Does the US Need a Manufacturing University?

Feb. 5, 2013
With India and China pouring money into R&D while simultaneously “adopting mercantilist trade policies that are only enhancing our loss of intellectual property and technical know-how, the US is in serious jeopardy of permanently losing the race for innovation advantage.”

Dr. Robert D. Atkinson, president of The Information Technology and Innovation Forum thinks so.

He argues that as manufacturers have moved production overseas the engineering, product development and technology innovation that are key components of manufacturing has gone with it.

With India and China pouring money into R&D while simultaneously “adopting mercantilist trade policies that are only enhancing our loss of intellectual property and technical know-how, the U.S. is in serious jeopardy of permanently losing the race for innovation advantage.”

His solution, created with the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, is a system of 20 “manufacturing universities” that would receive supported from the U.S. government. And by support he means the government will kick in $25 million per university.

These universities would provide technical training and applied research.

He describes the universities below:

Designated universities would revamp their engineering programs with a focus on manufacturing engineering and curricula designed specifically for targeted industries. This would include: joint industry-university research projects; training of students that incorporates manufacturing experiences through co-ops or internships; and a focus on turning out more Ph.D. engineering grads who would work in industry. Ph.D.'s would be transformed into high-level apprenticeships (as they often are in Germany), where industrial experience is a requirement for graduation.

Likewise, criteria for faculty tenure would be reformed to include professors’ work with industry and the connection of research with industrial applications, as much as their number of publications. In addition, designated universities would also introduce new programs in their business schools that focus on manufacturing issues, including management of production, and integrate more closely with their engineering schools.

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