President Barack Obama has proposed a $1 billion federal investment in advanced manufacturing and a group of congressmen from Rhode Island and Connecticut would like to see even more spent on boosting the sector in southern New England.
Filling the gap between scientific research and the commercialization needed to produce new products and industries was the theme of an Aug. 7 New England Council forum at Rhode Island School of Design.
Michael F. Molnar, chief manufacturing officer of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said there is a “missing middle” in the United States’ research and development infrastructure that prevents American manufacturing from taking full advantage of the country’s exceptional academic science.
Molnar is leading a new partnership between nine federal agencies to boost American advanced manufacturing and his organization is running a program that aims to create 15 Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation, facilities with state-of-the art metrology and manufacturing equipment that companies can use to develop new technologies.
The hope is that these centers will spur regional research and manufacturing clusters; $45 million has already been authorized to set up the first pilot institute and Obama has proposed $1 billion ultimately be invested in the program.
But Reps. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and John Larson, D-Conn., have their own ideas to grow the advanced-manufacturing sectors in their states.
Cicilline supports a Make It in America Block Grant bill that would provide money for the Commerce Department to distribute to small and medium-size manufacturers to retrofit their plants, diversify, improve energy efficiency and train employees.