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Hope for Manufacturing Innovation? Obama Announces New Hub in North Carolina

President Obama appeared in Raleigh today to announce a new public-private innovation effort.

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President Obama announced today the creation of a manufacturing and innovation institute in Raleigh, North Carolina that will be led by North Carolina State University. Along with six other universities and 18 private companies, NC State will run the Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute, as it's called, to improve the design of wide bandgap semiconductors.

The new innovation hub is part of a larger effort by the Obama administration to create a national network of manufacturing innovation sites. Obama initially proposed to create 15 such sites during his 2013 State of the Union Address, and the first was established in Youngstown, Ohio last year.

But the big question is: Will it work? 

The location of the new institute is no accident. North Carolina State University has one of the largest undergrad engineering programs in the country. At the same time -- at 8 percent -- North Carolina's unemployment rate is higher than the national average. 

While the speech was quite long, here's the highlights as to why the President is continuing to push his manufaturing agenda: 

1. We need to beef up the numbers. "For decades we'd been losing manufacturing jobs. But now our manufacturers have added over the last four years more than 550,000 new jobs, including almost 80,000 manufacturing jobs in the last five months alone," Obama said.

2. International precedent. The countries we're competing with have already done this. Germany, for example, currently has 60 innovation hubs, according to Obama. 

3. Domestic precedent. Traditionally the American economy has thrived on innovation. "We have always been about research, innovation, and then commercializing that research and innovation so that everybody can benefit," Obama said. "And we create good jobs, and middle-class families then are able to buy the products that result from this innovation." 

But back to the big question: will Obama's proposal work as planned?

Well, if you're looking to the past for answers, the push for a 3D printing mecca in Youngstown hasn't produced the wild innovations imagined.

 

 

Last updated: Jan 15, 2014

LAURA MONTINI is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.
@lmmontini




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