MIT Launching Follow Up to Landmark Made in America Study

With the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs an ever-present political and economic issue, MIT is kicking off a global manufacturing study, Xconomy has learned. The effort apparently follows up on the school’s famous Made in America report from the late 1980s, which examined the declining state of American industrial productivity and explored ways to get things back on track. An MIT spokeswoman confirmed that Nobel Laureate Phil Sharp, a co-founder of Biogen and other biotech companies, and political scientist Suzanne Berger are co-chairing the effort.

Berger directs the MIT International Science and Technology Initiative Program, and she was one of 13 contributors and co-authors listed after the three main authors on the original 1989 Made in America study, reportedly the top-selling book in MIT history. She also authored the 2005 book How We Compete: What Companies Around the World Are Doing to Make it in Today’s Global Economy, which drew from the findings of a five-year study by the MIT Industrial Performance Center.

There aren’t yet many details to share on the new manufacturing study, according to the MIT spokeswoman, Patricia Richards, but she said more information would be available soon and that the Boston Globe would likely have some additional information in an upcoming story she said would cover manufacturing issues being looked at around MIT. It wasn’t clear from our brief conversation how big the study is or whether it is the same scale and scope of the original Made in America project. Neither Berger nor Sharp responded to attempts to reach them this afternoon.

The Made in America study was led by three heavyweights, Michael Dertouzos (now deceased), Richard Lester, director of the MIT Industrial Performance Center, and Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow, under the auspices of the MIT Commission on Industrial Productivity. The team of economists, engineers, scientists, and others conducted hundreds of interviews around the world, and studied a group of eight major industries to try and identify “what went wrong with American industrial productivity, and how can the U.S economy get back onto the path of high productivity growth?” to quote from the book jacket.

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