precincts," according to a ScienceInsider article. As part of a new jobs and innovation package, these industry-led partnerships would help businesses and researchers collaborate, share knowledge, deploy technology, create products and services, take advantage of business opportunities and boost Australia's competiveness. Headquartered in regions across the country, each precinct would focus on a specific R&D are related to manufacturing. Two precincts already have been established:

  • a defense-oriented manufacturing precinct to be based in both Adelaide and Melbourne; and,
  • a Melbourne headquartered precinct focused on food production, manufacturing and potential overseas markets.

Each of the ten precincts are currently in the competitive bidding process with the intent of being operational by 2014. The government also proposes an online innovation network using funds generated by cuts to national R&D tax credits. Read the announcement...

European Union

As the first step of the European Union's (EU) Electronics strategy, officials announced a €100 million ($131 million US) commitment to establish five pilot advanced manufacturing R&D centers within its member states. The “pilot lines” centers are intended to link European manufacturers with technology companies, chip designers, researchers and universities at the very earliest stages of product development for innovative microchips that will help European industry and products gain a competitive edge by:

  • Bringing research closer to industrial needs;
  • Focusing on advanced engineering and manufacturing; and,
  • Involving the best brains along the innovation chain with a strong commitment and common goal from all sides.

On top of the €100 million ($131 million US) commitment from the EU, each of the five member states are anticipated to commit up to €108 million ($141.6 million US) and industry will commit an additional €500 million ($655.6 million US). The centers include: the French AGRATE pilot line; the joint Dutch-Belgian E450EDL pilot line; the Austrian EPPL pilot line; the Italian Lab4MEMS; and, the joint Franco-German Places2Be. Read the press release...

United Kingdom

In 2011, George Osborne, the United Kingdom's (UK) Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced a new "Technology and Innovation Centre" project focused on high-value manufacturing. It was the first of seven manufacturing and engineering centers supported by a £200 million (approximately $309.1 million US) four-year initiative (See the March 30, 2011 issue of the Digest). The “Catapult Centres” are intended to provide physical space and equipment that will allow the best of UK's businesses, scientists and engineers to work side-by-side on late stage research and development transforming high-potential ideas into new products and services to generate economic growth for the UK. Each of the seven centers will focus on one topic:

  • High value manufacturing;
  • Cell therapy;
  • Offshore renewable energy;
  • Satellite applications;
  • Connected digital economy;
  • Future cities; and,
  • Transport systems.

All seven Catapult Centres will be operational by the end of 2013. Visit the program's website...

international, r&d, manufacturing