“The New Engineering Frontier: Manufacturing for the Grand Challenges” brought together executive thought leadership from industry, academia, and government for a conference in the Research Triangle, North Carolina. There were three related goals for the event:
- Spark spirited debate and open collaboration to explore manufacturing and engineering capabilities through the lens of the Grand Challenges for Engineering for the 21st Century. The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has identified 14 "Grand Challenges” that must be addressed in order to achieve a sustainable, economically robust, and politically stable future for our children and our children's children. Solutions for many of these challenges require advanced manufacturing. In his opening remarks, NAE President Dan Mote, Jr., said, “Prosperity and security for the future are closely tied to engineering.”
- Identify and share strengths and needs related to innovation and advanced manufacturing. Three panels—industry, academia, government—presented thought-provoking and provocative ideas. The industry panel examined the role of innovation and the United States’ position in the global marketplace. The university panel emphasized the need for stronger bridges between industry and the universities. The government panel explored ways to address the “valley of death”—the gap between early-stage innovation and deployment of real solutions and products that will drive economic growth for the country.
- Network and form ongoing partnerships. The Research Convergence Accelerator is a consortium of Duke University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina State University, RTI International, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Wake Forest University. The objective is to connect industry and government to world-class researchers and laboratories and highly-motivated students. (SAS Institute Inc. was the premier sponsor of the conference, with additional support provided by LORD Corporation, and Cray, Inc.)
What is Advanced Manufacturing?
“Advanced manufacturing is a family of activities that (a) depend on the use and coordination of information, automation, computation, software, sensing, and networking, and/or (b) make use of cutting edge materials and emerging capabilities enabled by the physical and biological sciences, for example nanotechnology, chemistry, and biology. It involves both new ways to manufacture existing products and the manufacture of new products emerging from new advanced technologies.”
Definition from President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, “Report to the President on Ensuring American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing, “June 2011, p. ii.
Overarching Themes Identified at the Summit
To succeed and grow, advanced manufacturing requires:
- Strong partnerships among industry, academia, and government.
- More post-secondary students pursuing engineering and technical fields.
- Agility, adaptability, responsiveness, and new ways of thinking and doing.
Industry, academia, and government need to:
- Be agile, adaptable, and responsive to changing conditions here and globally
- Understand that advanced manufacturing creates fewer jobs in the plant than previous kinds of manufacturing, but offers other societal benefits
- Take advantage of opportunities presented by advanced manufacturing and the democratization of technology to create the careers of tomorrow
To successfully bring products to market, innovators need:
- Funding and support for the “missing middle” or “valley of death”—the space between basic research and mass production
- Efficient practices concerning patents, intellectual property, and licensing
Industry and academia must work together to:
- Offer more internships and provide more interns
- Educate students with skills and degrees industry needs
- Produce research in support of advanced manufacturing
- Commercialize innovations
- More hands-on and mechanical experiences
- Inspiration, such as the Grand Challenges or NASA human exploration
- Opportunities to visit advanced manufacturing plants and to interact with exciting science and technology, (such as a helicopter landing at school, as one example referenced by a conference speaker)
- Encouragement from teachers, principals, and counselors to pursue engineering and technical fields
- Problem-based learning rather than subject-based learning
We need to educate the public so they understand that:
- Advanced manufacturing isn’t “dirty, dark, and dangerous” work
- Engineers create solutions and improve the human condition
- A working group task force will be formed of membership from industry, academia, and government.
- The proceedings from the conference will be distributed and will be available in print and online.
- Short interviews with industry executives and academic leaders will be posted online.
- Contact the Research Convergence Accelerator (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more, continue the conversation, share an opinion, or ask for help.
“This is a great group, having universities and industry working together. I want to thank you for investing in North Carolina.” Governor Pat McCrory
“Partnerships are critical to move manufacturing forward—the triple helix of government, industry and university partnerships.” Randy Woodson, chancellor, North Carolina State University
“I’m really glad that industry is here. What does industry need from an advanced manufacturing standpoint?” Douglas Adams, distinguished professor of civil and environmental engineering, Vanderbilt University
“It’s neat they invited us [students]. We like being here and hearing people say what’s coming because we can take advantage of that.” Ashley Johnson, UNC student
“We’re expecting universities to become more focused yourselves as opposed to coming to us for money. Universities need to think about productivity as we do.” Jim McNerney, president and CEO of The Boeing Company
“We need to prepare students to become CAOs—chief analytics officers.” Gene Gsell, senior vice president of the manufacturing business unit, SAS
“There are no low-tech jobs anymore.” Governor Jerry Engler, former three-term governor of Michigan, president of the Business Roundtable
“Every day, people make things happen that weren’t possible the day before. We need to think about things very flexibly.” Cheryl Martin, deputy director, ARPA-E
“You have to think globally from the beginning if you want to have a global impact. Engineering and social sciences have to work together.” Wayne Holden, president and CEO, RTI International
“We have not educated the public about what engineering is and how it’s important to them.” Dan Mote, president, National Academy of Engineering
“We are here together to change the country, and it’s a team effort.” Jagannathan Sankar, director NSF/ERC for RMB, North Carolina A&T State University