Two researchers from Indiana University are studying the revitalization of traditional industries in Indiana and Taiwan to better understand how they can learn from each other, although the industries and regions are vastly different.
The two IU professors, Shaowen Bardzell and Jeffrey Bardzell, have received more than $1 million from the National Science Foundation to study innovations in agriculture and technology-enabled manufacturing.
Both regions – Indiana and Taiwan – have faced the loss of manufacturing jobs in the past few decades. Taiwan, like the U.S., has lost manufacturing jobs to China, said Jeffrey Bardzell, a professor in the IU School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering.
In response to the job loss, Taiwan has shifted toward "precision manufacturing," which requires more skilled labor.
"A similar shift has occurred in the U.S.," said Shaowen Bardzell. "Rather than mass producing cheap products for sale outside of the country, Taiwan is focused more on engineering experience and computational skills — and all of the infrastructure required to make that possible."
The researchers are discovering how technology can be used to innovate traditional industries, like farming and manufacturing. The researchers want to find out if by emphasizing high-tech in those sectors, it can translate into a regional advantage of creating jobs and bolstering an economy.
The IU researchers are examining in Taiwan how former urban professionals-turned-farmers are implementing alternative farming techniques to improve the environmental impact.
But Shaowen and Jeffrey Bardzell said regions need to recognize what makes their particular area unique and use that strength to its fullest advantage.
They point to Indiana’s strength in precision manufacturing and the abundance of colleges with strong technical programs.
"You really want to focus on your homegrown strengths," Jeffrey Bardzell said. "That’s the sort of innovation that not even Silicon Valley can replicate because they don’t have the same components in place."