Episode 392: Manufacturing Matters: Production Offshoring Is Hurting U.S. Innovation Capacity

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Today’s Episode

In the show’s 25th episode, Sridhar Kota and Tom Mahoney, both of MForesight: Alliance for Manufacturing Foresight, join host Cliff Waldman to discuss their recent Wall Street Journal Op-ed, in which they argue that production offshoring by US manufacturers is depleting the US of critical innovation capacity. Sridhar and Tom respond to questions about the global context for their arguments, specifically relating to the need for US manufacturers to establish a foreign presence to sell into new and emerging markets, the value of a foreign multinational presence in the US, and complex multi-country supply chains. The interview concludes with a discussion of the authors’ policy recommendations for slowing the outflow of innovation from US shores.

Today's Guests

Sridhar Kota
Guest Sridhar Kota

Sridhar Kota is the Herrick Professor of Engineering, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. He is the founding Director of MForesight: Alliance for Manufacturing Foresight – a federally-funded national think-and-do tank focused on accelerating technological innovation to enhance U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. Between 2009 and 2012 Prof. Kota served as the Assistant Director for Advanced Manufacturing at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He played an instrumental role in conceptualizing and championing the establishment of the National Manufacturing Innovation Institutes. He also orchestrated implementation of the National Robotics Initiative and the National Digital Engineering and Manufacturing Initiative. As the founding executive director of MForesight (2015-present) he convened thought leaders from industry, academia and government at numerous workshops and roundtable discussions across the nation to identify emerging technologies and cross-cutting challenges in advanced manufacturing. Kota authored over 200 technical papers, 30 patents on bio-inspired engineering systems and soft robotics. He is the recipient of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Machine Design Award, Leonardo da Vinci Award, Outstanding Educator Award and the University of Michigan Regents’ award for Distinguished Public Service and the Distinguished University Innovator Award. He is the founder and CEO of FlexSys Inc., that developed and flight- tested the world’s first modern aircraft with shape-changing wings demonstrating significant reduction in noise and fuel consumption.

Tom Mahoney
Guest Tom Mahoney

Tom Mahoney has over 30 years of experience in the fields of industrial management, international competition, technology development and adoption, economic analysis, and entrepreneurship. His combination of economic expertise and hands-on business management skills have proven effective in providing strategic and technical advice to manufacturers and governments worldwide.

Currently, Mr. Mahoney is Associate Director of MForesight: Alliance for Manufacturing Foresight at the University of Michigan. MForesight is a manufacturing think tank, tackling technology, business, and policy issues critical to the long-term success of U.S. manufacturing. Mr. Mahoney designs and manages major studies, tapping broad national expertise. He co-authored Ensuring American Manufacturing Leadership Through Next-Generation Supply Chains, Cybersecurity for Manufacturers: Securing the Digitized and Connected Factory, Manufacturing Prosperity: A Bold Strategy for National Wealth and Security, and Reclaiming America’s Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing. 

Mr. Mahoney began his career with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ consulting arm, the National Research Council. As Executive Director of the Manufacturing Studies Board, Mr. Mahoney led teams of senior executives and academics to strengthen public policy and private management decisions in areas affecting U.S. competitiveness. The work of the MSB led directly to multiple, well-known policy initiatives including the NSF’s Engineering Research Centers, the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, Sematech, and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Mr. Mahoney’s expertise in U.S. technological competitiveness issues led to his appointment as Chief Economist and Senior Policy Advisor in New Zealand’s Ministry of Research, Science and Technology. He worked directly with New Zealand industry, universities, national laboratories, and Cabinet ministers to lead the development and implementation of a national strategy to profit from new technology development. The resulting strategy improved value capture from New Zealand’s extensive research investments and spurred the growth of technology-intensive economic sectors.

Returning from New Zealand, Mr. Mahoney became President of the WVMEP, the leading industrial consulting firm in West Virginia. WVMEP provided management and technical consulting services to over 200 manufacturers, helping them gain market share, increase sales, and raise profitability.

As an entrepreneur, Mr. Mahoney successfully co-founded and funded a technology-based startup, raising over $2 million in seed capital. He established the business infrastructure, contracted with suppliers, and created a critical path for the ultimate success of the technology.

Mr. Mahoney has done consulting work in multiple countries and has addressed audiences worldwide on science, technology, and economic development and competitiveness. His work at the MSB produced more than 15 books on manufacturing, technology, management, and policy.