On June 11 President Peterson participated in a panel discussion as part of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Initiative on Manufacturing, Design, and Innovation in Washington, DC. Also on the panel were Kaigham (Ken) Gabriel, acting director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Dawn White, president and CTO, Accio Energy.
Good morning, it is a pleasure to be here with you today to share my thoughts about manufacturing, design and innovation and their importance in the economic well-being of our country. Last summer, over the July 4th weekend, I was invited to submit an op-ed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that focused on how manufacturing can help America continue its economic independence. I opened by quoting Alexander Hamilton, who said, “Not only the wealth, but the independence and security of a country, appear to be materially connected with the prosperity of manufacturers.” That statement is perhaps even more relevant today than when he made it more than 200 years ago. So the big question is how do we get back to “made in America?” In the article, I stated that the answer is ‘that the same spirit of innovation and collaboration that once gave us preeminence in manufacturing can help us regain our competitiveness, thereby creating jobs, increasing exports and serving as a catalyst for a healthy economy.’ However in today’s global environment “made in America” is not enough; we need “invented in America.” We have the resources needed. We are a resource-rich country, and we have no shortage of innovation, but we must develop ways to facilitate and support it. I closed the article by stating that our biggest challenge is to build an ecosystem that supports the future of manufacturing, design and most importantly, innovation.
As part of building the ecosystem needed for a successful manufacturing industry, I want to focus on the role of research universities and to share some examples of things we’re doing at Georgia Tech. Then, perhaps we can have more discussion later in the session about these or other topics related to integrating manufacturing, design, and innovation. As Curtis Carlson noted earlier this morning, the most important facet of innovation is the availability of human capital.
Higher education has a major role in producing human capital for manufacturing — in preparing a cadre of competent scientists and engineers, and other leaders who can help our nation secure and maintain a leadership role in advanced manufacturing. One of the first steps is to help educate the public in general, and specifically young people, about manufacturing and the exciting career opportunities available.
In February The Washington Post ran an article about U.S. manufacturing seeing a shortage of skilled workers in manufacturing, largely due to two things. First was that automation is transforming factories and altering the skills needed to operate and maintain equipment; and second, changing demographics. While baby boomers are retiring, many young people are avoiding the manufacturing sector because of a perceived volatility and stigma of factory work. The importance of manufacturing is largely unknown by the general population and for many is thought of as dumb, dirty and dying.
The reality is that in 2010 U.S. Manufacturing produced $1.7 trillion dollars worth of goods, or 11.7 percent of the gross domestic product and employed 11.5 million people in jobs that on average paid 21 percent more than the average private sector service job.
Practically speaking, we have to encourage young people to enter science fields, and then help them envision the possibilities available in manufacturing and technology. Most young people do not know that two thirds of the scientists and engineers in the U.S. are employed in manufacturing. They are also not aware that manufacturing is where the innovations are made – manufacturing contributes disproportionately to U.S. innovation. We must find ways to engage students early on – in K-12 – to define ways of identifying those young students with an aptitude for, and an interest in, manufacturing studies.
I am reminded of the very successful campaign that the National Academy of Engineering launched several years ago called “Changing the Conversation.” The committee included NAE President Chuck Vest, and Georgia Tech’s former Dean of Engineering Don Giddens, among others. The project is ongoing, and includes an online “toolkit” with key messages, community-building applications, and other resources to help inform the public about engineering. It is also successfully attracting women to the field. Today we are trying to do something similar for manufacturing – Georgia Tech and other universities are currently working with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) to initiate a similar effort in manufacturing.
At Georgia Tech, we’re working to inspire the next generation of manufacturers in a number of ways. Last fall, Tech was awarded a contract from DARPA (the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to provide manufacturing education programs to high school students and we are providing prize-based educational challenges for these high school students, encouraging them to use the latest technologies to design and build items such as wind-turbine blades, mobile air and ground robots and electric cars.
We’re using the latest technologies to attract a new generation into STEM fields, including 3-D printers and additive manufacturing. Students are able to connect from social networking sites and form teams to showcase their work. We are trying to change the perception of manufacturing from dumb, dirty and dying. We want students and others to see what we see: excitement, innovation, and the tremendous potential for the future in U.S. manufacturing.
We are working to embed elements of manufacturing in areas of study. It is not just inside our engineering college; it cuts across our entire campus. All six colleges have substantial manufacturing activities, along with work underway in the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) and the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2). Manufacturing at Georgia Tech is not limited to traditional machining or product assembly. We focus on “Big M” Manufacturing, encompassing the entire life cycle of a product from conceptualization of a new product all the way to recycling when the product reaches end of use.
Manufacturing preparation is included in our study of industrial and economic policies. Students enrolled in our Scheller College of Business, and in Industrial and Systems Engineering, are involved in advanced manufacturing research and development, and studying how supply chain and logistics engineering can enable and enhance manufacturing processes. Students have an opportunity to design, innovate, and produce real world products in our laboratories. They are offered hands-on opportunities. In the College of Sciences, students investigate and continue to discover new materials that will help to shape and allow the creation of the products of the future. Our College of Architecture has an industrial design group that investigates how various parts and components can be manufactured and assembled more effectively.
