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IP: New Forces at Work: Industry Views Critical Technologies
From: Dave Farber <farber () cis upenn edu>
Date: Fri, 25 Dec 1998 21:37:18 -0500



FYI
The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News
Number 167: December 18, 1998

"New Forces at Work: Industry Views Critical Technologies"

Earlier this week the Office of Science and Technology Policy
released a report by the newly-named Science and Technology
Policy Institute (formerly the Critical Technologies Institute)
on critical technologies.  The 155-page report, "New Forces at
Work: Industry Views Critical Technologies," provides thoughtful
analysis of the responses of 39 senior corporate executives to
the question, "What technologies are critical to your
firm/industry?"

While many technologies were cited, the following were mentioned
most frequently: software, microelectronics and
telecommunications technologies, advanced manufacturing
technologies, materials, and sensor and imaging technologies. 
Regarding software, the report states, "Leading the list was
concern over software as being both a potential enabler of
industrial development and a serious bottleneck to it.  No other
technology area came close to matching it for frequency of
citation as a crucial link in the individual firm's internal
process or means of production."  A related concern was shortages
of skilled employees.

In discussing materials, the report says the following: "Driving
the widespread interest in this area was anticipation of near-term, 
technology-driven developments down the cost curve...that
would permit the wider application of new materials -- both
structurally and functionally (as components conveying new
capabilities)."  Later, the report notes, "Ceramics and
composites (including polymers) recurred as the principal areas
of general interest."  "Presently, the costs of production and
post-production machining prohibit the wider exploitation of the
properties inherent in ceramics and many composites."

Respondents were also asked about critical technologies for the
larger society.  Here the report states, "when asked what
technologies they thought would transform industries and
economies in the future, biotechnology led the list across the
range of interviews."

The report gives considerable attention to the sometimes
controversial issue of the appropriate role of government in R&D. 
The Executive Summary includes the following:

"Perhaps surprisingly, there was little concern about government
overstepping its traditional bounds and meddling in business
concerns.  More often, there was a desire that the government
continue to contribute in areas in which it was perceived by some
to be faltering: especially in funding higher education and basic
research.  The aspects of the current government role --
providing leadership, supporting basic and high-risk research,
and ensuring an economic, legal, and regulatory environment
conducive to innovative activity -- were widely thought to be
appropriate."  "As the government role became viewed as being
more narrowly focused on specific development areas, responses
shared less agreement that such a role was appropriate."  It is
notable the analysis found that "what firms think the government
ought to do and what the actual numbers on federal outlays
suggest it does, track each other fairly closely."   A later
chapter explores government funding in the context of type of
research, functional area of research, degree of targeting, and
cost-sharing and other arrangements.

The report, the fourth in a series, contains much useful
information and food for thought.  It can be accessed at
http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR1008/MR1008.pdf/

###############
Richard M. Jones
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi () aip org
(301) 209-3095
##END##########


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