Manufacturing is a matter of fundamental importance to the economic strength and national security of the United States. More than any other industry, a globally competitive manufacturing sector translates inventions, research discoveries, and new ideas into better or novel products or processes.
To be sure, there are many interrelated elements of an innovation ecosystem—entrepreneurs, workers, tax policies, to name a few—but without manufacturing, the economy-building, job-creating power of innovation fades
Consider, for example, that manufacturing firms are almost three times to more likely than service business to introduce a new or significantly improved product or service. With regard to production, distribution, and technical-support activities, a similar disparity in innovation performance separates manufacturing firms from on-manufacturing businesses.1
The U.S. manufacturing sector now faces enormous challenges. American leadership in manufacturing and, as a consequence, innovation performance is at risk.
American high-technology manufacturing industries lead the world in total output, but the U.S. global share has fallen from 34 percent in 1998 to 28 percent in 2010. Over the same span, The U.S. share of global high-technology exports declined from to 22 percent to about 15 percent.
There is broad agreement that, for the United States to prosper in the 21st century, it must have a high-performing manufacturing sector. In a recent survey, 85 percent of Americans agreed that manufacturing is important to our standard of living and 77 percent say it is very important to national security.
Consistent with this majority view, 79 percent of Americans said a strong manufacturing base should be a national priority.2
Manufacturing stands on the threshold of a major transformation.
From the digitization of equipment, processes, and organizations to three-dimensional printing (or additive manufacturing) to materials with custom-designed properties, a whole host new design, production, and business capabilities are opening the way to new types of manufacturing-referred to, collectively, as advanced manufacturing.
Advanced manufacturing entails more than making high-tech products. It also includes using new, often leading-edge machines and processes to make products that are unique, better, or even cheaper. Advanced manufacturing also facilitates rapid integration of process improvements, readily permits changes in design, such as new part features or substitute materials, and accommodates customization and cost-effective low-volume production.
In advanced manufacturing, product innovation and process innovation are different sides of the same coin. Scientific discoveries, new ideas, and novel engineering approaches can be converted quickly into the seeds of new products and processes. Technology-intensive and dynamic, advanced manufacturing enterprises require high-skilled workers to perform at high levels and compete globally.
Advanced manufacturing provides the path forward to revitalizing U.S. leadership in manufacturing, and will best support economic productivity and ongoing knowledge production and innovation in the Nation. The Nation's long-term ability to innovate and compete in the global economy greatly benefits from co-location of manufacturing and manufacturing-related R&D activities in the United States. The loss of these activities will undermine our capacity to invent, innovate, and compete in global markets.