|The Collective Challenge: Optimizing the
M. Amidon (Rogers), senior Engineering Manager, U.S. Sponsored Research. Originally
published in Managing
the Knowledge Assets into the 21st Century: Focus on Research
Consortia by the Technology Strategy Group and Digital Equipment
Corporation, April 1987.
purpose of this Roundtable is anything but modest - a whole new
conceptualization of the technology transfer process and its impact on the
competitiveness of this nation. The
April 20, 1987, issue of Business Week featured a special report on “Can
America Compete?” Several
points are only too familiar:
remains that the U.S. is still a creative hothouse.
Its laboratories churn out important advances and whole new
technologies, from biotechnology and fiber optics to superconductivity.
And foreign students flock to U.S. universities, where they now
account for 20% of al students and a staggering 55% of those studying
engineering. So the failure
is not American technology - it is American manufacturing.
U.S. industry has big trouble when it comes to transforming ideas
into products that can be sold on world markets.”1
article describes how the Japanese have created a “manufacturing
infrastructure that can respond with blazing speed to market demands and
changing opportunities.” It
also provides a mixed review of America’s R&D performance and
references some fine-tuning needed to fuel our “industrial engine.”
was only in March that the Wall Street Journal revealed the swiftness with
which the Japanese are prepared to capitalize on a technological
“Four days after
the Houston bombshell, Japan’s Science and Technology Agency announced
its intent to form a research consortium of Japanese companies,
universities, and government labs. A
week later the consortium was in a place, including such industrial giants
as NEC, Toshiba Corporation, Nippon Steel Corporation, and Mitsubishi
scientists in America (and abroad for that matter) may argue about how
premature such commercialization techniques might be, the story is
illustrative of the dichotomy between the Japanese and American responses.
Although there are significant efforts underway within individual
corporations and universities, and a bill entitled the
“Superconductivity Competition Act of 1987" was filed in the Senate
on March 30th, the reaction by the U.S. is somewhat modest in
comparison to the Japanese initiative.
might suggest that this nation, indeed is in crisis and I am hard pressed
to argue the point. However,
if we look carefully at the Japanese symbol denoting “crisis” (figure
1), we note that it is made up of both the “danger” and
Figure 1 Japanese Symbol for Crisis (omitted)
other words, the Japanese view crisis situations as opportunities
to solve identified problems. This
requires a real paradigm shift for us, as Americans, to think similarly.
Our challenge today is none other than to seek that optimistic
shift in thinking.
Purpose of the Roundtable
meeting was designed to bring together a cross-section of over 80 leaders
in technological innovation to focus on how research consortia might
enhance our efforts. BusinessWeek
entitled it “Science, Inc.”3 when it described the
phenomenon of cooperative research activity such as that developed with
the Cooperative Research Act of 1984. Since that time, at least 50 consortia have been formed and
many more are on the drawing boards.
The people in this room represent many of these consortia.
This number does not include the Engineering Research Centers.
But, in the same time period, the Japanese have formed no less than
225+, according to a Dataquest report.4
the recent IEEE Briefing of the R&D Budgets for the 100th
Congress, one could hardly ignore the significant increase in research
center activity proposed by the National Science Foundation and the
Department of Defense. There
was also considerable discussion about the anticipated
“pork-barreling” effort of more resources being allocated accordingly;
all in the name of industrial competitiveness.
most consortia and research center directors have come quickly to realize,
the heart of the problem (opportunity) is the management of effective
technology transfer. It is plagued
and a lack of candid discussion of the interdependencies required across
the sectors (i.e., government, industry, and education). We need to address a range of structural issues, assess resource
support, and identify what methods and tools are most effective.
Thus, the idea for this meeting was born.
In testimony given to the House Committee on Science and Technology, Lee W. Rivers, on loan to the Office of Science and Technology Policy, stated that the time is past for studying industrial competitiveness.
do not need more studies, we do not need more finger-pointing or
fault-finding - we do need a national consensus that industrial
competitiveness is essential to the key role each can play in the
step-by-step process of regaining America’s position of leadership in
the global marketplace.”5
A new research action agenda is needed that focuses on the transfer of knowledge across disciplines, across sectors, across industries, across the profit and not-for-profit organizations. This new agenda will have to transcend our current thinking and serve as a catalyst for establishing a new vision of cooperative alliances.
that end, Dan Dimancescu and I, with the help of a small planning team,
have brought together those of you we feel have experience and are in a
position to exchange ideas on your perception of what the new R&D
enterprise might be.
goal is to re-craft a management agenda, which defines the technology
transfer process from idea generation to profitable commercialization.
