Technology Trends

US Technology: Leading the Third Industrial Revolution

In her piece, "New Industrial Revolution," State Information Center Economics Researcher Zhang Monan warns of a possible end of what she calls the "made-in-China period" due to a new industrial revolution that will fundamentally change global economic conditions.

My biggest worry about my IMTS feature in last month's issue of IW was that the headline -- "Signs of a Thriving Economy" -- was maybe a bit too hopeful.

Hopeful, however, was exactly the mood AMT President Douglas Woods described during my interview with him for the piece, in which he made a strong case for linking the growth of IMTS with the growth of U.S. manufacturing -- his key point being that investment in technology signals an uptick in demand.

As I count down the hours until Monday's IMTS kickoff, I have been looking forward to testing this thesis. Last night, though, I came across a story published in China Daily that pretty much resolves the case.

In her piece, "New Industrial Revolution," State Information Center Economics Researcher Zhang Monan warns of a possible end of what she calls the "made-in-China period" due to a new industrial revolution that will fundamentally change global economic conditions.

This third industrial revolution, she says, will be driven by a need for intelligent manufacturing and low-carbon energy, not low cost, high volume production that has propelled the world for decades.

And what is leading this new revolution?

American technology, of course.

By pushing for "re-industrialization," the U.S. is by no means simply aiming to bring back manufacturing industries. Instead, it is seeking to make its industries into stronger competitors and develop high value-added manufacturing with the use of advanced-manufacturing technology, intelligent manufacturing, new energy, bio-technology and information technology.

Washington's lingering fiscal crunch has not curtailed this ambitious strategy. Despite being in an economic and fiscal predicament, the U.S. has not reduced its inputs into technological research and development. Statistics show that the U.S.'s input into technological research and development accounted for 33% of the world's total in 2011. The U.S. has now adopted an advanced-manufacturing plan and begun putting more money and technological resources into nanotechnology, high-grade batteries, energy materials, bio-manufacturing, new-generation microelectronics and advanced robots, all of which will boost the development of its advanced technologies and help the U.S. gain a leading position in researching and developing advanced-manufacturing technologies.
- Zhang Monan, China Daily

If this prediction holds true -- or at least if it holds some kernel of truth -- the threat the revolution poses to Chinese manufacturing is the direct reflection of the kind of hope Woods is selling.

This settles a number of things for me: first, it tells me that my IMTS headline was probably safely within the bounds of reality; also, it helps me prepare for the kind of frenzied excitement we can expect in Chicago next week; and finally, it tells me that, as the manufacturing technology editor here at IW, I am perfectly positioned to watch what may be the most exciting development since the dot-com boom unfold.

In a political season where manufacturing is becoming equal part buzzword and economic engine, this all translates to good news for the country, good news for technology and good news for the IW reader. Signs of a thriving base mean boom times ahead.

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