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INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN ENGINEERING RESEARCH 12 2 International Cooperation in Engineering Research For reasons of industrial competitiveness and national security, there will always be a need for thoughtful judgments on whether engineering is a suitable arena for cooperative research, and each opportunity must be examined carefully to assess potential gains versus possible losses. However, programs for cooperation in engineering research are substantially less numerous than they could be and, in the committee's view, should be. The practice of engineering may be viewed as a spectrum extending from research at the one end, through development and testing, to processing, production, and operations at the other. In the abstract, engineering research activities may be considered separable from other portions of the spectrum. In practice, however, various components of the engineering spectrum are often conducted simultaneously within the group of people working on a project. Similarly, although it is often proposed that cooperative engineering work, whether between entities in the United States or between groups in the United States and abroad, should focus on areas in the âprecompetitiveâ stage, it is difficult to obtain agreement on the definition of this stage. One might propose an arbitrary time frame, for example, five years before production, but the rates of development in different technologies are neither uniform nor predictable enough to rely on such a definition. In microelectronics, for example, the time from the recognition of a good idea to the marketing of a new product has been reduced in some entrepreneurial companies to two to three years. And for the development or improvement of an engineering process the definition of âprecompetitiveâ is particularly fuzzy. Nevertheless, the committee believes that areas for international cooperation in engineering can be selected, with appropriate concern for issues of
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN ENGINEERING RESEARCH 13 market competition, national security, and self-esteem. The following guidelines would help ensure that programs on the whole will be effective and beneficial: â¢ The effort must be focused on a genuinely significant problem or product. â¢ The outcome must be beneficial to both participants. â¢ A high level of trust and mutual respect (a sense of âequalityâ) must exist between participants. â¢ The program should be as symmetrical as possible in levels of effort and in anticipated deliverables. â¢ A commitment to make the joint endeavor succeed must be made explicit by both partners. â¢ Goals, roles, gates, and dates must be established at the outset, to avoid later misunderstandings. â¢ Issues of intellectual property rights should be agreed upon in advance. â¢ Realistic assessments must be made at the outset of the time required to realize significant benefits (frequently, 5-10 years). â¢ The program must involve direct interaction between peers (engineer-to-engineer). â¢ Sufficient financial support must be provided at the âinterfaceâ to permit necessary travel, communication, and relocation. Specifically, it is suggested that efforts of three general, partly overlapping kinds should be considered: 1. Basic engineering research, characterized by its performers as non-competitive or precompetitive and focused on âenablingâ technologies, such as materials development. This would include the kind of research that typically is carried out at universities. Even if performed in firms or national laboratories, such work should face few constraints to easy cooperation. However, a clear and up- front agreement on procedures for determining intellectual property rights is very important. In this context, the committee recommends that NSF and other groups develop opportunities for expanded international cooperation in areas where there is comparable or superior technology abroad. The objective should be to maintain, in a cost-effective way, the position of the U.S. knowledge base at the leading edge. Areas for such cooperation include the following: â¢ Artificial intelligence (France, Israel, Japan, United Kingdom) â¢ Biochemical engineering (Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, United Kingdom) â¢ Civil engineering â¢ building construction technology (Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, Switzerland, USSR) â¢ tunneling technology (Japan)
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN ENGINEERING RESEARCH 14 â¢ Industrial, manufacturing, and operational systems â¢ man-machine interface (Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom) â¢ systems engineering and control (Belgium, Canada, Federal Republic of Germany, France, Japan, Korea, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom) â¢ production processes (Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan) â¢ Materials â¢ cementitious materials (Denmark and USSR) and synthesis of fine-grained solids (USSR) â¢ composite materials (Japan, United Kingdom, USSR) â¢ electronic and structural ceramics (Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, Spain, United Kingdom) â¢ optoelectronic materials (Japan, France, United Kingdom) â¢ rare earths (Japan, People's Republic of China, USSR) â¢ synthetic fibers (Federal Republic of Germany, France, Japan, United Kingdom) â¢ Mechanical engineering â¢ computational fluid dynamics (Federal Republic of Germany, France, Japan, United Kingdom) â¢ solid and structural mechanics (Denmark, Federal Republic of Germany, France, Sweden, United Kingdom) â¢ tribology (Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, United Kingdom) This and other lists in this report are intended to be illustrative rather than comprehensive. It is recognized that centers of excellence exist in many countries, and so the countries named are essentially either self-evident or, in some cases, unexpected. 