ADVANCED MANUFACTURING AS A PRESIDENTIAL PRIORITY
The PCAST report, Dr. Kota continued, had been shaped by the President’s request to explore and identify opportunities and challenges in advanced manufacturing. He said that the report distinguished two common aspects of advanced manufacturing: the use of new abilities to create new industries, and the use of new abilities to strengthen existing industries. He emphasized that while these two aspects are not truly different, but tend to merge in response to innovative ideas, they provide a convenient framework to discuss technologies that are truly new from those that develop incrementally through the application of new techniques.
Many of the most innovative ideas, he said, including radical new technologies, were emerging from universities and federal labs, and leading to technology-based start-ups. For this process of innovation to create new industries, it usually must evolve through the stages of discovery, invention, technology development, scale-up, manufacturing, and finally commercialization.
A serious challenge faced by start-ups as they attempt to prove and scale up their technologies is to raise the financing they need to reach the marketplace. This is the familiar “valley of death,” or investment gap, that must be traversed if a promising idea is to become practical and profitable. This journey can be speeded by early adoption by federal agencies or by partnerships with larger firms, but few other resources are available to even the most promising small firms.
The second aspect of advanced manufacturing, technology that sustains business growth that is more incremental in nature, is the more common use of R&D and the process that actually leads to most new products and practical solutions. Dr. Kota cited four “essential elements to grow and sustain existing industries.” These include technology innovation, which may include both incremental and radical innovation; business innovation, which may influence adjacent markets and adjacent products; tools and resources, which include a skilled workforce at all levels and tools to improve quality, flexibility, and efficiency; and low structural non-production costs, such as taxes and regulations.
AN EROSION OF THE INDUSTRIAL COMMONS
Dr. Kota returned to the concept of innovation. A recent National Academies report, he said, has suggested that innovators are defined by three achievements: they are the first to acquire new knowledge, the first to apply it through world-class engineering, and the first to introduce it to a commercial or