University President Mary Sue Coleman joined President Barack Obama on Thursday morning at Carnegie Mellon University to announce the creation of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership — a collaboration between the government and six universities to increase the number of advanced manufacturing jobs in the country and develop techniques for creating products more efficiently and innovatively.
At the event, Obama said the government has invested in the plan — which was developed by the Council of Advisors on Science and Technology — in order to become more globally competitive by turning to new manufacturing processes and technologies for innovative uses like clean energy and solar power.
This decision comes after one-third of the United States’ manufacturing jobs have disappeared within the past 13 years, Obama said.
“That’s why we’ve invested in clean energy manufacturing and new jobs building wind turbines and solar panels and advanced batteries,” he said at the event. “We have not run out of stuff to make. We’ve just got to reinvigorate our manufacturing sector so that it leads the world the way it always has — from paper and steel and cars to new products that we haven’t even dreamed up yet.
“That’s how we’re going to strengthen existing industries; that’s how we’re going to spark new ones,” he added. “That’s how we’re going to create jobs, grow the middle class, and secure our economic leadership.”
Coleman expressed a similar opinion in a June 24 University press release, saying that the creation of new industries such as advanced manufacturing is important for the future of the country, especially the state of Michigan as it faces a difficult economic period.
“This initiative matters more to Michigan than any other state,” she said in the release. “We are at ground zero for losses in manufacturing jobs. But we also are better positioned to be the epicenter of manufacturing innovation. We know how to retool.”
Coleman added that funding projects that focus on the development of smaller business and “the prototypes they develop” is crucial to spurring economic growth, since advancements on the small scale often translate into large scale progression.
“(Small businesses’) technologies and tools are the foundation of large manufacturing companies,” Coleman said. “We are losing valuable technologies because of a funding chasm between innovative ideas and small manufacturing companies being financially positioned to build to scale. Gap funding can address this gulf.”
According to George Carignan, associate engineering dean of research and graduate education, the College of Engineering is no stranger to advanced manufacturing research. For the past 14 years, the GM/U-M Collaborative Research Lab in Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing has allowed a group comprised of primarily graduate students to work with GM researchers and manufacture lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars like the Chevrolet Volt, he said.
“Manufacturing is a big deal at the University of Michigan and has been for many years — several decades,” he said.
Carignan said that the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership will allow the University to further benefit from participating in manufacturing research which will ultimately have a positive effect on the state’s economy.
He added he is glad to see the University recognized for the efforts that the College of Engineering has put into developing course work and degree programs that cater to producing graduates who can help stimulate manufacturing in the United States.
Along with the University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford University and University of California–Berkeley will work with manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson, Honeywell and Stryker to develop and research useful methods and products.
Obama said that by engaging in projects like this, the nation can strengthen production of goods and services that will make the U.S. more competitively internationally.
“The concept of advanced manufacturing is not complicated,” Obama said. “It means how do we do things better, faster, cheaper to design and manufacture superior products that allow us to compete all over the world.”
Carignan echoed Obama’s sentiment, saying the country has lost a lot of manufacturing jobs, particularly to countries overseas, which can be resolved through “the reinvigoration of the manufacturing enterprise.” He added that the lack of emphasis on the importance of manufacturing jobs in the country led to the field’s collapse, and he hopes the country can regain its “competitive edge” with a stronger emphasis on different manufacturing techniques.
In a June 24 press release, Senator Carl Levin (D–Mich.) said the new program will play a crucial role in improving the state’s economy.
“Other nations are investing and creating public-private partnerships in advanced manufacturing, energy efficiency and other key sectors, and if we fail to match their investments, America and American workers will be left behind,” he said in the release. “To succeed, the effort announced today cannot be an ending — it must be an urgent boost to a partnership among industry, academia and government to help our manufacturers compete around the world.”