2. Applied engineering research, characterized by its performers as having identifiable competitive and proprietary concerns; carried out in industry or by groups under fairly restrictive contract to industry; time-sensitive, as there may only be âwindowsâ of opportunity for such work to be feasible or useful; facing numerous contraints, including economic ones, so that cooperation is recognizably more prescribed. Given a clear definition of the partner's proprietary interests, cooperation of this type is not necessarily more difficult than cooperation in basic research. In fact, there are numerous examples of successful cooperation, especially in the private sector, one being that between the General Electric Company of the United States and SociÃ©te Nationale d'EtudÃ© et de Construction de Moteurs d'Aviation (SNECMA) of France on propulsion systems. Many possible areas for continuing and future cooperation in applied engineering research can be identified. The central question is whether the parties can cooperate on a truly quid pro quo basis, that is, with
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN ENGINEERING RESEARCH 15 demonstrably symmetrical contributions and consequences. Clearly, this is an issue only the participants can decide. Possible areas of interest are â¢ Combustion and engine technology (Austria, Federal Republic of Germany, France, Japan,) â¢ Energy conservation (Federal Republic of Germany, Israel, Japan, Sweden, United Kingdom) â¢ Electronic device development (Federal Republic of Germany, France, Japan) â¢ Engineering management (Federal Republic of Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan) â¢ Manufacturing technology (Czechoslovakia, Federal Republic of Germany, Hungary, Japan, United Kingdom) â¢ Mechanical transmissions (Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, Netherlands) â¢ Telecommunications system development (Canada, Federal Republic of Germany, France, Japan, Sweden) 3. Cooperation in areas of public good. Across the entire technology spectrum from invention to use there are possibilities for cooperation in areas such as environmental protection, and air, road, and nuclear safety. Although certain proprietary, economic, and other competitive constraints exist, they tend to be less severe or overridden by general public interest, regardless of nationality. Opportunities for cooperation in areas of public good are clear-cut and frequently are candidates for bilateral agreements between governments, especially in areas such as the following: â¢ Transportation systems â¢ auto safety (Europe, especially Sweden) â¢ high-speed rail (Federal Republic of Germany, France, Japan) â¢ traffic control and highway safety (Australia, Israel, the Netherlands, United Kingdom) â¢ Geophysical engineering â¢ earthquake engineering (China, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand) â¢ groundwater hydrology (France, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Venezuela) â¢ Noise control (Denmark, Federal Republic of Germany, France, Japan, Sweden, United Kingdom) â¢ Nuclear engineering â¢ nuclear plant design and safety (Canada, Federal Republic of Germany, France, Japan, Sweden, United Kingdom) â¢ radioactive waste disposal (Federal Republic of Germany, France, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, USSR) â¢ Risk assessment and management (Federal Republic of Germany, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom) â¢ Space exploration and astronaut safety (USSR) â¢ Trauma research and biomechanics (Sweden)
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN ENGINEERING RESEARCH 16 MECHANISMS FOR NSF TO PROMOTE COOPERATION IN AREAS OF BASIC ENGINEERING RESEARCH The committee recommends that NSF take the following actions to increase the level of international cooperation in engineering research. NSF should announce and increase its level of funding for U.S. participation in international collaborative engineering research. In particular, NSF should expand its traditional international role of providing funding to facilitate interactions between groups whose base funding is already provided (that is, interface funding). The key is development of complementary teams capable of interacting synergistically. More explicit acknowledgment by NSF directorates that funds for development and conduct of research programs can be applied to engineering research involving international collaborators would be useful. NSF should modify its proposal format(s) to ensure demonstrated awareness by U.S. researchers of engineering knowledge abroad. NSF should require in engineering proposals the inclusion of evidence of awareness of foreign engineering literature and practice and, for NSF programs funded at more than $100,000 per year or so, plans to ensure effective foreign interaction as appropriate to the conduct of the research. NSF review guidelines for engineering should include an assessment of the sensitivity of all proposals to relevant work being conducted outside the United States. NSF should work with industry to develop and fund opportunities for young and midcareer individual researchers to spend an extended period overseas. These researchers should be able to spend several weeks to a year at centers of excellence in suitable host institutions (for example, foreign national and industrial laboratories and universities). NSF should publicize in both industry and academic circles successful examples of international collaborative research in engineering and technology with an analysis of the reasons for success, and recommendations for further improvements that might be transferable. MECHANISMS FOR PROMOTING COOPERATION IN APPLIED ENGINEERING AND RESEARCH DEVELOPMENT Cooperation in applied engineering research and development takes place between various combinations of private firms and government agencies. Opportunities exist for cooperation through purely governmental cooperative efforts, such as Apollo-Soyuz, and also agreements between both government agencies and private firms, for example, the European EUREKA programs.7 ,8 Research cooperation in the private sector may employ a range of mechanisms, depending on the size of the participating firms, the nature of the problems addressed, and other considerations. Among the most significant private sector mechanisms to obtain technology are joint ventures, purchase
