Letter IEDI n. 820–Industry 4.0: The US Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing
Continuing the IEDI series of studies and analyzes on Industry 4.0, today's Letter summarizes the strategy and policies implemented by the United States to support advanced manufacturing. This work complements our effort to understand the characteristics and challenges of the industry of the future, which was also the topic of Letters IEDI n. 797, "Industry 4.0: Challenges and Opportunities for Brazil", n. 803, "Industry 4.0: The Future of Industry" and n. 807, "Industrial policy for the future – Germany's INDUSTRIE 4.0 Initiative", among other works.
The US is home to the largest and one of the most sophisticated and diversified industrial systems in the world, accounting for about a quarter of the global manufacturing value added and 72% of all private sector research and development (R&D). Moreover, the industry absorbs 60% of the total US workforce that is employed in R&D activities in the country. As a result, the sector develops and produces many of the technologies that promote the competitiveness and growth of the entire economy.
However, since the second half of the last century, the industry has been losing share in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This decline was accompanied by a profound transformation of the US national production system, due to the increasing shift abroad of industrial plants of large US companies. With the transfer of production to other countries, there was a process of untying production and innovation, which also affected the US capacity to innovate, by generating the phenomena of technological blockage and destruction of shared industrial goods.
According to the US National Science and Technology Council, current global trends in R&D, innovation and trade raise concerns about North American competitiveness in advanced manufacturing. In the last decade there has been a drastic deterioration of the country’s performance in commercial flows of high technology products in favor of more competitive partners, especially Germany, South Korea and Japan. In addition, this situation creates obstacles for a range of vital needs of the US government to be met safely and reliably, as the Defense Production Act Committee (DPAC) concluded.
The way the US has tackled these structural challenges has been mainly characterized by a strong emphasis on innovation, whose support has become the strong arm of the country's industrial policy. In that sense, in addition to proposing the creation and funding of a variety of initiatives to promote US manufacturing (for example: Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, National Robotics Initiative, Materials Genome Initiative), in February 2012 the federal government announced a broad strategy to guide its investments in advanced technology R&D, incorporating suggestions and recommendations from representatives of the industry and academia. In other words, the government has engaged in the development of advanced manufacturing as an opportunity to rescue the expression that US industry has once had.
Also in 2012, a pilot institute was created, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), a partnership between the federal government, the industry, universities and state governments, in which they all share the costs. Inspired by the model of the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany, industrial institutes are the centerpiece of the US government's advanced manufacturing program. These initiatives draw attention to the importance of collaboration between the public and the private sectors in building the industry of the future.
At the end of 2014, with Congressional approval of the Revitalize American Manufacturing Act, it was finally possible to make progress towards the creation of a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). Fifteen regional institutes will make up the network, receiving federal funds for a period of five years, complemented by contributions from private sector partners and state and/or local governments. This network of regional "Institutes of Manufacturing Innovation" (IMI) was designed to: (i) accelerate the development and adoption of advanced industrial technologies with broad applications; (ii) support the commercialization of manufacturing technology, which should work towards bridging the gap between research laboratories and the market in key technological fields; and (iii) help the formation and training of skilled labor, qualifying workers in new technologies.
At the beginning of 2017, there were a total of 14 institutes, each of them specialized in an area of crucial cutting-edge technology. Having as partners large companies and numerous small and medium-sized firms from various industrial sectors, these institutes received non-federal resources well above the minimum required.
Thus, the United States are another example of a country that does not simply awaits the emergence of technologies that will revolutionize manufacturing production. On the contrary, it actually contributes to their creation and diffusion, accelerating the transformation of its industry into an advanced industrial system.