NSPE Gateway to Industry Spring 2014
In This Issue of PEI e-News...

Manufacturing Innovation Network Sparking Interest

Steve Storts

There has been recent “buzz” within the industrial community that American innovation is slowly coming back to the forefront of domestic research and development. Among that mindset is a pilot program—the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation—which was launched in 2012 and is now beginning to attract attention from much-needed stakeholders, namely Congress and the private sector.

As originally proposed in 2011 by the Obama administration, NNMI aims to build an initial network of 15 research institutes, all focusing on developing and commercializing competitive manufacturing technologies through public-private partnerships between US industry, universities, and federal government agencies. Each institute will be tasked with a unique research concentration and will serve as a regional hub for innovative manufacturing R&D advancement. NNMI’s longer-term goal is an expansion up to 45 IMIs.

A pilot institute was established in Youngstown, Ohio, in August 2012, initially funded with $30 million from federal agencies and an additional $40 million from private resources. Utilizing the financial backing of more than $300 million from both federal and private resources, three additional IMIs located in Raleigh, North Carolina; Chicago; and Detroit recently began operations in January and February. Collectively, these organizations will:

  • Assist the United States to grow its capabilities in 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, by fostering collaboration in design, materials, and technology;
  • Focus on enabling energy-efficient, high-power electronic chips and devices by making wide band-gap semiconductor technologies more cost competitive with current silicon-based power electronics;
  • Enable interoperability across the supply chain, develop enhanced digital capabilities to design and test new products, and reduce costs in manufacturing processes across multiple industries; and
  • Develop processes that accelerate scale-up of production of lightweight alloys for use in wind turbines, air frames, medical devices, combat vehicles, and other products, leading to significant reductions in manufacturing and energy costs.

NNMI is also a vital component of the bipartisan Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013 (S. 1468), which was passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee in early April. The centers proposed in S. 1468 for the development of next-generation manufacturing R&D would be modeled on the IMI hubs already established by President Obama, using existing funds redirected from other agencies and private contributions, mostly from industry stakeholders. A companion bill to the Senate measure has been introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2996) and was referred to committee last August.

“Research and development is a critical piece of the innovation pipeline that feeds our growing manufacturing sector and creates high-quality jobs,” says Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE), one of the bill’s cosponsors. “Manufacturers invest more in R&D than any other sector, but high costs and significant risk often limit the scope and impact of their efforts. Manufacturing innovation institutes would leverage limited resources by bringing researchers and manufacturers together to spur innovation, commercialize R&D, and create good jobs.”

More recently, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation praised NNMI’s inclusion in President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal, earmarking a $1 billion appropriation. ITIF President Robert Atkinson emphasizes, “The United States is in a global race for innovation advantage and must create new conduits for improving the technological capacity and competitiveness of our manufacturing firms or risk falling further behind our international competitors.”

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers supports a similar contention. In its report 2014: Manufacturing’s New Momentum, Manufacturing Engineering Media, SME’s media division, states, “After decades of losses—of work, factories, and jobs—the US manufacturing industry has clear momentum again, no matter how moderate it might be, and how uncertain it might feel to those still feeling the sting of the Great Recession.” The report notes that technological innovation is leading a US manufacturing renaissance that has the potential to bring work back to America for years to come, and that the trend is sustainable if the nation continues to invest in developing advanced manufacturing technologies and a highly skilled workforce.

There is room for optimism, despite a faltering economic recovery. The US trade deficit narrowed to $34.3 billion in November 2013, according to the report’s findings, and although much of that narrowing was due to decreased petroleum imports, the value of exported goods also rose to $137 billion—an all-time high. Total manufacturing exports totaled $1.2 trillion for the 12-month period ending in September 2013, an increase of 38% since 2009.

Nevertheless, obstacles still remain, the report emphasizes. Finding enough skilled workers for advanced manufacturing jobs is a major concern, with shortage estimates of the skills gap ranging as high as 600,000 workers. While the depth of the skills gap is open for debate, there is little doubt that it will widen during the coming years due to an aging workforce and a lack of qualified candidates. Despite the challenges, though, the manufacturing industry is poised for continued growth, particularly in the aerospace, automotive, and energy sectors, the report forecasts.

Ian Fletcher, recognized author and commerce and trade columnist for The Huffington Post, addresses a different approach for NNMI’s mission. In a Post blog, he says, “It follows that the key question that will need to be asked, whenever NNMI considers funding some project, is whether it is being asked to fund something that the private sector should be funding on its own.” He recommends that NNMI should seek out projects that have the following characteristics:

  • They involve developing technologies where much of the benefit will “leak” to parties not compelled by patent or other regulation to help defray the cost of developing them.
  • They involve developing technologies whose payoff, though substantial, will occur beyond an approximately seven-year time horizon.

