WASHINGTON – A bill cosponsored by U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) to establish a national network for manufacturing innovation took a big step forward Wednesday, clearing the Senate Commerce Committee by a voice vote. The bipartisan Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013, led by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Roy Blunt (R- Mo.), would establish specialized manufacturing innovation ‘hubs’ around the country, creating thousands of high-paying, high-tech manufacturing jobs while enhancing the United States’ role as the world’s leader in advanced manufacturing.
“Research and development is a critical piece of the innovation pipeline that feeds our growing manufacturing sector and creates high quality jobs,” Senator Coons said. “Manufacturers invest more in R&D than any other sector, but high costs and significant risk often limit the scope and impact of their efforts. Manufacturing innovation institutes leverage limited resources by bringing researchers and manufacturers together to spur innovation, commercialize R&D, and create good jobs. Building on this innovative model will increase our nation’s capacity for invention and support middle class jobs long into the future.”
The legislation would bring together industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies, and all levels of government to accelerate manufacturing innovation in technologies with commercial applications. These public-private institutes would leverage resources to bridge the gap between basic research and product development. The institutes will also partner with local colleges and universities to train workers to develop the skills manufacturers need.
Using this model, the Administration announced on February 25 the launch of two new advanced manufacturing innovation institutes headquartered in Detroit and Chicago. The Detroit hub will concentrate on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing while the Chicago hub will focus on digital manufacturing and design technologies. The Administration plans to establish a total of eight institutes across the country by the end of this year, but legislation is needed to sustain the program over the long-term, ensure Congressional oversight, and put applicants, rather than the federal government, in control of directing research.