From Washington D.C., the Brookings Institute recently convened a virtual panel of manufacturing experts that included Ben Wang, executive director of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute. Wang holds the Gwaltney Chair in Manufacturing Systems and is a professor both in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the School of Materials Science and Engineering. He served as the previous chair of the National Materials and Manufacturing Board.
The panel’s topic: “Can the Biden Administration Improve the Manufacturing Sector?”
Other panelists included: David Cicilline, member of the U.S. House of Representatives; Monica Gorman, deputy assistant secretary, manufacturing industry & analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce; Elisabeth Reynolds, special assistant to the President for manufacturing and economic development, National Economic Council, the White House; Darrell West, vice president and director governance studies, the Brookings Institution; and John Hazen White, Jr., executive chairman, Taco Family of Companies Trustee, the Brookings Institution.
During the panel’s second session, Wang emphasized, “advanced manufacturing is foundational to our [nation’s] economic prosperity, resilience and the national security.” He was previously involved with President Obama administration’s advanced manufacturing partnership from 2011 to 2013.
“Building a strong manufacturing base in the U.S. is a national imperative,” said Wang. “We know that technology-based innovation is the dominant driver of economic growth in the 21st century. Our national security, standard of living, and rebuilding the middle class in our society all depends on a strong globally competitive manufacturing base.”
Wang stressed the need to have a vibrant innovation value chain tightly coupled with a strong manufacturing ecosystem. “We cannot separate innovation from manufacturing,” said Wang.
“Some policymakers believed that we could continue to innovate and leave manufacturing to other nations. As it turned out, not only did we lose our ability to produce high tech products, we began to lose our ability to innovate.”
“If we want to compete well globally, we must maintain both the technological innovation leadership and advance manufacturing leadership [in the United States],” said Wang.
The need was also stressed to support small and medium-sized manufacturers who contribute to the nation’s supply chain and overall GDP in a significant way, but lack resources to evaluate and adopt new, state of the art manufacturing technologies.
National and state Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP) can play a critical role in helping these smaller entities with technology adoption.
According to Wang, regional ecosystem actors must work together to identify common manufacturing challenges and common opportunities. And then co-innovate around those common challenges and opportunities. This type of regional approach will push local companies to rethink how they should interact with one another and help ensure that benefits are shared by all.
Wang’s entire presentation and the full panel discussion which was sponsored and moderated by the Brookings Institution can be found here.