President Obama has announced nearly $500 million in public-private investment to strengthen American manufacturing by investing in technology through a new, textiles-focused manufacturing institute competition led by the Department of Defense (DOD). The initiative will also sharpen the capabilities of small manufacturers through Manufacturing Extension Partnership competitions in twelve states, according to The White House.
In addition, a Supply Chain Innovation Initiative will focus on building public-private partnerships to strengthen the small U.S. manufacturers that anchor the nation’s supply chains. The President’s fiscal year 2016 budget provides the resources to double the number of manufacturing innovation institutes nationwide to 16 by the end of 2016 and fulfills the President’s goal of building a network of up to 45 institutes over the decade.
The new competition, kicked off by the DOD, is the ninth manufacturing innovation institute competition launched by the administration. The Revolutionary Fibers and Textiles Manufacturing Innovation Institute “will ensure that America remains at the leading edge of fiber science, through a $75 million public investment matched by more than $75 million of private investment in researching, prototyping, and commercializing fibers with extraordinary properties,” the White House press release says.
“Known as technical textiles, these modern-day fabrics and fibers boast novel properties ranging from being incredibly lightweight and flame resistant, to having exceptional strength and electronic sensors. With wide-ranging applications, technical textiles can forge the foundation of protective gear for firefighters impervious to the hottest flames, replicate the sensing capabilities of a smart watch into a lightweight fabric, or detect when a wounded soldier needs to be treated with an antimicrobial compression bandage.”
The release also notes that the American textile industry is adding jobs for the first time in two decades, increasing shipments by nearly a fifth since the recession, reports a 45 percent increase in exports since 2009.
Stronger small manufacturers
The more than 230,000 small manufacturers in the U.S. employ 42 percent, or almost half, of all manufacturing workers. However, small manufacturers often trail their larger peers in adopting the latest technologies and practices to increase their competitiveness and productivity, with many small manufacturers in need of access to capital and expertise to adopt the latest innovations in manufacturing—such as 3-D printing, advanced sensors, and digital design—that can help sharpen their edge.
Across the country, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a state-federal network of 60 centers and 1,200 manufacturing experts, helps small manufacturers improve their production processes, upgrade their technological capabilities, and bring new products to market.
The MEP competition will award nearly $32 million annually for five years across twelve states—an expected total of $158 million matched at least dollar-for-dollar by $158 million or more of non-federal funding—to strengthen and reinvest in this nationwide network of manufacturing expertise. Nonprofits working with manufacturers in each of the twelve states will have the opportunity to compete for cooperative agreements to operate MEP centers and expand the range of lean production and technology acceleration services offered to small manufacturers, and help bring their products to market. Annual funding is subject to continued performance and the availability of appropriations.
New MEP competitions are being launched in Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.