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Manufacturing is going local -- technology like 3D printing is enabling the maker economy, fueling local jobs, and reducing carbon



Background: Climate change is just one of many issues facing society today. Jobs are being outsourced at an accelerating rate, people are losing critical skills for making items, and cities are becoming ever-more dependent on the global economy.

Solution: Extend MIT's motto of Mens et Manus beyond the campus and into locales around the globe by building the local capacity to develop and manufacture goods. This will require the interdisciplinary skills that MIT is uniquely positioned to provide -- mainly technology support and training, innovation, and business prowess. 

Specifically, MIT should develop basic "maker spaces" (similar to existing TechShops) in cities around the U.S., and possibly globally. The Institute can seed those facilities with advanced manufacturing equipment, then train local alumni and other community residents on how to use the equipment. MIT faculty and/or volunteers can administer the training; and also provide business resources and support for the facilities' users.

What actions do you propose?

Involvement: MIT alumni can be involved as trainers, volunteers, and/or makers. They can develop "making" hubs, giving local MIT Alumni Clubs a physical space to do what MIT graduates do best: create and tinker.

MIT's role: MIT can begin by selecting a few pilot locations based on several criteria (e.g. local alumni interest, site characteristics, local needs, etc.). Then it can seek funding or donations to purchase the facility and equipment -- or it can provide old, unused equipment already owned by the Institute. Finally, it can solicit local staff to run the facility, train local workers, and seek alumni volunteers to help people build businesses.

Impact: This program will benefit several constituents:

  1. Environment / climate: by providing valuable local manufacturing capabilities, thereby reducing the need to ship goods long distances. Further, the Institute can prioritize energy-efficient and climate-friendly manufacturing technologies.
  2. Cities: by providing cities with new technologies, skills, and capabilities.
  3. Employment: this program can train people in new, valued 21st Century manufacturing skills that will help underserved people compete in today's market.
  4. Regional MIT alumni clubs: by providing a physical gathering space for local alumni clubs. This will further connect alumni with the Institute.
  5. MIT: the program will deepen MIT's reach beyond its campus and into cities across the U.S. and world. Each manufacturing space will be an MIT satellite location, bringing MIT's brand to local communities around the globe.