· Optimized utilization of natural resources
· Redefined concept o technology transfer
· Framework for a shared vision of the real barriers to effective transfer and new approaches for capitalizing on opportunities
This Roundtable is not designed as a series of canned presentations describing the various programs underway throughout the nation. Rather, the agenda calls for representatives from each of the three sectors (i.e., government, education, and industry) to provide their observations of what needs to happen to make us more internationally competitive, and - specifically - the role that R&D consortia might play. All remarks will be taped, but only for the purpose of capturing an accurate record of the issues and strategies defined. No one will be quoted without permission, so we are hopeful that the dialogue will be open and candid.
This evening we will recognize the accomplishments of William C. Norris, Chairman Emeritus of Control Data Corporation. In the estimation of the Technology Transfer Society, Mr. Norris best exemplifies the legacy of Justin Morrill, a person who knew how to bridge alliances across the three sectors of this nation.
tomorrow’s luncheon presentation, Sheridan Tatsuno, a senior analyst
with Dataquest Corporation, will enlighten us as to the status of the
Technopolis Strategy,6 the ambitious ten-year plan to transform
Japan from a society of “imitators”
to a society of “innovators”
through the development of a “techno-state” of research cities
throughout Japan. Modeled on
our own Silicon Valley, these technopolises will feature research
universities, science centers, industrial research parks, joint R&D
consortia, venture capital foundations, office complexes, convention
centers, and residential new towns.
heart of the Roundtable program is the three panels - originally entitled
Forecasting, Assessment, and Utilization. We decided instead to label them according to the Stages of
Innovation defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce:
Invention, Translation, and
in this paper, the steps within each stage are defined to facilitate
panelist was asked to prepare about 15 minutes of catalytic remarks and
then all Roundtable participants are welcome to participate.
the afternoon, we will conclude with a work session focusing on three
major areas that require some fundamental initiatives: Policy, Practice,
and Review. The
recommendations that surface in those discussions will help establish the
framework for the National
Campaign for Competitive Technology Transfer, which will be
announced officially in June at the International Symposium of the
Technology Transfer Society.
help frame the discussion and optimize your input I will offer some models
that I have developed over the three years of managing technology transfer
activities within the External Research Program at Digital.
They are provided to guide, not limit, the dialogue.
The Technology Transfer Continuum
let me describe my vision of the technology transfer process, represented
here by a continuum. Several
functional areas, from corporate research to final market acceptance, are
identified in the model. It
is intended to b somewhat dynamic, versus linear, in that feedback loops
Figure 2 The Technology Transfer Continuum (omitted)
Whether we refer to bringing research ideas into the corporation, moving them within line engineering groups, or integrating products through the manufacturing process, the issues (and opportunities) are still the same. Digital even offers an extensive six-week training course in artificial intelligence for customer point-of-sale people. The last two days of that course are dedicated to organizing technology transfer techniques to ensure marketplace adaptation.
continuum is depicted as a color spectrum.
It is not clear exactly when the transfer takes place at each
connect point in the transfer process.
And it is difficult to assign specific steps, stages, or metrics of
success as a product or process moves through each cycle.
This is a challenge for all functional managers.
we attempt to take a historical view of this continuum, one might suggest
that during the post war period of 1945-1965, we could describe the
timeframe as the “Basic Science
Era.” This represents a
period of the founding of National Science Foundation, Federal Laboratory
initiatives and the relatively non-competitive environment referred to by
Dan Dimancescu earlier today. There
are mixed reactions to the strength of the links between education and
industry at this point, and federal links were primarily made with the
large industrial corporations and elite private institutions.
Figure 3 Technology Transfer Continuum:
Basic Science Era (1945-1965) (omitted)
next period, 1965-1985, we entitle “The Entrepreneurial Phase,” with the influx of venture capital
activity, the efforts to commercialize the Federal Laboratory’s
research, and a renewed focus on the needs of the marketplace.
In this internal competitive environment, there was more focus on
product than managerial processes. We
witnessed an explosion of academic research foundations, research parks,
RDLP’s, incubator facilities, and the emergence of technology transfer
brokerage functions. The
focus during this phase was more to the end of the continuum, and we
observe evidence of the basic research investment actually declining as a
percentage of the federal budget.
