WASHINGTON - (August 12, 2014) In response to the introduction of the Manufacturing Universities Act of 2014 by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), releases the following statement:
"ITIF praises Senators Coons and Graham for introducing this important piece of legislation which will help transform university-industry relations, improve American innovation capacity and ultimately spur significant job and economic growth. A national system of manufacturing universities will incentivize institutions to focus more on the advanced manufacturing research and applications that are increasingly needed in the 'New Economy.' It will also produce graduates that are better equipped with the knowledge and skills needed for careers in emerging, innovation-based industries.
Designated universities would revamp their engineering programs with a focus on manufacturing engineering and curricula designed specifically for targeted industries. This would include: joint industry-university research projects; training of students that incorporates manufacturing experiences through co-ops or internships; and a focus on turning out more Ph.D. engineering grads who work in industry.
As ITIF noted in Cut to Invest: Support the Designation of 20 U.S. Manufacturing Universities, this initiative would address several systemic challenges that plague America's manufacturing economy. For example, university engineering education has shifted away from a focus on real-world problem solving toward more abstract engineering science, putting the educational focus on producing pure knowledge instead of applied research that is useful to industry. In addition, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers contends that the number of unfilled manufacturing jobs-due to manufacturing employers being unable to find individuals with the skills they require-could increase to 3 million by 2015.
This legislation could create a paradigm shift in the way universities interact with industry, instilling a more symbiotic relationship that can produce the new technologies and employees that are necessary to succeed in the increasingly competitive and high tech manufacturing marketplace."
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is a non-profit, non-partisan think tank whose mission is to formulate and promote public policies to advance technological innovation and productivity internationally, in Washington, and in the states. Recognizing the vital role of technology in ensuring prosperity, ITIF focuses on innovation, productivity, and digital economy issues. Learn more at www.itif.org.