Last week, the White House announced a new partnership among industry, universities, and the federal government that's intended to grow jobs in the manufacturing sector and enhance American global competitiveness. The president of MIT and the CEO of Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW) will spearhead the initiative, and if it's successful, it could result in great news for U.S. manufacturing and the American companies that make up the sector.

Program basics
The Advanced Partnership on Manufacturing will allocate nearly $600 million more or less according to this breakdown:

  • $70 million for robotics.
  • $100 million for research, training, and infrastructure to reduce the time needed to develop new materials.
  • $120 million to develop energy and cost-saving processes and materials.
  • $300 million for national-security industries.

The program is slated to begin this summer, when federal agencies will begin working with defense companies such as Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) and Honeywell (NYSE: HON) to boost manufacturing in the national-security sector. The cynic in me never thought that adding government agencies to the mix would get things done faster than, say,not getting them involved, but overall this is a great move. It's a concerted effort to do something to increase American manufacturing.

Who else is involved?
The companies taking part run the gamut from traditional manufacturing powers such as Ford (NYSE: F) and Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT), but they also include tech companies such as Intel and Allegheny Technologies. Consumer-goods giant Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) is joining in as well, making available advanced software at no cost to small and midsized American manufacturers. The tool is highly valuable and not typically available to smaller companies.

The investor's take
But it's not all about sharing and good feelings. P&G, for one, stands to benefit directly from its involvement in the program. The company estimates that in the next few years 50% of its R&D scientists will reach retirement age. Now more than ever, it is important to strengthen ties with prestigious universities such as the six that are involved in this initiative: MIT, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, and Michigan.

Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman has gone on record expressing concern about the path students are choosing to take and how it negatively affects the manufacturing business. "The skilled technical jobs aren't emphasized enough in schools anymore," Oberhelman said, referring to the difficulty filling skilled-labor jobs at plants. "Everybody wants to be an investment banker." In a similar vein, Ford is partnering specifically with the Department of Energy's National Training and Education Resource to educate and train a new generation of manufacturers.

Bottom line
It's no secret that science and math education are on the decline in the United States. For companies whose livelihood depends on innovation, this partnership that encourages relationships with universities and shared research-and-development costs may go a long way toward improving the manufacturing outlook in America.

Fool contributor Aimee Duffy doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford and Northrop Grumman. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Procter & Gamble and Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.