MForesight’s flagship gathering takes a big-picture, long-
term view of the future of US manufacturing
This June 18, many of America’s leading thinkers and practitioners in advanced manufacturing gathered in Washington, DC for the fourth annual MForesight National Manufacturing Summit. The Summit featured speeches from Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Gary Peters, and Rep. Ro Khanna; senior officials from the Departments of Defense and Commerce; and a range of industry and academic leaders — all focused on the future of US advanced manufacturing and its implications for economic competitiveness, national security, and long-term American prosperity.
The day’s discussions all built on a core premise:
Building a positive future for American manufacturing requires more than boosting innovation and production. It requires nurturing an entire “ecosystem” — investing in hardware start-ups and scale-ups, empowering small and medium-sized manufacturers, enhancing domestic engineering
knowledge, and strengthening the “industrial commons,” the essential infrastructure and know-how that has been weakened by decades of offshoring.
It’s a formidable challenge. But — as bipartisan leaders including Senators Rubio and Peters emphasized — it’s a strategic necessity for the United States. Sen. Rubio focused on the challenges posed by competition from China, as articulated in “Made in China 2025,” the Chinese industrial plan issued in 2015. Sen. Rubio emphasized the need for balance and fairness in the trading relationship with China, and the imperative for U.S. industry to increase its
investment in productive capacity.
Senator Gary Peters announced a sweeping new legislative proposal to create a new National Institute of Manufacturing, taking inspiration from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “This will be an executive branch agency that will house our national manufacturing programs under one roof,” Peters explained. “NIH does a great job of coordinating a strategic vision for health
care. Something similar should exist in manufacturing.”
Throughout the Summit, participants took a clear-eyed look at the challenges. Overall, the United States has lost over 5 million manufacturing jobs in just two decades, mainly because of offshoring. Manufacturing output as a share of GDP was actually lower in mid-2018 than during the depths of the Great Recession in 2009. Both Senator Rubio and Representative Khanna emphasized that China is making massive, coordinated investments in long-term innovation and production capacity, while the United States is largely focused on short-term earnings reports and other Wall Street priorities.
At the Summit, MForesight released a new report, Reclaiming America’s Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing, which identifies fundamental weaknesses in US manufacturing ecosystems and the risks these weaknesses pose for the nation’s long-term wealth and security. These challenges demand attention. Our competitors are not standing still.
Still, in spite of the challenges, the 2019 Summit focused on solutions. The new MForesight report — building on roundtable discussions with cross-sector experts in seven cities across the country — proposes a range of solutions: investing in translational research, strengthening small and medium-sized manufacturers, and boosting manufacturing start-ups and scale-ups. David Anderson, President of SEMI Americas, focused on how the semiconductor industry is thinking about long-term strategy across a range of priorities from education to supply chains. Alan Shaffer of the US Department of Defense described how initiatives like the Trusted Marketplace program are supporting innovation and manufacturing by matching small defense suppliers with venture capital firms.
The Summit revealed clear consensus on the importance of advanced manufacturing. While US policymakers are often divided on many core economic questions, people across the ideological spectrum agree that our innovation and production capacities are essential for our economic competitiveness, our military readiness, and the survival of critical supply chains in the face of challenges from overseas competitors. Advanced manufacturing is a vital element for the future of our economy.