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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Obama Administration’s Proposal to Establish a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation

John F. Sargent Jr.
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

Manufacturing plays an important role in the nation’s economy, employment, and national defense. Accordingly, Congress has maintained a strong interest in the health of the U.S. manufacturing sector. Some analysts have expressed concerns about a decades-long decline in manufacturing employment punctuated by a steep drop from 2001 to 2010, as well as about the offshore outsourcing of production and related functions, such as research and development, by U.S. manufacturers. Others see the U.S. manufacturing sector as vibrant and healthy as evidenced by growth in output and productivity.

The Obama Administration has undertaken a number of initiatives intended to support U.S. manufacturing, including establishment of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO), Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia program, National Robotics Initiative, and Materials Genome Initiative.

In his FY2013 budget, President Obama proposed the creation of a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) to help accelerate innovation by investing in industrially relevant manufacturing technologies with broad applications, and to support manufacturing technology commercialization by bridging the gap between the laboratory and the market. Congress did not act on the President’s proposal for FY2013. Nevertheless, the Administration used the Department of Defense’s existing authorities and FY2012 regular appropriations to compete and award a pilot institute, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, referring to it as “a proof-of-concept for the potential subsequent institutes.”

In addition, the Administration sought nationwide input from key stakeholder groups to help guide the design of the NNMI. The AMNPO held four regional workshops and published a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register inviting public comment on the proposed NNMI program. A total of 875 people attended the workshops and the RFI drew 78 responses representing the viewpoints of nearly more than 100 separate entities. The input gathered from the workshops and the RFI was used by the AMNPO to prepare a National Science and Technology Committee report, National Network for Manufacturing Innovation: A Preliminary Design, published in January 2013, articulating the Administration’s view of principles and characteristics for the NNMI program.

In his 2014 budget request, President Obama again included the NNMI proposal. He also announced his intention to establish three additional manufacturing institutes in FY2013 using existing authorities and appropriations, two by the Department of Defense (DOD) and one by the Department of Energy (DOE). As in his FY2013 budget, the President’s NNMI proposal calls for the establishment of up to 15 Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation (IMI) funded through a onetime infusion of $1 billion in mandatory funding to the Department of Commerce’s National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and to be spent over multiple years. Each IMI would be comprised of stakeholders from industry (including large companies and small- and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises), academia, federal agencies, and state government entities. According to the proposal, each IMI is to be competitively selected, serve as a regional hub for manufacturing innovation (as well as part of the national network), and have a unique focus area (e.g., an advanced material, manufacturing process, enabling technology, or industry sector). The NNMI would be managed collaboratively by NIST, DOD, DOE, the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and other agencies.

Date of Report: July 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: R42625
Price: $29.95

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