Manufacturing: The road to economic recovery

We have become a nation of traders, regulators and middle parties. But are we still a nation of designers and makers?

In the 1950s, manufacturing contributed more than 25 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product. Today, that share has fallen to below 12 percent. China is rapidly overtaking the United States as the world’s largest manufacturing nation.

As our manufacturing sector declines, so too does our ability to overcome market failures and promote economic growth and job creation. Each dollar spent on manufacturing generates $1.37 of additional economic activity, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

This summer, President Obama launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), uniting top engineering universities, leading companies and federal science and technology agencies in an effort to enhance U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. Chancellor Birgeneau was invited to join the alliance, and I am honored to be the Berkeley Engineering representative serving on a working group that is charting AMP’s course. Berkeley and Honeywell share lead responsibility for creating AMP’s research roadmap.

By investing in research on advanced manufacturing—designing and making novel products through methods that depend on emerging technologies—we can not only strengthen our global position in manufacturing, but also generate high-paying domestic jobs and bolster national security. We see tremendous potential in a number of domains, from high-powered batteries, advanced composites and bio-manufacturing to next-generation robots, precision manufacturing and more energy-efficient manufacturing processes.

Our working group is also addressing education and workforce development policies, so that we can create a more fertile environment for innovative design and fabrication in the country.

I invite you to learn more about the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership here. In the coming months, I will be reporting back on our progress. I welcome your suggestions and comments on this issue and on the entire scope of our teaching, research and service mission.

S. Shankar Sastry
Dean and Roy W. Carlson Professor of Engineering
Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies
Email Dean Sastry