Emerging Global Trends in Advanced Manufacturing

In continuing its focus on the future of manufacturing in the United States and around the world, PAGE hosted a report launch from the Institute for Defense Analyses Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) on the future of advanced manufacturing both at home and abroad.  Commissioned by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence,   Emerging Global Trends in Advanced Manufacturing identifies and outlines key developments within this sector that are likely to affect both the national and economic security of the United States well into the future.  The study placed heavy attention upon the critical, emerging trends in advanced manufacturing, how they align with the investment and growth interests of nations around the world, and what the industry is expected to look like decades down the road.

The report defines advanced manufacturing as intended to improve existing or create entirely new materials, products, and processes.  While advanced manufacturing products and processes are occurring across a broad swath of industries, STPI identifies four primary “technology areas” that are or will be significantly influenced by advanced manufacturing: semiconductors, synthetic biology, additive manufacturing, and advanced materials/integrated computational materials engineering.

As outlined in the study, the current tsunami of technological change is expected lend tremendous energy to the expansion of advanced manufacturing over the long term.  The report pinpoints five major trends in innovation that will play a major role in that growth: the “increasingly ubiquitous role of information technology” as it drives data creation; the increasing role of modeling and simulation; rapid changeability; supply chain management that is continuously transformed by globalization; and the prominence of sustainable manufacturing.

But how do we promote the development of advanced manufacturing? The above question is critical in today’s job-focused, growth-centered public discourse.  The report outlines key factors that enable this development.  Especially important for policymakers are those that affect location choice among firms.  In their presentation, the STPI researchers highlighted market size and growth, co-location or clustering, access to skilled labor, and access to natural resources.

At its conclusion, the report did make a few projections about the state of advanced manufacturing both 10 and 20 years down the road.  In ten years, advanced manufacturing is highly likely to be data intensive and largely automated.  Systems will increasingly be globally linked, thus necessitating investments in cyber and network infrastructure by firms.  It will be much more energy and resource efficient as well.  In twenty years, the study predicts that manufacturing will be atomically precise with a heavy focus on mass customization.

Despite increasing momentum, the widespread development of advanced manufacturing across the United States does face many challenges, namely investment, an able workforce, regulations, and proper IP structures.  In the event commentary, it was pointed out that that America needs to “go back to the fundamentals” in order to remain competitive.  We must understand the competition and the global best practices and seek to implement them at home, ensuring that America maintains a competitive advantage in this emerging sector.

A video of the event can be found here.

Posted by: Brian Gowen

Sources: Institute for Defense Analyses Science and Technology Policy Institute

Photo Credit: David Hawxhurst/WilsonCenter

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