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN ENGINEERING RESEARCH 17 of licenses and patents, research consortia, contract research, hiring of consultants, and establishment of branch laboratories. To various degrees and at various costs, these mechanisms have all been used internationally. The availability and productivity of these mechanisms to U.S. firms may vary greatly, depending on the firm. One outcome of an early lead in the research and development of a specific technology may be an enduring geographic concentration of industrial capability in industries related to the technology. A center of research can evolveâif other conditions are rightâinto an agglomeration of economic activities downstream from research and development. The U.S. semiconductor industry developed largely around the technical excellence in the San Francisco Bay area; the electronic systems industry developed largely along Route 128 in Massachusetts in proximity to the concentration of engineering research and education in Cambridge. Such factors make it imperative that U.S. corporations, on an ongoing basis, review their foreign technical contacts and develop closer working relationships with foreign universities, research institutes, and companies that are technologically advanced in relevant fields. The committee recommends that U.S. firms involved in engineering and technology develop positive and visible strategies for connecting to engineering progress abroad. For example, âstrategic alliancesâ between industrial corporations based in different countries and having complementary technical expertise should be carefully considered.20 NSF probably will have a secondary role in facilitating the development of such connections. The executive departments of Commerce, Defense, and State can do much in this regard, however, most of all by announcing their positive encouragement of such activities, by setting guidelines for their establishment, and by identifying staff in Washington, D.C., and embassies abroad with expertise for expediting international cooperation in engineering research. Most important will be an evidently supportive attitude. NSF could, however, enhance the international aspects of existing university-industry research programs in engineering and technology. Programs such as the Engineering Research Centers and the proposed Science and Technology Centers would be increased in value if they were encouraged to regard themselves as centers for the collection of the world's knowledge in their fields of expertise, and for dissemination to industry of perspectives and analyses of important developments abroad through timely publications (briefings) and seminars. NSF should consider augmenting the mission of its research centers in this respect. Care must be taken, of course, that the added responsibilities of such centers strengthen rather than dilute their ability to pursue their basic mission. Attention to foreign technological advances could be vital to the future of many small business ventures. The problem is finding a cost-effective way of making appropriate information available in a convenient form and assimilating this information by the small business. If realistic plans can be developed, efforts such as the Small Business Innovation Research programs administered by the Department of Commerce and NSF should be expanded
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN ENGINEERING RESEARCH 18 to help small businesses achieve familiarity and involvement with critical engineering research outside the United States. UNIQUE FACILITIES AND INTERNATIONAL CENTERS Important issues arise in relation to the manner in which the United States participates in the development and use of unique facilities located abroad, and our willingness to establish such facilities here. In several fields of science and technology there are facilities abroad superior to any available in the United States. If some of these are at present underutilized, they may provide opportunities for mutually beneficial programs. Construction research facilities in Japan offer an example. Among unique facilities are the reaction walls and earthquake shake tables at the Building Research Institute and Public Works Research Institute in Tsukuba, Japan. It should be noted, however, that a characteristic of major building and construction companies in Japan, for example, Kajima, is that they have significant in-house research staffs and facilities. No comparable capability exists in most major U.S. construction companies. One way to help meet the challenge of Japan's superior governmental laboratory facilities and in-house company capabilities in construction technology would be to organize a research consortium of U.S. companies, universities, and government agencies. Such a consortium, catalyzed by NSF, could propose and fund projects to be undertaken using Japanese facilities. In this way, U.S. engineers would be able to share in and to contribute to forefront