Obama Administration Announces New Manufacturing USA Institute

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Dec 22 2016 |
The Power America institute in Raleigh, N.C., is developing new semiconductor technology that could revolutionize portable electronics. It is one of a dozen institutes located across America working to develop new manufacturing capabilities. The newest institute, focused on biofabrication technology, was announced on Wednesday.

The third institute awarded in three weeks will study ways to create life-saving cells and organs.

President-elect Donald Trump is capturing the spotlight on the manufacturing front these days, including Wednesday’s big announcement that there will be a new National Trade Council headed by economist Peter Navarro.

But Trump’s not the president yet, and the man currently occupying the Oval Office has spent the past three weeks taking action on one of his major manufacturing priorities — Manufacturing USA.

On Wednesday, the White House announced that the Defense Department had awarded the new Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI), which will work to “develop the manufacturing technologies to create life-saving cells, tissues, and organs.” Headquartered in Manchester, N.H., the institute will bring together 87 partners from industry, academia and the government.

Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, said at a White House event announcing the new institute that keeping America’s manufacturing edge is “fundamentally important to our national security.” That's something we certainly agree with at the Alliance for American Manufacturing — our weakened industrial base can put our troops in harm's way, as we could find ourselves dependent on potentially hostile nations like China for the materials and goods we need.

A weak manufacturing base can also harm our national security in other ways, as Defense News reports:

Kendall told a story about how during the Cold War, Pentagon planners were concerned about the technological genius of Soviet engineers, but discovered after the war that the equipment suffered from inferior manufacturing techniques and materials. Making sure US industry continues to produce at a high quality is vital for American defense, he added. 

ARMI will take on pretty cutting edge work, as it will focus on developing next-generation techniques for repairing and replacing cells and tissues. It is hoped that these efforts might lead to the ability to manufacture new skin for soldiers injured on the front lines, or develop organ-preserving technologies for Americans awaiting life-saving transplants.

The announcement comes on the heels of two other institutes that were awarded in the last two weeks. The National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals, which will be based in Delaware, will “advance U.S. leadership in the biopharmaceutical industry,” according to the Commerce Department. It is the first institute with a focus area that was proposed by industry.

The Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment Institute will be headquartered in New York and work to develop the technology needed to boost domestic energy productivity and efficiency by 20 percent in five years — and support the Obama administration’s goal of doubling U.S. energy productivity by 2030.

There are now 12 Manufacturing USA institutes with nearly 1,000 members at locations across the country. The federal government has committed more than $850 million to the program, which has been matched with $1.8 billion in private sector funds. Manufacturing USA has also been a bipartisan effort — Congress passed legislation in 2015 to formally authorize the program.