Made in Pennsylvania

Seven university presidents explain how they are cooperating to revitalize manufacturing in the Keystone State

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This article was submitted on behalf of Rodney A. Erickson, president of Penn State University; John A. Fry, president of Drexel University; Alice P. Gast, president of Lehigh University; Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania; Mark A. Nordenberg, chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh; Subra Suresh, president of Carnegie Mellon University; and Neil D. Theobald, president of Temple University.

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As leaders of Pennsylvania research universities, we represent institutions that are large and small, private and public, urban and rural, Ivy and land-grant. Yet, despite our many differences, we are united in serving the public. We're grateful for the support taxpayers have shown our institutions during challenging economic times, and we're committed to working for our common future.

To that end, we are pursuing an unprecedented collaboration: seven universities with a single vision for reinvigorating our manufacturing industry through science, engineering and innovation. Our goal is to support entrepreneurial efforts that will make Pennsylvania a manufacturing powerhouse and, in doing so, create high-wage jobs.

Our nation is outpacing the rest of the world's advanced economies with the creation of 500,000 new manufacturing jobs in the last three years, and there have been significant federal and state investments in manufacturing research. But as new technologies transform industries and jobs, there is the potential to achieve much more right here in Pennsylvania. Our state has the resources, workforce, geographic location and educational opportunities to fuel a manufacturing revolution.

Each year, our seven universities leverage funds raised for programs that contribute more than $31 billion in economic impact for the commonwealth and support more than 100,000 jobs. Much of this economic impact is based on research activities.

Building upon this track record of research productivity, we're working with the commonwealth to establish a statewide consortium for engineering and manufacturing research. This new statewide investment will strengthen the government-university-industry partnerships that advance Pennsylvania-based innovation and research in engineering. By housing such a program at our universities, we support the research necessary to grow emerging businesses and strengthen existing industries across Pennsylvania.

Already, our universities are partnering on several high-profile, national initiatives that include the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Western Pennsylvania and the University City Science Center in Philadelphia.

The manufacturing institute is one of up to 15 manufacturing institutes the Obama administration announced in March 2012 as part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. These institutes are designed to link federal and state governments, industry and higher education to invest in new manufacturing technologies, such as additive manufacturing (sometimes called 3D printing) with broad applications, creating regional innovation hubs. The Western Pennsylvania institute's research and product development will occur at corporations and universities throughout the region.

Founded in 1963, the University City Science Center is the oldest and largest urban research park in the United States. It provides both the physical space and the key resources needed to help commercialize new technologies and nurture new companies throughout Greater Philadelphia. The center's 31 nonprofit shareholders include many distinguished colleges, universities, hospitals and research institutions located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

We're also collaborating with hundreds of local and regional economic development organizations and industry partners. Additional investments in engineering research will expand innovation in manufacturing, lead to the creation of new companies and develop the base for new industrial jobs in the state.

The Deloitte-U.S. Council on Competitiveness 2013 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index identifies talent-driven innovation as the most important factor in competitiveness. Universities are a hotbed of talent. We can use it to serve Pennsylvania while better preparing our students -- some 222,000 of them -- to meet the rising needs for skilled trades, research and development, entrepreneurship and success in the workplace.

The fact is, we cannot revitalize manufacturing with old thinking, tinkering around the edges, working in silos and retooling timeworn strategies. Advancements in science and engineering are the bridge to the future and the conduit to creating high-wage manufacturing jobs. Research opens the door to the kind of innovation and collaborative thinking that will best prepare our future workforce.

We look forward to realizing the potential of our great state, so that "Made in Pennsylvania" will be a model for our nation's manufacturing renewal. We invite partners to collaborate with our institutions as we pursue the goal to increase research for manufacturing in Pennsylvania. Learn more at www.paengn.org.


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