President Barack Obama announces Advanced Manufacturing Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University. Credit: Pete Souza; Official White House Photo.

Last week President Obama unveiled a new initiative to invest in emerging technologies and create new manufacturing jobs and increase the nation’s global competitiveness. During a visit to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa., Obama introduced the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which, according to the White House press release, will invest more than $500 million to leverage existing programs and proposals to meet these goals.

The press release said that AMP’s initial investments will target manufacturing for critical national security industries, advanced materials development, robotics, improving energy efficiency of manufacturing processes and accelerating the product development timeline for manufactured goods.

“Today, I’m calling for all of us to come together- private sector industry, universities, and the government- to spark a renaissance in American manufacturing and help our manufacturers develop the cutting-edge tools they need to compete with anyone in the world,” said Obama in the press release. “With these key investments, we can ensure that the United States remains a nation that ‘invents it here and manufactures it here’ and creates high-quality, good paying jobs for American workers.”

AMP is a response to the first of four recommendations made by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in their just-released report, “Ensuring Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing (pdf).” The report cites an erosion of domestic leadership in manufacturing and the heavy investment of other nations to fill that void, the advantages of having R&D and manufacturing located in the United States, the essential role of an advanced manufacturing competence in national security and that, historically, federal investment in new technologies has cleared the way for fledglings to become major new industries.

The PCAST report concludes that individual companies cannot go it alone: “Private investment must be complemented by public investment to overcome market failures. Key opportunities include investing in the advancement of new technologies with transformative potential, supporting shared infrastructure, and accelerating the manufacturing process through targeted support for new methods and approaches.”

To create an environment conducive to innovation and to overcome market failures, the PCAST report recommended a four-point plan:

  • Launch an advanced manufacturing initiative;
  • Improve tax policy;
  • Support research; and
  • Strengthen the workforce.

AMP is the administration’s response to the first of these, and as recommended by PCAST, is a government, industry and academic partnership. It will be led by Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical and Susan Hockfield, president of MIT, and will work closely with the White House’s National Economic Council, Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as with PCAST.

The first team has been picked already. From industry it will be Allegheny Technologies, Caterpillar, Corning, Dow Chemical, Ford, Honeywell, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Northrop Grumman, Proctor & Gamble and Stryker. Participating universities are MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, Stanford, UC-Berkeley and University of Michigan. Government players are DARPA, DOE, DOD, and the Commerce Department.

The White House press release gives examples of how several partnerships that are in place will modify their programs to support AMP goals. Several of the named agencies have a long history as important, strategic investors in materials science and engineering such as NSF, NASA and NIST. For example, NIST, a Commerce Department agency, issued a press release outlining its programs that will support the AMP initiative including robotics, nanomanufacturing, advanced materials design through the Materials Genome Initiative and an advanced manufacturing technology consortium scheduled for launch in FY2010.

The PCAST report recommended that AMP funding should rise from $500 million to $1 billion over the course of four years. While touring Carnegie Mellon and seeing demonstrations of several cutting-edge technologies developed at the university, Obama said that it was important for ideas to have a place to incubate and become products that can be made in the US and sold worldwide. “And that’s in our blood. That’s who we are. We are inventors, and we are makers, and we are doers.”