In order for the U.S. manufacturing sector to remain competitive it must continue to invest in advanced technology.
A new study conducted by Deloitte ToucheTohmatsu Limited’s (Deloitte Global) Global Consumer & Industrial Products industry group and the U.S. Council on Competitiveness (CoC) that was drawn from dozens of face-to-face interviews with chief technology officers, chief research leaders and nearly a dozen directors of national research facilities – highlights the strengths and future vulnerabilities of the U.S. innovation ecosystem.
“Investments in R&D can lead to advanced manufacturing capabilities,” said Craig Giffi, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP. “This, in turn, can lead to more complex and exclusive products for export – and these high-tech, often high-value, exports can then make a nation more competitive.”
Here are 10 of the most promising advanced manufacturing technologies:
- Predictive analytics
- Smart, connected products (Internet-of-Things)
- Advanced materials
- Smart factories (Internet-of-Things)
- Digital design, simulation and integration
- High performance computing
- Advanced robotics
- 3D printing and scanning
- Open-source design / direct customer input
- Augmented reality
In the U.S. alone, advanced industries support 40 million workers and account for $2.7 trillion in output, according to third-party data cited in the study from Deloitte Global and the CoC. “That’s 17% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP),” said Giffi.
Effect on Workforce
Giffi also indicated that advanced technologies directly benefit worker pay. “The average U.S. worker compensation in advanced industries has increased five times that of all industries since 1975 and is now nearly twice the average of traditional industries.”
“Advanced technologies are one of America’s brightest economic lights – playing a pivotal role in our nation’s GDP, employment and ability to produce high-value products,” said Deborah L. Wince-Smith, CEO of the U.S. Council on Competitiveness.
“American executives consistently feel that our entrenched creativity and entrepreneurial spirit have given us an edge,” said Wince-Smith. “They see especially strong potential in technologies related to the Internet-of-Things – embedded sensors and connected devices, for example. They also see potential in advanced computing, 3D printing and next-generation materials. And they feel excited about the new opportunities that come from combining these advanced technologies in a synergistic manner.”
According to the study, the U.S. is expected to retain a leadership position in research, technology and innovation thanks to the strong foundation established over the last century. “The U.S. innovation ecosystem possesses the critical attributes that put it at the forefront of cutting-edge science, technology and innovation,” said Michelle Drew Rodriguez, leader of the Deloitte Center for Manufacturing Insights.
These attributes include an educational system that fosters creative thinking, world leading universities and superior talent. They also include an excellent research infrastructure, low hurdles to entrepreneurial innovation and strong support for regional innovation groups. “America’s strengths position us to embrace the promise of advanced technologies and reinforce our advanced industries,” said Drew Rodriguez.
However, said the CoC’s Wince-Smith, the study shows America’s lead may not be secure; it faces future challenges from increasingly competitive countries such as China. “The U.S. currently spends the most of any nation in terms of R&D – with a 23% share of global R&D spend – but China is on pace to overtake America’s leadership in R&D investments by the end of the decade.”
The majority of executives interviewed for the Deloitte Global and CoC study also worry about America’s talent pool and the widening skills gap in the face of competition from state owned entities. In addition, they are concerned about foreign countries providing targeted support for their focused industries.
“The aging of the engineering and manufacturing workforce is exacerbating the skills shortage, not only in the U.S., but also globally,” said Drew Rodriguez. “Further, many of the executives interviewed for the study indicated that immigration policies – when combined with the challenge of nurturing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) capabilities among workers – is creating a global struggle to attract and retain top talent.”
One way for America to compete, according to Giffi, could be to “strengthen our collaborative mechanisms within the innovation ecosystem – capitalizing on proximities to national research and innovation clusters, as well as a strong entrepreneurial spirit.”
Giffi explained that this could mean “seamless coordination between the different entities that fuel America’s innovation engine,” specifically:
- national labs;
- venture capital;
- entrepreneurial start-ups.
“Though the U.S. remains a global advanced-technology leader, retaining our leadership depends in large part on how successfully and holistically our innovation ecosystem operates moving forward,” he concluded.