WASHINGTON, D.C.—During a Commerce Committee hearing today on U.S. innovation and manufacturing today, Chairman Jay Rockefeller called on his colleagues to prioritize investments that are proven to create jobs and boost our economy.
The hearing explored ways to strengthen collaborations between the government and industry in the manufacturing sector. In particular, Rockefeller focused on closing the so-called “valley of death,” the gap between invention and commercialization that dooms many manufacturers today.
“It is vital that we bridge this gap – that is, we must help transform the brilliant scientific discoveries taking place in university laboratories into real-world applications on the factory floor,” Rockefeller said.
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker discussed the vital role the federal government must play in working with the private sector to drive investments in research and development, education, and manufacturing.
“The most important thing for us to remember is that there’s a gap in going from basic research to manufacturing, and that gap can only be filled with a public-private sector partnership,” Pritzker said. “There’s an important role for the federal government to play and the return on investment is high.”
Pritzker touted the Administration’s flagship manufacturing initiative called the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). NNMI is working to create a network of regional hubs that would solve common manufacturing problems for businesses and researchers in that field.
Senators Brown and Blunt appeared at the hearing to discuss their bill, the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013, which would largely implement this initiative.
The first hub created is a pilot project in Youngstown, Ohio, and it operates with the support of federal seed money and funding from a number of businesses, organizations, and universities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Michael Garvey is the president of M-7 Technologies, a small manufacturer based in Ohio, which is working with the Youngstown NNMI hub.
“If M-7 were to duplicate the capabilities and equipment available at [NNMI], it would have to invest substantially more to have similar assets in-house,” Garvey told the Committee. “NNMI neutralizes the resource issue and makes the valley of death less intimidating.”
The Youngstown hub focuses on additive manufacturing or what is also known as “3-D printing”, a method of production that is changing rapidly because of global competition. NNMI supports M-7, and will help other companies, with resources to that can help it stay ahead of global competition.
Siemens is donating $440 million in state-of-the-art software and training to support the Youngstown NNMI hub. Eric Spiegel, the president and CEO of Siemens, noted that investments from both the private sector and public sector are necessary to maintain the country’s competitive advantage.
“Without a relentless dedication to innovation, the U.S. will be outmatched on the global stage, without recourse,” Spiegel noted. “To prevent that from happening, we must all work together to make the right kind of investments, right now.”
Today’s discussion followed a hearing Rockefeller held last week titled, “America COMPETES: Science and the U.S. Economy”, about the critical need to boost federal investments in research and development – specifically in areas that have led to major breakthroughs and have the potential to create jobs in the global economy.