Advanced Manufacturing Business Accelerator

The New North (18 counties in northeast Wisconsin, USA) are perceived by some people and organizations in the region as needing big changes to keep manufacturing strong in the region and to improve the economy of this area.

One of the ideas currently being discussed is a business accelerator for advanced manufacturing and manufacturing technologies.

The main challenge at this time is to define the 'pain point', or the overwhelming market need with respect to medium and long term manufacturing sector success and its contribution to an improved regional economy.

Once that pain point has been clarified and agreed on by a core team of people interested in working on this idea, tactical action steps can be developed and worked on.

Several possible pain point definitions are:
  1. The New North does not have a strong manufacturing sector innovation ecosystem.
  2. Struggling small and medium manufacturing businesses in the Fox Valley do not know what innovation or business assistance resources are available to them outside their company.
  3. Wisconsin does not have widely recognized manufacturing automation resource group.
  4. "...insert your preferred 'market need' statement here..."
If it is decided that the business accelerator goals can best be accomplished by making area manufacturing companies more aware of effective business resources outside their company, that should be a very manageable goal. There are online engineering resources, such as Global Spec. Established services such as the FVTC Venture Center, the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs' Network (WEN), Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) are available for consultation and to point businesses at outside resources.

Outside assistance or connections are also available through existing organizations like the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP), Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), and Forward Wisconsin, or, for a specific industry, the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI), Wisconsin Paper Council, etc ad nauseum.

None of the above organizations has a specific objective to increase the innovation ecosystem of the New North. None of these has what Amy P recently described in sports terms as a feeder system of innovation.

My interpretation of the pain point for the New North is the first definition listed above. There are many better defined and less ambitious approaches to improving the prospects for the manufacturing sector in this region, but my personal opinion is that the New North will continue to lose ground until a holistic approach is developed and implemented. Helping Company A solve Problem X or connecting Company B with Consultant Y for developing Innovative Product Z does not significantly improve the collaborative, innovative and entrepreneurial culture of the overall manufacturing sector in the area. Those actions do little to make the young people of northeast Wisconsin think that manufacturing is a good industry in which to work or start a local company.

The most effective approach to the challenging economic future for the New North, both in manufacturing and in other sectors, is to build a long term collaborative program which gives us a strong innovation ecosystem in the manufacturing sector. The focus is limited to the manufacturing sector for two reasons:
  1. The manufacturing sector is a strength of the New North, so we are building on an area of strength rather than trying to develop something totally new.
  2. By not including health care, financial systems, agriculture or other sectors in the initial innovation program, it is easier to get people and organizations to support the program, and it is easier to achieve meaningful deliverables or objectives. Once an effective and proven innovation ecosystem is established in manufacturing, it will be easy to expand that to other sectors.
It would be easy to get everyone interested in improving the New North economy to agree we should have a strong innovation ecosystem for the manufacturing sector. The challenges in this are to:
  1. Get agreement on an effective action plan to reach that goal.
  2. Develop a collaboration of people and organizations to support the action plan, including private companies in the region, investors, New North wealthy individuals, key companies outside the New North and education organizations.
To make significant progress on the concept of an Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Business Accelerator, my recommended next steps are:
  1. Define the pain point, or overwhelming market need.
  2. Establish a core team of eight people passionate about the need for a strong innovation ecosystem in the New North manufacturing sector who have the appropriate skills and time available to develop and launch this initiative.
  3. Develop the action plan for this initiative, including dates and responsibilities for each action item.
  4. Develop the needed collaboration of people and organizations to support, financially and otherwise, this initiative.
  5. Implement the action plan.
If you're interested in working on this initiative, supporting it or suggesting alternatives, contact me (bwaldron [att] gmail {DOTT} com) or Mike Cattelino at Fox Valley Technical College.



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