Abstract This article considers the evaluation of Manufacturing Technology Centers (MTCs) and the possibilities for a new experimental federalism in public administration in the light of the emergence of collaborative learning among firms. Economic volatility is leading to decentralized decision-making authority within and among firms which entails a new understanding of performance measurement and economic coordination. The decentralization of decisions compels that goals and achievement indicators be continuously revised to reflect learning through local autonomy. To achieve this end firms adopt disciplines requiring continuous exchange of information about organizational improvements. MTCs are already encouraging firms to do just this; hence assessment of the MTCs should provide a public setting for the centers to learn why they are good or bad at helping firms monitor themselves. National comparisons are proposed of similar projects at different centers and of different combinations of services provided by centers and their respective regional partners. This makes improvement of the ‘parts’ of the system (the discrete classes of service) independent of improvement of the ‘whole’ (the architecture of the centers as development agencies). The conclusion examines the resulting form of experimental federalism as the analog in governmental organization to collaborative production in firms.