policy. So, for example, with the energy policy, what is the long-term strategic vision? To the extent that governments can articulate that and send a clear signal to markets and business, that seems to be advantageous, based on our conversations with business leaders. There is an active debate about what policies enable

innovation. At its core, that’s what we mean when we talk about an advanced manufacturing ecosystem.

What progress has been made in the last few years? Germany is often cited as having a great deal of fore-

sight—first for recognizing the convergence of digital and physical systems, with the Industrie 4.0 program they launched several years ago, and second for their appren- ticeship program. It really protects and ensures a healthy

tive: If we think about automated emergency braking—the technology that enables your car to automatically apply the brakes if you are about to run into the vehicle ahead of you—it has moved very quickly. The process that the regu- latory agency of the US government, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, went through was a bit dif- ferent: They actually achieved sort of voluntary agreement among the major automakers that they would just put this in place. Through that change in process, that saved some time in terms of when the technology was actually brought to market for consumers. That’s a good thing. So govern- ments need to think about other options in the policy- setting and rulemaking process that allow them to keep pace—because these technologies are moving so quickly.

What are some new business models you think could impact the manufacturing system going forward? At our annual meeting this year, the Forum released

a report about plastics. One thing that caught people’s attention was the report’s prediction that, on the cur- rent track, oceans will contain more plastic than fish (on a by-weight basis) by 2050. So if we keep going the way we’re going, we are going to have more plastic stuff in the ocean than fish by the time our children reach adulthood. It makes you wonder, from a manufacturing perspective, can we envision plastic water bottles or plastic forks that dissolve with time—made out of a very different material that’s meant to be very rigid for a short period of time and then rapidly biodegradable? This is where the Fourth Industrial Revolution plays a very important role in thinking about new applications for new materials.

What does the Forum hope to achieve with regard to

supply of skilled tradespeople—the tool and die makers and so forth, which has helped Germany continue as a global manufacturing powerhouse.

What public policy is making the biggest difference? There are some general guidelines. Clear and consistent

policy direction is important. But government policy also has to be agile and responsive. This is where it is really be- coming challenging—for policymakers to do both of those things at once. Why would I say policy has to be agile? Go- ing back to a universe I know well—mobility and automo-


manufacturing in the next decade? We’d like to build a platform to understand the major shifts taking place in the global production system—a plat- form for business, government and civil society to actively shape that system for a better future for our children. So our goal is to bring the leaders from business, government and civil society together to shape a better future.

What special challenges does the US face in manufac- turing? Also, what special advantages might it have? The US has a shortage of skilled tradespeople. There’s

a sense it’s tough to find people with the right talent at certain levels in the production value chain. At the same time, the US is a remarkably innovative country in terms of devising new business models. That’s a very strong asset.

Fall 2016 Illustration by Eric Rossbach

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