Institute for Manufacturing Leadership

There are essentially three sectors that create wealth in a nation: agriculture, mining, and manufacturing. Without a strong manufacturing sector to provide needed equipment, the other two sectors will be weakened. The only way for the U.S. manufacturing sector to survive, let alone thrive, in the global economy is by transforming its preeminence in innovation – science, engineering, and entrepreneurship – into high technology products and services.

 After losing nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs and closing down over 120,000 manufacturing facilities during the past decade, the U.S. manufacturing sector is on the rebound with a different character. U.S. manufacturing still accounts for nearly 11 percent of the nation’s GDP, 9 percent of U.S. employment, 90 percent of all U.S. patents, and over half of U.S. exports. Low-skill jobs that migrated overseas are unlikely to return. The U.S. comparative advantage will have to be in high technology products, high-skill labor, and high productivity. We need to establish a robust manufacturing base that can withstand the uncertainties in currency rates, wages, and transportation costs. It requires a multi-prong approach that promotes innovation to create new industries by investing in translational research, promoting entrepreneurship, and providing access to early capital. It also requires enhancing the competitiveness of existing industries by providing access to markets, creating a pipeline of skilled workers at all levels, providing tax incentives, embracing smart regulations, and combating unfair trade practices.

We have established a “think-and-do tank” called the University of Michigan Institute for Manufacturing Leadership (IML). Drawing on knowledge and expertise from various disciplines across the campus, the primary mission of the IML is to enhance U.S. manufacturing competitiveness through the advancement of policy, education, technology, and business innovation.  No existing think tank in the U.S. is focused exclusively on advanced manufacturing, and few have the depth of knowledge and expertise required to address the broad and complex range of issues outlined in the pyramid chart to the right.

Located in the heart of the Industrial Midwest, which accounted for over $500 billion in the U.S. manufacturing output in 2012, the University of Michigan has the intellectual breadth to address various inter-related issues such as technology opportunities and barriers, market failures, taxes, trade, access to capital, access to markets, intellectual property protection, federal loan guarantees, early adoption by the government, and the associated host of regulations.

The Institute focuses on Policy, Education, and Outreach to promote advanced manufacturing in the U.S. IML engages leaders from business, government, academia, and non-profit organizations to develop holistic strategies and policies to close gaps in our education, research, and innovation pipelines.

IML serves as a national resource for the U.S. manufacturing sector by providing timely and effective recommendations on government policy, resource allocation, industry needs, and best practices in technological and business innovation, and by serving as a neutral ground for leaders in government, business, and non-profit to identify partnerships to regain global leadership in high tech products and processes.

The Institute’s Faculty Council includes experts across the campus in public policy, engineering, business, economics, social research, public health, energy, and sustainability. The Institute hosts experts from industry, civil society, and academia to develop holistic policy papers and recommendations.

Some of the ongoing activities include:

  • Launched a “Public-Private Stakeholders Symposium on Technology, Growth Opportunities, and Policy” in Washington, DC for policy makers, corporate executives, and decision-makers in federal government. The first symposium addressed “Shale Gas: A Game Changer for American Manufacturing” in March 2014.

    Leveraging its intellectual breadth, and assuming a leadership role as a neutral arbiter, IML serves an important national purpose of convening various stakeholders to address topics of national priority.

  • Enhance Competitiveness of Small and Medium sized manufacturers (SMMs) by democratizing the use of digital design and manufacturing tools. We have launched a Masters-level certificate program in Modeling and Simulation at the University of Michigan to engage graduate students with local SMMs through hands-on projects.

    A vast majority (over 85%) of the nation’s 300,000 small and medium sized manufacturers (SMMs) do not use proven digital design and manufacturing tools due to cost and expertise barriers. SMMs constitute over 95% of U.S. manufacturing enterprises and account for about 50% of manufacturing employment.

    By leveraging the computational resources at the University of Michigan, we plan to offer various otherwise-expensive software tools on a cloud-platform to lower cost barriers. Leveraging expertise of faculty and graduate students, SMMs would learn to use sophisticated tools to develop and test their products in the cloud, fine tuning their product design and process tooling in a matter of days not months.

Final Report

Final Report cover

The report, "Shale Gas: A Game-Changer for U.S. Manufacturing", summarizes and expands on the U-M-sponsored daylong conference of the same name held this spring in Washington, D.C. In addition to U-M faculty members, representatives from industry, environmental organizations and government agencies participated. Read more…

The shale gas boom of recent years, and the accompanying global shift in the energy landscape, presents the U.S. with an opportunity to create jobs and foster economic growth. The U.S. needs a strategic plan and a suite of economically, socially, and environmentally viable policies to responsibly leverage the new abundance of low-cost natural gas, both as fuel and as feedstock for the chemical industry. The University of Michigan’s public-private stakeholders symposium, Implications of Shale Gas on U.S. Manufacturing Competitiveness, brought together top decision-makers from the private and public sector to develop a set of policy options aimed at strengthening U.S. manufacturing through sustainable shale gas use. Read more….

Press Release

Check out the Symposium press release.