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Three Bold Proposals to Revive U.S. Manufacturing Base Unveiled

January 23, 2013

The Brookings Institute, in partnership with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), released three bold policy proposals intended to bolster the competitiveness of the U.S. manufacturing and advanced industries sector by improving innovation, workforce, and higher education connections. Each proposal paper provides a compelling argument for the federal government to make a strategic investment that will help to renew the national, state and local manufacturing bases to address poor U.S. economic performance since the Great Recession including sagging gross domestic product (less than 2 percent annually growth), skyrocketing numbers of individuals living in/near poverty and wage stagnation. Proposals include 20 U.S. manufacturing universities, a network of advanced industries innovation HUBs and a competition for states and a Race to the Shop competition.

In a proposal paper from ITIF, Robert Atkinson and Stephen Ezell call for a new National Science Foundation (NSF) initiative that would designate 20 U.S. Manufacturing Universities, with a special charge to strengthen the position of U.S. manufacturing in the competitive global economy. Each university would receive a proposed $25 million annually from NSF to revamp their engineering programs and curricula designed specifically for targeted industries to better serve the needs of U.S. manufacturers. The universities also would receive prioritization of their other applications in the awarding of NSF grants. Responsibilities of each institute include more industry-university research projects, industry apprenticeships for all Ph.D. candidates and their business schools would focus on manufacturing issues.

Congress should authorize the build-out of a national network of advanced industries innovation HUBs according to a paper from the Brookings Institute. Functioning as regional centers of excellence, the new hubs would focus on cross-cutting innovation and technology deployment challenges of critical interest to advanced industries by drawing universities, community colleges, state and local governments and other actors into strong industry-led partnerships. This proposal calls for $625 million to establish 25 HUBs in several possible themes including carbon capture and storage, solar photovoltaic, smart grid, advanced materials, nanomanufacturing and industrial robotics.

An annual $150 Race to the Shop competition would challenge U.S. states and metropolitan areas to reform and modernize federal investments in workforce education and skills training for advanced manufacturing in the United States. Through this competition, states and metropolitan areas (metros) would submit long-term plans to align their policies and investments to meet the distinct labor demands of their primary advanced manufacturing sectors and clusters. Each year, five states and five metros would be awarded a federal implementation grant (average award size of $15 million), as well as increased flexibility to realign or better invest existing federal resources. Specific projects that would be funded under this announcement include a metro creating a network of manufacturing high schools or a state aligning community college curriculum to fit the varying skill demands of major local industries.

manufacturing, policy recommendations, higher ed, metros