There has been no other time in recent memory when the spotlight on materials and advanced manufacturing has shown as brightly as it is today. To make the major advances that this moment offers, it’s time for an “all hands on deck” approach that includes a range of industry, academic, and government representatives working together to achieve common goals. As organizing bodies with the ability to bring together these types of individuals and organizations, professional societies must provide strong leadership for these efforts.
The opportunities in the advanced materials and manufacturing space have a higher profile now thanks to a number of efforts, many of which Nexight has highlighted in past blog posts, such as the U.S. Department of Energy-led Critical Materials Institute, the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI), the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the NIST Advanced Manufacturing Technology (AMTech) Program, among others. While these initiatives will provide direction, supply funding, and drive action, professional societies have the diverse memberships, well-established relationships, and convening power needed to accelerate this progress.
To date, a number of societies have made valuable contributions to advanced materials and manufacturing, including these initiatives:
- The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS), through its Materials Innovation initiative, has been a strong advocate for the MGI, including efforts such as the 2012 Materials/Manufacturing Leaders Summit that resulted in the Orlando Materials Innovation Principles and more recently in an ICME implementation study.
- ASM International has focused its efforts on the digital data needs of the MGI through its Computational Materials Data Network and is partnering with NIST on the Structural Materials Data Demonstration Project.
- ASME has developed a focus on Advanced Manufacturing, and is highlighting this area at an Advanced Manufacturing Impact Forum at its upcoming annual meeting.
- The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) has taken a strong role in many aspects of additive manufacturing and 3-D printing, especially through their involvement in the America Makes: National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute.
But in order to truly accelerate progress, professional societies need to go even further. Using their unique abilities to tap into diverse expertise and convene industry, academia, and government, professional societies should consider taking on the following actions:
- Lead advocacy and education directed to government officials and the public – As neutral organizations representing their broad memberships, professional societies can play a powerful role in providing unbiased perspectives to government as well as impactful public awareness. This is being done very effectively in other fields (think chemistry and architecture), so why not in materials and manufacturing?
- Become involved directly and early in defining, developing, and executing government-funded projects – Along with the many funding opportunities in the materials/manufacturing area comes the need to effectively plan and execute projects. Professional societies represent the perspectives of their diverse members and have the capabilities to contribute to project plans that achieve desired outcomes; their involvement in the formative stages of a project plan is critical to creating stronger proposals and ensuring adequate resources are available for the duration of a project.
- Facilitate the building of consortia and public-private partnerships – Being at the nexus of industry, academia, and government provides professional societies with a strong basis for catalyzing effective partnerships. Coupled with the ability to effectively engage the community and communicate through diverse channels, professional societies can bridge the gap between the public and private sectors that other organizations simply cannot.
As a past society executive director as well as a volunteer board member, I realize that there are constraints on resources and concerns about stepping outside of the society’s traditional roles and boundaries. But the urgency of the need and potential impact that can be realized call professional societies to move beyond these constraints. In order for the United States to continue to push the boundaries of advanced materials and manufacturing and to solidify its competitive edge, we need the leadership and unique ability to both tap into and convene diverse expertise that professional societies provide.
So let’s make it happen. At Nexight Group, we have experience and specialized methods developed specifically to partner with professional societies to define and achieve their objectives, as we have done on the initiatives described above. We are working closely with several leading societies to address manufacturing and materials advances and stand ready to expand our partnerships.
Now is the time to act in order to move advanced manufacturing forward, so the question remains: who will step up?