Manufacturers Taking Innovative Risks Leads to Rewards for All

By September 12, 2017Shopfloor Policy

Innovation in manufacturing requires investment. People, research, facilities and advanced technology are all key components that contribute to the next great breakthrough in products and processes. Manufacturers from every sector have driven innovation because they have placed a high priority on investing in these areas. In fact, manufacturers account for two-thirds of all private-sector investment in research and development. This has resulted in a competitive advantage for manufacturers in the United States allowing them to grow their business here and around the world.

This investment is required because innovative products and sophisticated shop floors take a significant commitment from today’s manufacturer. Contrary to the impression of some, the manufacturing process is not simple. It’s complex and can be game-charging. For a pharmaceutical company like Pfizer, it takes hundreds of people, raw materials, manufacturing steps and quality tests to develop a single dose of a vaccine.

This investment also comes with extreme risk. The large research bets made by many high technology and pharmaceutical manufacturers may not pay off. Failure happens, but that is how we innovate. When the industry makes a commitment to invest, it has made a strategic decision so when investments do lead to a breakthrough, the benefit is realized in the form of growth in manufacturing and the jobs it supports.

At the early stages of these endeavors, the manufacturing sector sometimes participates in a strategic partnership, specifically with the public sector—it could be a federal agency, a branch of the military or even a large public research university. In some instances, it takes a partnership at the initial stages of a project to get it off the ground. These partnerships have generated numerous successes. We would not have game-changing technologies such as the semiconductor nor would the shale gas boom have been triggered if not for early-stage partnerships with the public sector.

For these job-creating breakthroughs that make manufacturers in the United States competitive here and abroad, the industry needs assurance it will not be punished for the risks it takes. We have, unfortunately, seen efforts by some elected officials to derail incentives that strive for manufacturing innovation. Previously failed proposals have been floated once again that allow the federal government to put new limits on the commercial sale and ownership of these products and processes. This creates uncertainty and risks chilling future investment. This is not good for manufacturers and all those that will benefit from public–private partnerships that deliver breakthroughs.

Manufacturers in the United States will remain the world’s leading innovators and job creators if the public–private partnership model continues unencumbered. Congress should not harm this successful model.


Robyn Boerstling

Robyn Boerstling is the Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy at the National Association of Manufacturers.

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