Figure 4 Technology Transfer Continuum:
this new era in which we find ourselves, and through the beginning of the
21st century, we suggest that there is a need for “Rethinking
the Alliances.” We need
to re-focus on the total process as well as product technologies.
A more careful utilization of resources (i.e., technical,
financial, and human resource) across the sectors is required in order to
ensure more profitable gain and optimal interaction.
Figure 5 Technology Transfer Continuum:
Rethinking the Alliance (1985-2005)(omitted)
is the era in which we must carefully analyze our own strategies in light
of the global economy. Our
goal is not to emulate the successes of cultures abroad, but rather to
fully comprehend their motives and techniques in order to position our own
example, according to Thomas Eager, MIT Professor, Japanese competitors
aggressively pool resources and technical knowledge early in the research
process in order to advance the state-of-the-art.
Research studies are unified and shared widely.
In a paper entitled “Technology Transfer and Cooperative Research
in Japan,”7 Eager describes how this strategy avoids
unnecessary duplication, ensures efficient and effective allocation of
industrial resources, and results in the rapid dissemination of new
research findings. There is
no such system within the United States that so effectively integrates new
knowledge into the mainstream of our economy.
The Planning Model
process of harnessing creativity toward profitable innovation is a complex
phenomenon. There are
numerous players and factors involved that both hinder and enhance the
process. Add to this scenario
that the three integral partners in the research enterprise - each with
its own vision and paradigm - and we have a seemingly impossible task to
ensure mutual cooperative activity.
Figure 6 The Planning Model (omitted)
order to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the existing research
infrastructure, there are at least three elements worthy of careful
attention: structure issues,
resource issues, and methods/tools available for technology transfer.
At the core of the assessment is the process itself.
Figure 7 The Planning Model: Technology
Transfer Elements (omitted)
panelist was provided a copy of sample questions that could be addressed
from each stage in the innovation process. The topics referenced included the roles of governing boards
and participating companies, legal/contractual issues, the mix of
staff/research resources, planning techniques, return-on-investment
metrics, the adaptation of electronic tools, and more.
The Planning Framework
at the analysis another way, a planning cube (Fig.8) can represent more
graphically the interdependencies of the sectors, and it forces, in a
three-dimensional nature, a more complete assessment of the different
roles each sector might play at any given point in the process of
first dimension defines the three perspectives to be analyzed, each
representing an integral sector that contributes tot the research
Figure 8 Technology Transfer Framework:
the government sector, we must examine both the federal and the state
initiatives designed to increase our economic development capacity.
Federal programs include the NSF, Department of Defense University
Research Initiatives (URI), and all the federal and national laboratories
now part of the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC).
On the state level, we might review statewide programs (e.g., Ben
Franklin Partnership, New York Centers of Excellence, Ohio’s Thomas
Edison Program, et. Al.)
the education sector, we should examine both public and private education
and the capacity to ensure our science and technological leadership for
the next generation. This
could include university-base research centers, cross-disciplinary
research centers, multi-university research consortia, and the myriad of
activities underway within the professional societies to strengthen the
academic infrastructure through changes in the curriculum, new faculty
development programs, and initiatives to upgrade obsolete research
Finally, as we turn to the industry sector, we need to consider the R&D capacity nationwide across corporations and across industries. This would include corporate research laboratories as well as multi-corporation consortia (e.g., Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation, Semiconductor Research Corporation and the Software Productivity Institute). Further review might include the activities and effectiveness of specific technical societies, the Industrial Research Institute, and independent research organizations.
second dimension of the cube defines the basic stages in the process of
innovation, originally defined by D, Bruce Merrifield.8 They
are Invention, Translation and Commercialization – the focus of the
Roundtable Panels. Each stage in the process has significant technology
transfer implications. Responsibilities within each sector differ at the
various stages of the process.
Figure 9: Technology Transfer Framework: Stages of Innovation (omitted)
an attempt to crystallize the different types of activities that might
occur in one stage as opposed to another, I have developed the following
Figure 10: The Innovation Process (omitted)
flow chart was prepared to guide the discussion, not as a precise
definition of the key steps. It is intended to force discussion at all
levels of the process, rather than focus on only those steps with which we
Figure 11: Technology Transfer
Framework – Elements for Analysis (omitted)
issues range from organization design to policy decisions. There are
resource needs, whether they be financial or human, required to ensure the
success of any research alliance. Finally, there are methods and tools
that can be used to embrace the process. Some are procedural, while others
can be tangible vehicles, such as electronic communications that can
ensure the production of a profitable product marketed to the customer in
a timely fashion.
