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President Urges Expansion of National Manufacturing Network in State of the Union Address

January 30, 2014

In his fifth State of the Union address, President Barack Obama touted the administration’s Institutes of Manufacturing Innovation program as central to its plan to reinvigorate the American economy. The president called on Congress to expand the manufacturing network beyond the two existing institutes in Ohio and North Carolina and the six additional institutes to be rolled out in 2014. He also requested legislative action to undo last year’s sequester-related cuts to basic research, to pass patent reform and to improve U.S. STEM education.

While much of the coverage following the address has focused on the president’s plan to make extensive use of executive orders to enact the administration’s agenda in the coming year, much of his plan to boost American innovation would require additional action from Congress.  Many of the policy options that the president linked to innovation and entrepreneurship in his address, including immigration reform, patent reform and boosting federal funding for research, would require legislative approval and have already met resistance in the House and/or Senate.

President Obama, however, was able to announce that his administration would launch two new Institutes of Manufacturing Innovation in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation in the coming months, followed by four additional institutes later this year.

The network was originally announced in March 2012 as a nation-wide strategy to boost local and state economies and national competitiveness by organizing regional public-private-university partnerships focused on technology development in specific areas. The first institute, AmericaMakes (formerly the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute) launched in August 2012 representing the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia TechBelt region, focused on addressing challenges in additive manufacturing and 3D printing. A second institute, focused on energy-efficient semiconductor manufacturing, was launched in Raleigh, NC, earlier this month.

As introduced in 2012 and 2013, the network eventually would have included 15 such institutes around the country. The administration now hopes to continue to expand the program into a nationwide network of 45 institutes over the next decade, according to a White House fact sheet. President Obama called on Congress to pass legislation to double the currently planned number of institutes through legislation that has already been introduced in both houses.

The president also announced that Vice President Joe Biden would lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs, including programs related to STEM education and manufacturing. The administration’s goal is to increase opportunities for on-the-job training and apprenticeships, as well as improving the connections between community colleges and employers.

Read the president’s State of the Union address transcript…

manufacturing, white house