“These two key issues are a highly abstract description of the problems involved,” Fletcher adds, “and they ramify enormously and interact with other issues—giving rise, for example, to the notorious ‘valley of death’ problem in innovation . . . . But getting these issues right will be fundamental to any successful, active industrial policy.” 

Engineering Industrial Exemptions & PA Legislation

Recently, a report by the Industrial Exemption Task Force of the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying was released detailing the status of exemptions from engineering licensure laws and regulations in each licensure jurisdiction in the US.  

The NSPE policy regarding industrial exemptions, modified by the NSPE House of Delegates in 2012, is as follows: “It is the policy of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) that all engineers who are in responsible charge of the practice of engineering as defined in the NCEES Model Law and Rules in a manner that potentially impacts the public health, safety, and welfare should be required by all state statutes to be licensed professional engineers. NSPE recommends the phasing out of existing industrial exemptions in state licensing laws.” As state societies of NSPE consider whether to work together with state licensing boards on legislative initiatives to phase out industrial exemptions, this table (PDF) provides valuable information. 

The Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers is backing legislation in the General Assembly that removes the industrial exemption for engineering licensure requirements from the commonwealth’s law regulating design professionals.

The bill (H.B. 1447) amends the licensure law to remove the exemption that allows the practice of engineering work by a manufacturing, mining, communications, common carrier, research and development, or other industrial corporation or by employees of the corporation provided that the work is in connection with the products or nonengineering related services of the corporation or its affiliates. 

Read the full article in the April edition of PE magazine (log-in required).  [ return to top ]

Save the Date!

Join professional engineers from around the country for networking, continuing education, and a fantastic Fourth of July celebration in the nation's capital!                        

Conveniently located in the heart of Washington, DC, with easy access to museums, the National Mall, and all Independence Day festivities, the NSPE 2014 Annual Meeting is one you and your family won't want to miss.                        

Check out this page for details and registration information. [ return to top ]

Engineering a Stronger Profession

Since July 2012, NSPE and its members have been engaged in an open process aimed at building a Society dedicated to organizational innovation and development. The foundation of that effort has been the association management book Race for Relevance, which outlines the challenges faced by today’s associations and provides a plan for change. 

Informed by data collected through extensive surveying and the active engagement of about 100 members from 41 states involved in seven task forces, the NSPE Board of Directors has committed itself to reinvigorating an organization that has been serving professional engineers for 80 years. By following the changes outlined in Race for Relevance, NSPE will be renewing its unique and vital role in promoting and protecting the value of the licensed professional engineer. 

The NSPE Board is committed to integrating the values, strategies, objectives, and action plan outlined in its new Statement of Strategic Direction (approved January 29, 2014) into the very fabric of NSPE’s ongoing governance and operations. 

Read more:

Staying Strategic (March 2014 PE)
By Executive Director Mark Golden

Change or Be Changed (April 2014 PE)
By President Robert Green, P.E., F.NSPE

Background on NSPE’s Race for Relevance initiative.  [ return to top ]

NSPE Legislative Affairs News

NSPE Expresses Serious Concerns With the FUELS Act

On March 19, the National Society of Professional Engineers urged Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) to reconsider his bill S. 496, the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act. The FUELS Act would substantially weaken the current EPA Spill, Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule, placing the public and the farmers it seeks to protect at increased risk of devastating oil spills. NSPE understands that some members of the agricultural community have concerns with the current SPCC rule. NSPE would like to underscore two important points, though: first, the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare must be of paramount importance; and second, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that most farms would be exempt from the rule. Read the press release.

NSPE Members Visit with Members of Congress to Advocate for the Professional Engineering Community

On March 6, NSPE members and staff participated in the 2014 Society of Women Engineers Capitol Hill Day to discuss issues of importance to professional engineers, including STEM education, investment in national infrastructure, and qualifications-based selection. NSPE Treasurer Julia Harrod, P.E., F.NSPE, and NSPE Legislative and Government Affairs Committee STEM Task Force Chair Karen Moran, P.E., F.NSPE, lead the delegation and met with several champions of engineering. Visits with Representatives Donna Edwards (D-MD), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and NSPE's very own PE in Congress, David McKinley, P.E. (R-WV), were extremely productive. There is growing interest and commitment to NSPE's issues and these visits served to bring these matters to the forefront. 

For all the latest NSPE legislative activities visit the 
NSPE website [ return to top ]

NSPE Spring Webinar Series

NSPE's spring webinar series features a session on May 14 titled A Conversation on Employment and Professional Practice, hosted by Arthur Schwartz, NSPE's deputy executive director and general counsel, who will be joined by other ethics experts. 

Get a group of your colleagues together in the conference room and all of you can participate and receive credit for the low member price of $99. The webinar will be held from 12:30–1:30 p.m. EST.

Access the entire webinar schedule on the NSPE website. Don't miss out! Register online today.  [ return to top ]

Contact the 201314 PEI Executive Board Officers

For a complete list of PEI Executive Board Officers, visit the PEI website
[ return to top ]

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