Strategic Planning Model
cube provides a framework for analyzing some of the critical factors that
should be evaluated when determining the viability of our research
enterprise. In fact, if we contrast one cube as a snapshot of the research
capability today with a similar cube which represents the vision of a
desired state, we can determine the what strategies might be formulated to
ensure our future success.
Figure 12: Strategic Planning Model (omitted)
type of strategic thinking is required, not only for each university,
corporation, or government entity; it is essential that we begin to focus
upon the research capacity nationwide. More importantly, we need to ensure
that precious resources are being allocated wisely, and in the best
interest of the enterprise.
the newly released study, “Management of technology; The Hidden
Competitive Advantage”9 the authors define how the “current
intensely competitive global environment is demanding renewed emphasis on
effective technology management and a re-evaluation of traditional
describe in detail, the roots of the problem and offer a
“problem-driven” research agenda, which calls for an increased role
for the national Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and NASA
in promoting public awareness and financing cross-disciplinary research on
represents a good beginning.
If we can agree that the knowledge base of the United States is our most precious resource, then we can begin to manage it more effectively. This requires a re-thinking of how the intellectual capital of each sector – education, government and industry – should be developed and applied to the dual goals of the advancement of science and technology as well as the international competitiveness of our nation.
there are several corporations, like Digital, which are committed to
allocating more resources toward building the necessary R&D
infrastructure, cash or equipment resources are not as critical as the
technical talent required to sponsor, monitor, and transfer the research
results back to the corporation. I suspect that any academic or government
official might have similar opinions.
is my hope that, by the end of the next twenty-four hours, each person in
this room will leave with a greater understanding and appreciation for the
real challenges ahead. As Dr. Peter Bridenbaugh, Vice President for
Research at Alcoa, recently said. “…where
we invest our intellectual capital and curiosity, technology transfer is
not an issue…”10
Quantum, rather than incremental, improvements are needed to optimize out R&D enterprise. This requires some real paradigm shifts that may have to occur in each sector to ensure we are capitalizing on the relative strengths of each. It also requires a shared vision of what it means to collectively harness our own competitive advantage.
is building with recent legislation, new resource allocation strategies,
and increased attention to the technology transfer process and its role
through all stages of the process of innovation. I am particularly
encouraged that, indeed, we are beginning to view the economic condition
in which we find ourselves as a, ‘opportunity to solve the problem.’
Figure 13: Japanese Symbol for Bridge (omitted)
As this symbol reflects, this Roundtable affords us one such opportunity to make some connections – intellectually and personally – that will evolve into some creative solutions for this country to regain its competitive position in the world.
us begin by building some bridges across the sectors that protect and
leverage the technological brainpower that we treasure.
1 Port, Otis and Wilson, John W., “Making Brawn Work With
Brains,” BusinessWeek, April
20, 1987. Page 56.
2 Yoder, Stephen Kreidler, “Japan is Racing to Commercialize New
Semiconductors.” The Wall Street
Journal, March 20, 1987.
3 _____, “Now, R&D is Corporate America’s Answer to Japan,
Inc.”, BusinessWeek, June 23, 1986. Page 134.
4 Tatsuno, Sheridan, “Building a Japanese Techno-State: MITI’s
Technopolis Program Underway,” Research Newsletter No. 3, Dataquest.
5 Rivers, Lee W. “Time is Past for Studying Industrial
Management, Volume 30:1. January-February, 1987.
6 Tatsuno, Sheridan, The
Technopolis Strategy, Prentice-Hall Press, 1986.
7 Eager, Tomas W. “Technology Transfer and Cooperative Research in
Japan,” Scientific Bulletin,
ONREL 10 (3) 85.
8 Merrifield, D. Bruce, “Forces of Change Affecting High Technology
9 Herink, Richie et al., Management
of Technology: The Hidden Competitive Advantage, National Academy
10 Bridenbaugh, Peter, Remarks at the Engineering Research Council
Forum, American Society for Engineering Education, March 2, 1987.
11 Bridge Symbol. UMI & JITS.
1987 – Debra M. Amidon. All rights reserved.
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