New England has a rich history as home to a thriving manufacturing industry. Samuel Slater launched America’s Industrial Revolution over 200 years ago, and for generations mill towns dotted the landscape of New England, from Lewiston-Auburn, Maine; to Manchester, New Hampshire; to Lowell, Massachusetts and beyond. While more traditional forms of manufacturing have been on the decline in the region in recent years, there is great potential for economic growth in the so-called “advanced manufacturing” sector. Advanced manufacturing is that which harnesses significant training and well-honed skills to develop highly specialized products in industries such as aerospace, life sciences, medical devices, semi-conductors and nano-technology. As home to both educational institutions and industry leaders, New England’s clusters of innovative research are an important economic driver. The NEC staff contact for the Advanced Manufacturing Working Group is Chris Averill.
Advanced Manufacturing Report
On Wednesday, April 8, The New England Council and Deloitte released a new report, “Advanced to Advantageous: The Case for New England’s Manufacturing Revolution,” that dispels the notion that manufacturing is declining in the region, assesses the region’s strengths and advantages, identifies future opportunities for collaboration and investment in advanced manufacturing, and provides a roadmap for increased economic growth and global competitiveness. The report, which updates and expands upon a 2010 NEC-Deloitte study, was released at an event at Bank of America in downtown Boston.
“Advanced to Advantageous” makes the case that the New England region is poised to experience a manufacturing revolution due to a combination of existing advantages and the replication and widespread adoption of a number of progressive programs and initiatives that the report terms “islands of excellence.” The report identifies areas where New England is setting the pace in advanced manufacturing – industry clusters such as aerospace and defense and medical devices and biotechnology, as well as capability clusters like software and artificial intelligence and advanced materials – and discusses a number of game changing disruptive technologies, like additive manufacturing and the Internet of Things (IoT), that will increasingly help position the region to be a leader in advanced manufacturing’s “next wave” of innovation.
The report calls for the creation of a “program office” in each state to help coordinate and oversee the implementation of its recommendations, and work in concert with other New England states to facilitate stronger collaboration between stakeholders across the region. Among the report’s key recommendations:
Secure a federally funded advanced manufacturing center in New England by demonstrating regional cohesion and improving intrastate partnerships between government, educators, and industry. The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) is an initiative launched by the Obama Administration in 2013 to fund a series of advanced manufacturing hubs across the country. New England should work collectively and collaboratively as a region to apply for one of these institutes.
Rebrand the industry and “make it” a better brand by shifting the public’s perception of manufacturing from dirty and dangerous to exciting and safe. This more accurately reflects the reality of today’s “new” advanced manufacturing. By involving students in the “maker movement” from an early age – and engaging their parents, educators, and guidance counselors – regional leaders can help change outdated views of manufacturing and attract more interest in manufacturing careers.
Expand industry partnership and apprenticeship opportunities so that students are increasingly matched with open industry positions and trained in critical skills necessary for a career in advanced manufacturing.
In researching the new report, the Council and Deloitte engaged in a months-long process involving some 130 interviews with manufacturers, technical support organizations, colleges and universities, and state economic development officials. The report is the first initiative of the Council’s “Advanced Manufacturing Working Group,” launched in the fall of 2014 (see more about the working group below.)
The new report updates a 2010 NEC/Deloitte report, “Advanced Manufacturing in a Networked World: Prospects for Resurgence in New England.” The 2010 report sought to debunk the myth that manufacturing is a dying industry, and highlights the significant potential for the creation of high-paying jobs in this industry in New England. The report also highlighted positive examples of efforts that are currently underway to increase manufacturing innovation and productivity in the region, and calls on policymakers to support and invest in this industry.
Given the advantages our region possesses when it comes to advanced manufacturing, the New England Council launched an Advanced Manufacturing Working Group in October 2014 to look at various issues related to advanced manufacturing and to bring together Council members from across various sectors with an interest in strengthening the industry from a regional perspective. The goal for the working group is to provide a forum for discussion and information sharing among members and to identify policies and actions that the Council may wish to support, such as the push for a federally-funded advanced manufacturing center in New England. The initial meeting was held on October 1, 2014 in Boston. At the center of these efforts is the publication and dissemination of the 2015 report with Deloitte (see above), which working group members played a key role in helping shape the scope, content, and dynamics of the study, which updated a 2010 version.
Additionally, as the Obama Administration works to establish a nationwide network of advanced manufacturing centers, stakeholders from across New England have been working together to secure one of these hubs based here. Another goal of the Working Group has been to provide a complementary voice in support of efforts to bring a center to New England, by working closely with those involved in the application process and helping ensure our elected officials understand the importance of such a hub in the region. On April 1, 2016, the Obama Administration announced that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) would host the Revolutionary Fibers & Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute (RFT-MII). This center, known as the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), will be a national manufacturing resource center for industry and government in the realm of fibers and textiles. Several NEC member companies and organizations are involved as partners in the AFFOA effort, and the Council is proud to support the institute’s work.
In 2014, bipartisan legislation was introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate to put President Obama’s National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) in statute, and allow for the creation of an even more robust network of these centers. The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act was been introduced as S. 1468 in the Senate and H.R. 2996 in the House of Representatives. The bills would create a nationwide network of advanced manufacturing centers where industry, nonprofits, and academia will have an effective and responsive research infrastructure for a “teaching factory” that allows them to solve relevant problem related to advanced manufacturing and train the nation’s future advanced manufacturing workforce. These bills would also allow for more centers to be funded, ensuring New England has a better shot at securing one of these hubs. A large portion of the New England delegation has cosponsored these bills, and a special thanks is owed to Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), who is the lead Democratic cosponsor of the RAMI Act in the House. The Senate Commerce Committee reported S. 1468 favorably on April 9, 2014, while the full House of Representatives passed H.R. 2996 unanimously on September 15, 2014. The Council sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell urging them to do everything possible to move the legislation prior to the end of the current Congress. The RAMI Act was included as part of the so-called CROmnibus spending bill that passed the Congress at the end of 2014 and was signed into law by President Obama on December 16, 2014. Moving forward the Council will be supportive of efforts to secure and fund a center in New England, as the administration provides additional opportunities for application.