|Date:||3/1/96 Record No.: 10295|
|Contact:||Ed Beardsworth, 415-328-5670|
Technology Partnering Conference
This 1 1/2 day event sponsored by McGraw-Hill's Federal Technology Report, featured top management speakers from DOD, NASA, NIST, DOE and Congress, discussing the historical background and major new developments in the federal government's role and approach to working with industry.
The bipartisan trend that had been developing for many years to increase links between federal labs and agencies and private industry was suddenly reversed by the new Republican Congress, as a part of its drive to reduce spending. Robert Walker, head of the House Science & Technology Committee (who is retiring the end of this year) attacks what he calls "corporate welfare," but what others view as vital programs to put federal technology into the hands of industry so it can be successfully commercialized.
Congress has proposed to zero out the large and well-regarded multi-agency programs such as the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) run by NIST and the Technology Reinvestment Program (TRP) run by ARPA/DOD. The Clinton administration, however, is standing firm in its support, particularly for ATP. TRP will morph into the "Dual Use Applications Program," explicitly focused on the needs of DOD, and under the Office of Defense Research and Engineering instead of ARPA.
The terminology is shifting from "technology transfer" to "Technology Partnering" and government agencies like DOE, NASA and DOD are to focus entirely on their own specific objectives. The rationale for partnering is that these agencies need industry to commercialize the technology they've developed, so they can then purchase and use it more cost-effectively in the accomplishment of their own respective missions.
For example: DOD is the world's largest customer for "low-rate production," which says they have a strong interest in having industries that are highly capable at "agile manufacturing," which coincidentally is the trend in the competitive world economy. Thus benefits flow both ways.
One of the risks of the budget cuts is that the Labs may become viewed as "unreliable" business partners if they have to curtail or reduce their funding of CRADAs, a reputation they've been struggling with some success to overcome.
One particularly interesting presentation was by John McTague, VP of Technical Affairs at Ford Motor Co. and advisor to DOE. He pointed out the well known behavior of large organizations to become bureaucratic and process/rulemaking oriented--when they lose track of what they're supposed to be producing, or don't have competitors. (Sound familiar?) DOE is attempting to reverse this trend, especially at the Labs, but old habits are hard to change, as are all the rules and procedures that have accumulated (many thanks to Congress).
I'll be getting a copy of the conference proceedings, with all the papers and presentations. I'll make additional information available to UFTO members on request.