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News & Press: SAMPE News

SAMPE “G” News: A look at how SAMPE interacts with the US Federal Government

Tuesday, October 2, 2018  
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SAMPE “G” News:  A look at how SAMPE interacts with the US Federal Government

In early 2018, the public policy ad hoc conducted a survey of 21 SAMPE members that were executives of small, medium, and large advanced materials companies to learn more about specific issues affected their business and industry the most. The Committee identified and targeted 21 executives via email and asked the following questions:

  1. What do you consider to be the top three factors that negatively affect your business?
  2. What do you consider to be the top three factors that positively or negatively affect the advanced materials industry overall?
  3. What steps should the federal government take in terms of public policy, regulation, or funding to support and promote the advanced materials sector?

In response to the first question, a prominent theme was the difficulty of recruiting skilled labor with the necessary technical pre-requisites to fulfill a position’s demands. Economic instability was another common concern due to its effect on business cycles and budgets. Closely related to this point was a frustration with Congress to meet budget deadlines. Government regulations, in particular Department of Homeland Security export regulations, were also seen as obstructions. Especially detrimental regulations listed were export licensing differences between the United States and European competitors, the lack of indigenous industry support in China and other countries, and the disparity in waste management standards globally.

Respondents to the second question targeted three factors that affected the advanced materials industry: cost, availability, and lack of funding or government support. The rising cost of energy resources is positively correlated to a demand for the type of lightweight and strong structures that composite materials can create. Furthermore, as automation (i.e. CNC machining) moves forward, costs go down, resulting in greater availability to smaller companies and, consequently, wider adoption, and higher visibility, which in turn accelerates innovation.

As for barriers to progress in the AM industry, respondents listed recycling issues, transportation emission standards, materials costs, and lack of federal support for alternative energy solutions and energy efficiency. One respondent noted that while great progress has been made with advanced materials, advanced processes have not received the same attention and funding. A lack of investment — particularly for “high-risk” technologies — in R&D was another issue, one that a respondent noted could be offset by payment systems that reimburse stakeholders once the technology is commercially available.  

Responses to the third question were closely tied to the negative effects that hinder advanced material and processes’ progress. Many respondents believed that current federal programs do not offer adequate education or funding. Policies to increase awareness of and experience with composite materials could take the form of initiatives that resemble vocational training similar to high-school woodshop and metalworking classes. Proper funding could bolster small businesses’ contributions by enabling them to succeed by reducing financial risk. The government should also protect intellectual properties (IP) abroad while ensuring that raw material supplies remain stable; a failure to protect IP would undermine American businesses while plentiful raw materials allow the United States to function independently rather than relying on other countries’ resources.

Ultimately, the survey responses suggest that structural problems exist at individual, industry, and federal levels. Despite the increase in appropriations for fiscal year 2018, more funding is needed to educate, train, and support a workforce that can spur innovation through well-funded R&D to ensure America’s continued leadership in the advanced materials field

 


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