Warren Hunt

A key element in informing the Obama Administration’s Advanced Manufacturing agenda has been the work of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) Steering Committee. This group recently issued its second report, Accelerating U.S. Advanced Manufacturing, which presents recommendations that, if implemented, should create the desired acceleration of advanced manufacturing technology development and deployment. In Part 1 of this two-part post, I will review two of the recommendations that provide specific guidance for the advanced manufacturing R&D strategy, in terms of topics that should be pursued and methods for engaging the R&D community.

First, a brief bit of history. The initial AMP activity was launched with a speech by President Obama in June 2011 (in which he also established the Materials Genome Initiative, a topic I’ve discussed in this previous post as well as this one). An initial AMP Steering Committee comprising high-ranking industry, university, and labor representatives released a 2012 report that proposed and ultimately catalyzed a number of priorities and initiatives to strengthen the U.S. advanced manufacturing sector, such as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). A new 19-member committee, termed “AMP Steering Committee 2.0” was established in fall 2013 to continue this progress.

Over the course of a year, the members of the AMP 2.0 worked with industry, academia, labor, government, and the public to implement the highest priority recommendations from the initial report, included scaling of promising manufacturing workforce innovations and partnerships and identifying new, concrete strategies for securing the nation’s competitive advantage in transformative emerging technologies. The Accelerating U.S. Advanced Manufacturing report reflects not only the actions taken by AMP 2.0 to build on the initial recommendations, but also offers a series of 12 additional recommendations. These recommendations aim to enable innovation in critical emerging manufacturing technologies in three ways: 1) additional investments in innovation; 2) securing the talent pipeline; and 3) improving the business climate for innovative manufacturing firms.

Two of the “enabling innovation” recommendations provide specific guidance on what R&D topics should be pursued as well as how to engage the broader R&D community:

Establish a national strategy for securing U.S. advantage in emerging manufacturing technologies with a specific national vision and set of coordinated initiatives across the public and private sectors and all stages of technology development. – This recommendation suggests continued focus and prioritization on the R&D areas where the biggest impact can be made. AMP 2.0 has piloted a process for developing this national manufacturing technology strategy focused on three emerging technologies:

  • Advanced sensing, controls, and platforms for manufacturing (ASCPM)
  • Visualization, informatics & digital manufacturing (VIDM)
  • Advanced materials manufacturing (AMM)

This level of focus and use of a piloting approach will provide valuable experience and some tangible value creation by considering specific technology areas and communities.

Establish a new public‐private manufacturing research and development infrastructure to support the innovation pipeline, which complements Manufacturing Innovation Institutes at earlier and later technology maturation stages, through the creation of manufacturing centers of excellence (MCEs) and manufacturing technology testbeds (MTTs) to provide a framework that supports manufacturing innovation at different stages of maturity and allows small and medium‐sized enterprises to benefit from these investments. – This recommendation recognizes that there needs to be attention at both the “front end” and “back end” of the advanced manufacturing value chain. By addressing both the more basic research needs and implementation, especially at the small and medium enterprise level, this effort “brackets” the work that is being performed by the NNMI Manufacturing Innovation Institutes, which focus on the intermediate stages of development. A major challenge going forward will be the coordination and integration of activities along the entire research, development, and deployment process, which AMP 2.0 also addresses.

The recommendations above are a key component of “enabling innovation” and represent important further development of the strategy and approach for advanced manufacturing. Stepping back a bit, it is exciting and encouraging to see the continued progress in building the innovation infrastructure for Advanced Manufacturing in the United States. Thanks to continued focus on Advanced Manufacturing at the highest levels, evidenced by the AMP Steering Committee 2.0 membership and the strong efforts of the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO), the agency-level initiatives that are currently under way will only continue to expand in the near term. In Part 2 of this post, I will review some of AMP 2.0’s recommendations that focus on the coordination of the advanced manufacturing enterprise.