Wilson Center Policy Brief Series: Manufacturing Matters, Strengthening America: Inventing the Future
November 28, 2012 Leave a comment
Manufacturing plays a key role in the U.S. economy and will continue to do so. The private sector provides roughly 70 percent of total U.S. spending on research and development, and the bulk of that amount comes from manufacturing enterprises. Manufacturing generates 90 percent of U.S. patents. It also is central to the system that translates laboratory research into commercial products, thus generating jobs and creating wealth. Manufacturing also constitutes the single most important export sector of the economy and is thus critical to America’s ability to pay its way in the international economy. Finally, manufacturing generates millions of jobs, which provide pay and benefits that exceed the national average. Looking ahead, the United States needs a manufacturing strategy that can support the emergence of advanced manufacturing processes that, in conjunction with low-cost energy, can revitalize the U.S. manufacturing sector.
The U.S. innovation system has enormous strengths, including public and private support for research and development, the world’s best university system, and an entrepreneurial risk-taking culture. But those elements of the system now face several domestic and international challenges. In the United States, cuts in federal spending could reduce support for university research. The kindergarten through 12th grade (K–12) education system struggles to keep pace with the rising demands of the 21st-century workplace. Internationally, the United States now faces competition to attract or keep advanced manufacturing firms, research facilities, and top scientific talent. The United States will need to maintain support for research and development (R&D), improve its education system, and learn from best practices around the world.