When the leader of the free world walks through a door, it is usually the audience that is in a bit of awe. But today, when President Obama visited the Applied Materials campus in Austin, Tex., the tables were turned. After touring the facility and seeing the chip assembly facility and the precision with which the team there works, the president seemed genuinely impressed.
|It was incredible. [I saw] some of your “clean rooms” where you are building the equipment that makes the chips that is basically powering everything that you guys are taking pictures with right now. Smartphones, computers, iPads, laptops. And it is just remarkable to see. Every time I walk through these kinds of facilities I'm thinking, this is just magic.|
President Obama’s remarks focused on innovation, advanced manufacturing, and job creation. From STEM programs to incentives for R&D and for businesses to build new facilities here at home, the president spoke of the total formula to help ensure America’s long-term global leadership in technology and innovation. And he again pointed to Applied Materials as an example for how that formula leads to success.
|Think about how this company was built. Back in 1967, when Applied Materials was just getting off the ground, there were five employees. They worked out of this small industrial unit in California. And I suppose they had a “clean room” in there, but I don't know what it looked like. (Laughter.) But what they lacked in size, they made up with ingenuity and imagination and risk-taking. And over the years, as you grew to become a leader in high-tech manufacturing, that ingenuity never faltered. Whether you’ve been with this company for decades -- as I know some of you have -- or just for a year, you’re all focused on the future. Every day you're pushing the limits of technology a little bit further . . . That's America. We innovate. We adapt. We move forward.|
As for the policy background of the president’s trip, White House advisers this afternoon provided details on the start of competitions for three new Manufacturing Innovation Institutes -- partnerships among business, universities and community colleges, and government to develop and build manufacturing technologies and capabilities that will help U.S.-based manufacturers and workers to create good jobs. President Obama also renewed his call for Congress to take action on his proposal to create a one-time $1 billion investment to create a network of 15 manufacturing innovation institutes across the country.
During a call this afternoon, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling noted that initiatives like this will help to define wither the U.S. economy grows quickly. Advanced manufacturing, he noted, “punches above its weight” and creates new jobs and new opportunities for families and businesses alike.
90 percent of patents are from manufacturing. 70 percent of private-sector R&D. More than 50 percent of our exports. But more importantly – the impact it has on innovation.
We believe very strongly that location matters -- that the location of advanced manufacturing matters not just for jobs in the factory but for the supply network of small businesses and innovations that are created around that. When you have that type of strong partnership and strong connections between companies, universities, and small business supplier chains, you make the United States more of a magnet for job creation, more of a magnet for innovation.
Sperling also made the case for the president’s proposed National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). The President’s FY14 Budget includes a $1 billion investment at the Department of Commerce to create the NNMI, a model based on approaches that that other countries have successfully deployed. Each institute would serve as a regional hub designed to bridge the gap between basic research and product development, bringing together companies, universities and community colleges, and Federal agencies to co-invest in technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S. As Information Technology & Innovation Foundation President Rob Atkinson noted last month when the budget was released, the NNMI has significant potential.
Innovation is central to revitalizing our economy, enhancing American competitiveness and boosting job growth and quality of life. The President has proposed a series of initiatives, backed by significant government investment, which will greatly improve our national innovation infrastructure.
NNMI will serve as a hub for new technology, workforce training and enhanced collaboration between industry, government and academia, while spurring the creation of the new products, processes and industry sectors that are vital to reviving American manufacturing.
Also of note today, President Obama issued an executive order requiring that newly released government data be made freely available in open, machine-readable formats, while appropriately safeguarding privacy, confidentiality, and security. The move will make huge caches of previously inaccessible or unmanageable data easily available to entrepreneurs, researchers, and others who can use those files to generate new products and services, build businesses, and create jobs.
The saying goes that everything is bigger in Texas. Let’s hope that investments in innovation and R&D get bigger, too.