Budget wonks here in DC have been intrigued by a provision in President Obama’s proposed FY2013 budget that appears to fence off $1 billion in funding for manufacturing innovation. This is wonderful news for manufacturing advocates. It is also a sign that the White House is serious about fixing manufacturing—and doing something beyond creating yet another “manufacturing czar.”
While the placeholder is interesting, the details of this effort have not yet been officially unveiled. However, some hints appear to be leaking out. Accoriding to a recent report in Manufacturing News, the funds will be used in a new National Manufacturing Innovation Network. This effort is modeled on Germany’s Fraunhofer system which has been hugely successful in seeding the development and growth of the powerful German manufacturing sector. (You can learn more about Fraunhofer in this excellent report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation). Think of this as a public-private partnership on steroids. The funds will also be used to help the Pentagon take steps to preserve key parts of the defense industrial base that may be hurt via projected defense budget cutbacks.
While the devil is still in the details, this effort is both exciting and promising. A formal unveiling of the proposal is reported to be coming very soon.