Georgia Tech has created a design studio with state-of-the-art prototype equipment including 3D printers, computer-controlled mills, lathes, injection molding machines, and laser and water jet cutters. Coordinating it are 50 volunteer undergraduate students who are members of a group called the “Georgia Tech Makers Club.” They staff it, train others and offer classes in innovation, prototyping and component design. It is funded largely by outside corporations who are wanting to hire our graduates and is a great example of a collaborative effort between a university, its students and industry. The studio is used by more than 500 students, faculty and staff each semester for projects in more than 35 classes, as well as for personal use. Most importantly, it fosters a spirit of creativity, innovation, design and multidisciplinary collaboration.
Decreasing the Time from Lab to Manufacturing Floor
Other newly created programs include the Georgia Tech Integrated Program for Startups, which combines a streamlined licensing program with organized support for faculty and student inventor-entrepreneurs, and Flashpoint, Tech’s new technology accelerator program. In January Flashpoint held its first demo day with 15 startups created by Georgia Tech faculty, staff and students in the initial group. The program is designed to lure promising technology, medical device, and biotech startups to the metro Atlanta area. The programs are supported by VentureLab, Tech’s comprehensive center for technology commercialization, and the Advanced Technology Development Center, which has helped to launch successful companies for more than 30 years. Last October Tech was named as one of 21 teams selected for the NSF’s inaugural class of the NSF Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, awards.
A big part of our culture is innovation. We are exploring innovative teaching methods and programs, including more flexibility in our curricula, opportunities for more interaction between students and with professors, and support systems to help ensure their success.
We prepare students to be innovative leaders in a number of ways. One example is our InVenture Prize competition, held each March. Teams present their inventions before a panel of judges and a live audience. The winning teams receive cash prizes and a free U.S. patent filing from the Georgia Tech Office of Technology Licensing. Last year’s finalist was MAID-Magnetic Assisted Intubation Device. The device to improve the safety and effectiveness of the intubation procedure began as a team design project in a biomedical engineering undergraduate class. This spring they swept the Georgia Tech business plan competition finals. They are working with our Manufacturing Research Center, or MaRC, to develop ways to manufacture it.
The Saint Joseph Translational Research Institute has tested their functioning prototype with considerable success. Working with students is one way we enable innovation. Another is through partnerships with business and industry. One of the historical strengths that we have in the U.S. is a track record of strong partnerships between business and industry and universities. We need to build upon that collaboration so that we can help speed ideas from the drawing board to the manufacturing floor. The challenge is to stay ahead of global competition in emerging technologies and the demand for new models of interdisciplinary research.
At Georgia Tech we are committed to partnering with business, industry and government in order to strengthen our economy. We offer a comprehensive array of economic development programs with representatives in 25 locations around the state and are a national leader among research universities in collaborative research with industry. Georgia Tech’s support in manufacturing technology spans research, education, and outreach. A central focus is provided through the Manufacturing Research Center (MaRC), an interdisciplinary research center targeting specific industry needs in manufacturing by forming collaboratories – pilot plants or prototype shops if you will – between industry, government and academia, becoming the physical embodiment of an innovation ecosystem. The College of Engineering, the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) also support research, and outreach/transition activities. EI2 includes the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership program, which provides a statewide network that supports industry, and ATDC, Georgia Tech’s business incubator.
In April, Georgia Tech was honored as one of 16 organizations to receive Boeing’s Supplier of the Year Award. The Institute was selected from a pool of more than 17,500 Boeing suppliers in more than 50 countries. Georgia Tech was honored in the category of Academia, which represents outstanding performance as a strategic university. It was for, among other things, advanced manufacturing technology in our MaRC and multidisciplinary research by professors in Mechanical Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, and the College of Computing. We got it because we provide outstanding engineers, and manufacturing technologies. The Boeing global supply chain is among the most geographically dispersed in manufacturing. The company annually purchases more than $50 billion in goods and services from approximately 28,000 suppliers that employ more than 1.2 million people around the world. This award is an inspiration to us at Tech, and I think it is an example of the type of collaboration and systems approach needed between research universities, business, industry and government to create a healthy and growing manufacturing environment in the U.S.
In closing, let me state that there can be no doubt that we need to continue to build and strengthen our innovation ecosystem, particularly for advanced manufacturing application. While some of the larger manufacturing corporations have the infrastructure and resources for this, many of the smaller ones do not. In the U.S. there are over 300,000 small and mid-sized firms that are outside our innovation system and we must find a way to reach out and support those companies and industries, because that is where the majority of the new ideas, innovation and jobs are going to come from. For advanced manufacturing to accelerate and thrive in the U.S., we must fulfill the charge to the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership announced last year and create an active partnership between communities, educators, workers, businesses and industry. It will take us all working together to be successful.