Carnegie Mellon University
February 15, 2023

Amaral and Kalathil receive top prize at Babbage Industrial Innovation Policy Awards

Engineering and Public Policy PhD students Afonso Amaral and Nikhil Kalathil were awarded the top prize at the Babbage Industrial Innovation Policy Awards 2022 for their paper, "National and Sub-National Policy for Domestic Manufacturing Flexibility: A Policy Framework to Incentivize Flexibility Based on Lessons from the COVID-19 Medical Supply Response."

In this paper, Kalathil and Amaral propose a policy framework to support economic dynamism and manufacturing flexibility that makes use of the full suite of local and regional as well as national policy mechanisms. The goal of this framework is to appropriately incentivize both pre-crisis and during-crises investments in flexibility among firms of all sizes, taking advantage of the specific strengths and weaknesses of firms of different sizes. They performed a five-country case study to unpack the different policies implemented by Germany, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United States of America to help domestic firms increase or pivot their production of medical supplies and equipment during COVID-19. The authors argue that national/federal support for firms should be focused on acting as central repositories of information, and on working with large multi-businesses firms that are particularly capable of redeploying resources across locations & products. Conversely, local, regional, and state governments should seek to provide targeted aid (in the form of upgrading existing capabilities and filling missing ones by brokering partnerships with public and private entities) to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as they enter into product spaces experiencing shortages. The proposed framework is intended to provide countries with a new perspective on how to leverage the whole range of domestic firms in response to a crisis, instead of solely relying on large manufacturers. Understanding that regional and local institutional actors have a role to play in facilitating SMEs to enter new markets might allow countries to utilize their internal industry while supplying underserved markets.

Nikhil Kalathil and Afonso Amaral

Nikhil Kalathil
Kalathil is an economist and civil and environmental engineer who has been focusing on science, technology, and manufacturing policy and strategy for the past eight years, with an emphasis on regional economic development and manufacturing flexibility. He is currently a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy. His work has focused on mapping and measuring global value chains, and the rapid identification of firms as they enter into product spaces experiencing extreme shortages. Prior to starting his PhD, he worked at SRI International, developing a Global Common Operating picture of semiconductor manufacturing for the Department of Defense, and building a logic model to measure the impact of economic development grants. Over the past two years, Kalathil has conducted extensive data monitoring of, and interviews, with firms as well as regional and federal actors about their efforts to ramp up domestic PPE manufacturing in response to the COVID-19 crisis, and has also contributed to efforts about addressing the semiconductor shortages in the automotive and defense industries through more flexible, and common designs.

Afonso Amaral
Amaral is a mechanical engineer who has been focusing on industrial policy over the past 5 years. He has specialized in maturity models and implementation of critical technologies in Small and Medium Enterprises, their integration in Industry 4.0, and how these companies can shape themselves to reap the full benefits of their inherent digital transformation. He is currently a Dual Degree PhD candidate under the CMU Portugal Program, where he is enrolled in both the PhD Programs in Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and at Instituto Superior Técnico of the Universidade de Lisboa (IST-UL), as well as an affiliated researcher and board member at IN+ Center for Innovation, Technology and Policy Research. Over the past two years, Amaral has explored different economic mechanisms to monitor Supply Chain disruptions. In his most recent work with the Chief Economist team at the European Commission, Amaral published a Supply Chain Alert Notificationmonitoring system.