PCAST Manufactures Another Report; Actually Timed to Policy Action

In late June the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report on advanced manufacturing.  It marks the eighth report from the PCAST of this administration (I’ll post on the ninth report tomorrow), an average of one per quarter since it was first formed in summer of 2009.

The report release was accompanied by the announcement that the President has formed the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP).  Such a partnership was inspired by a major recommendation of the report.  From the formal announcement:

The AMP will be led by Andrew Liveris, Chairman, President, and CEO of Dow Chemical, and Susan Hockfield, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Working closely White House’s National Economic Council, Office of Science and Technology Policy and the PCAST, AMP will bring together a broad cross-section of major U.S. manufacturers and top U.S. engineering universities.  The universities initially involved in the AMP will be the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford University, University of California-Berkeley, and University of Michigan.  The manufacturers initially involved in the AMP will be Allegheny Technologies, Caterpillar, Corning, Dow Chemical, Ford, Honeywell, Intel, Johnson and Johnson, Northrop Grumman, Procter and Gamble, and Stryker.

The release from the White House goes on to outline various projects that the AMP institutions, along with a few federal agencies, will work on over the next several months.  Some of the efforts are sector specific (robotics, defense), but the majority are focused on improvements applicable to all of advanced manufacturing: materials, processes, energy efficient manufacturing, design.

The report seeks to distinguish between industrial policy (which it implies is ineffective by claiming it just picks winners and losers) and innovation policy.  I consider this primarily a rhetorical/political strategy and not a primary policy emphasis – at least in terms of a single report.  It’s other recommendations aren’t particularly new or noteworthy, unless its still novel to hear a science advisory body encouraging a more ‘business-friendly’ tax policy or more support for the scientific research and training workforce.  The current necrotic budget climate suggests that only the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership is likely to emerge from this report.