Offshoring Engineering: Facts, Myths, Unknowns, and Implications

Areas of Interest:


Project Type:

FACA Compliant Consensus Study, Workshop

Latest Update: September 30, 2010
The engineering enterprise is a pillar of U.S. national and homeland security, economic vitality, and innovation. But many engineering tasks can now be performed anywhere in the world. The emergence of offshoring the transfer of work from the United States to affiliated and unaffiliated entities abroad has raised concerns about the impacts of globalization. This project and resulting committee-authored report helps to answer many questions about the scope, composition, and motivation for offshoring and considers the implications for the future of U.S. engineering practice, labor markets, education, and research. The publication examines trends and impacts from a broad perspective and in six specific industries software, semiconductors, personal computer manufacturing, construction engineering and services, automobiles, and pharmaceuticals.
Primary Contact: Proctor Reid

In recent years, there has been an intense debate over the shift of engineering and other high-skill services work from the United States to developing economies, known as "offshoring." Some see offshoring as a signal that U.S. technological leadership is weakening. They warn of a long-term erosion in U.S. engineering prowess and living standards unless the trend is halted. Others claim that offshoring is the inevitable "next stage" of globalization and that the United States is well positioned to reap the benefits of more efficient global innovation networks. Recognizing that offshoring represents a significant challenge to U.S. engineers and that hard data has been difficult to come by, the NAE launched a study in 2006 aimed at examining the offshoring of engineering and its implications.

A committee of prominent industry and academic experts lead thr effort, which is supported by the National Science Foundation and the United Engineering Fund, a generous gift from NAE member Gordon Bell, and the National Academy of Engineering Fund.  A public workshop, Offshoring of Engineering: Facts, Myths, Unknowns, and Implications, in October, 2006, was the centerpiece of the committee’s study process. The meeting featured talks by industry and academic engineering leaders. Original NAE-commissioned research papers exploring offshoring in key industries were presented and discussed. The overall goal of the workshop was to bring together cutting-edge analysis of offshoring, explore a wide range of opinions and perspectives, and engage national leaders and the broad engineering profession in a discussion of the outlook for, and implications of, offshoring.  The project resulted in a committee-authored consensus report.

See background paper by Robert P. Morgan: The Impact of Offshoring on the Engineering Profession

More on This
  • [Subpage]

    Offshoring of Engineering: Committee

    Committee on the Offshoring of Engineering William J. Spencer (Chair) Chairman Emeritus SEMATECH Linda M. Abriola Dean of Engineering Tufts University Peter R. Bridenbaugh Retired Executive Vice President, Automotive Aluminum Company of America Stephen W. Drew ... Read More

  • [Event]

    October 24, 2006 08:30 AM – October 25, 2006 12:30 PM

    National Academies,

    Washington, DC

    Workshop - Offshoring of Engineering: Facts, Myths, Unknowns, and Implications

    The NAE hosted a free public workshop October 24-25, 2006 aimed at developing new data on the phenomenon of engineering offshoring and at exploring the implications for the U.S. engineering enterprise. Read More

Project Status
Final Report

The Offshoring of Engineering: Facts, Unknowns, and Potential Implications

RELEASE DATE: January 1, 2008


Offshoring has transformed U.S. engineering. In some industries, offshoring has contributed to the creation and retention of engineering jobs in the United States. In others, however, the effects ...

Open Report

Project Sponsor

National Science Foundation, The United Engineering Foundation, NAE Member Gordon Bell, NAE Fund.