By Pat Panchak In yet another sign that the struggling manufacturing sector is finally getting more of the attention that it desperately needs, six federal research and development agencies are teaming up to ensure federal investment in the sector returns a bigger payoff in the future. Dubbed the Government Agencies Technology Exchange in Manufacturing (GATE-M), the group will work to improve the exchange of information about their technical programs, increase research and development collaboration, and advance issues on an interagency, national level. The six agencies include the departments of Commerce (represented by the National Institute of Standards and Technology), Defense, and Energy (represented by the Nuclear Security Administration and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy), as well as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation. The six agencies have already identified two topics where all six GATE-M agencies are currently pursuing research or could benefit from new ventures. They include intelligence in manufacturing, which will focus on the development and implementation of intelligent, open-architecture controls; and nano- and micro-scale systems and technologies, which will coordinate efforts of the National Nanotechnology Initiative and issues related to electrical and mechanical applications, assembly and measuring techniques and tools. Other technical areas of interest include environmentally focused technologies and processes; homeland and national security; manufacturing education; manufacturing process development of metals and composites; manufacturing quality and reliability measurement and testing; and supply chain/systems integration and interoperability. Other signs that U.S. business and government leaders are waking up to and addressing the plight of the manufacturing sector include:
- Commerce Secretary Donald Evans has appointed Undersecretary for Trade Grant Aldonas to lead a review of the issues influencing the long-term competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing industries. By mid-summer, Aldonas will outline a strategy for ensuring that the government is doing all it can to create the conditions for manufacturers to compete and grow.
- The National Academy of Sciences will hold its first major manufacturing conference in over a decade at the end of March, to address the importance of manufacturing to the nation's economy.