(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing on the need for U.S. manufacturers to adopt innovative technologies and processes in order to remain globally competitive.
“The manufacturing sector in the U.S. is alive and well, and continues to be an important part of our economy,” said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “Each year, the U.S. manufacturing sector generates more than $1.5 trillion worth of goods, accounts for more than half of total U.S. exports, and employs millions of people. However, the manufacturing sector in the U.S. is not as strong and vibrant as it once was. In order to avoid a further decline, we need to take action now to preserve, and perhaps even grow, the U.S. manufacturing sector for the future.”
Members and witnesses discussed the role for the federal government in supporting efforts by U.S. manufacturers to innovate. Witnesses testified on the challenges facing manufacturers, including for small- and medium-sized businesses to access the capital necessary to make investments and upgrades in their companies. Witnesses also highlighted the value in public-private partnerships in the advancing the development of technology and early commercialization.
Members and witnesses also discussed programs at agencies within the Committee’s jurisdiction. The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports fundamental manufacturing research leading to transformative advances in manufacturing technologies. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has several programs to help U.S. manufacturers compete globally. The Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory (MEL) promotes innovation and the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing through measurement science and technical contributions to standards. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) provides a range of services to small- and medium-sized manufacturers, including best practices for lean manufacturing. The Technology Innovation Program (TIP) supports, promotes, and accelerates innovation in the U.S. by funding high-risk, high-reward research in areas of critical need.
The Committee is currently working towards reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act. This hearing will inform work on reauthorizations of the programs at NSF and NIST that support manufacturers and help to ensure that the structures and services provided best meet the needs of U.S. manufacturers in the 21st century.
Witnesses and Members discussed the potential benefits of coordinating manufacturing R&D across the federal government. Better coordination could ensure that a more balanced research portfolio; minimize redundancies and gaps in research; and make it easier for the private sector to access research and resources by giving them a single first point of contact.
Members and witnesses highlighted the need for manufacturers to have a skilled workforce to stay competitive. In order to ensure that the nation’s workforce is prepared for the highly technical jobs of the future, the Committee is continuing to look for ways to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, which will also be included in COMPETES.
“The ability of U.S. manufacturers to innovate and remain competitive is largely dependent on a flexible, skilled workforce,” said Gordon. “The manufacturing plant of today is not the manufacturing plant of the past. Today’s manufacturing is a high-technology activity, requiring a workforce with scientific and technical training. Unfortunately, despite this need, U.S. manufacturers are experiencing a lack of skilled workers at all levels. This Committee is committed to doing what it takes to ensure that businesses in the U.S., including manufacturers, have access to the workers they need to get the job done.”
For more information, including on the Committee’s work on COMPETES, please visit our website.