developments of new technologies in construction and building fields. If such an outreach effort is not made, U.S. companies and researchers will become increasingly dependent on Japanese experimental data, whose bases they may not understand well, and the arrival of which may be delayed in the United States. Such dependence could be complete in earthquake engineering by the end of the next decade, with evident negative impact on the ability of U.S. major construction companies to compete abroad, and eventually, even at home. CENTERS OF EXCELLENCE ABROAD For all the kinds of research cooperation proposed here, a system for identifying and evaluating centers of excellence abroad is an essential precursor to the development of valuable and symmetrical international exchanges in engineering. NSF and other agencies with technology-related missions (for example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the departments of Energy, Commerce, Defense, and Transportation) should fund studies, and organize workshops or meetings incorporating reviews, of the state of the technology in countries where engineering excellence exists, with the objective of identifying and setting priorities for future research cooperation. The agencies of the U.S. government operate or fund a broad range
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN ENGINEERING RESEARCH 19 of programs in international science and technology.19 Some 20 agencies are involved in bilateral exchanges with a total of more than 80 countries. However, many if not most cooperative programs in science and technology are oriented toward local economic development assistance. The Agency for International Development of the Department of State, for example, has been an active promoter of transferring technical skill to less developed countries to help in their economic modernization, often assisted in this endeavor by the National Research Council. Bilateral scientific and technical exchange and development programs are an important aspect of U.S. international diplomacy, often established in the wake of larger political agreements. These programs provide or could provide important opportunities in the long run for expanding markets for U.S. technology products. Such programs are also one of the best ways to build bridges between peoples. Traditionally, therefore, U.S. government policies and programs in international engineering and technology have been designed in response to requests and suggestions from other nations. Less often they have been developed from the point of view of nurturing the health of the U.S. engineering and technology enterprise. This, in a world in which technology increasingly is developed and exploited overseas, U.S. government technical agencies need to become much more active in directing resources toward international cooperation with organizations and individuals with excellence not replicated in the United States. The committee urges each federal agency with significant international needs, opportunities, or programs in engineering and technology to evaluate these from the point of view of achieving beneficial connections with centers of excellence abroad. It is not unlikely that a variety of acceptable programs can be developed that are mutually beneficial and cost-effective to the United States given the guiding principles of symmetry, quality, patience, and trust. In some cases, technology centers at the state level may be particularly effective in achieving productive associations overseas because of comparability of size and jurisdiction. For all types of organizations the identification of centers of excellence abroad is a task that must be performed by experts in each field with considerations of relevance, audiences, costs, the natural evolution of disciplines and fields, and other factors in mind. No single committee could possibly put together a catalog of such centers of excellence in technology. And even if it could, the findings would most likely lie dormant and unused unless the context of the work were carefully considered. Moreover, listings and rankings of institutional excellence are sensitive matters that could actually jeopardize the possibilities of future cooperation. In short, a simple catalog is not possible or useful. The committee does not propose a centralized function or office to identify areas of excellence in engineering and technology worldwide. Rather, organizations, in connection with their missions, should design specific mechanisms with appropriate expertise to meet this function. Nevertheless, it is recommended that such organizations as NSF, Office of Naval Research,
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION IN ENGINEERING RESEARCH 20 the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, and the Patent Office expand their activities and, especially, their outreach to inform concerned groups in the United States of relevant engineering and technologies abroad. The National Research Council has itself been playing an increasingly significant role in identifying centers of excellence abroad, as evidenced by such reports as High Technology Ceramics in Japan (1984) and Advanced Processing of Electronic Materials in the United States and Japan (1986). Establishing ad hoc groups of engineers and scientists from academia and industry to examine and report on specific technical areas of interest is an effective way of identifying areas of excellence in a timely fashion. In conclusion, it is important to emphasize that the inherent value of research projects will almost certainly provide the greatest impetus to successful international cooperation in engineering, as in other fields. It is the opportunities for the application of engineering knowledge to human needs and economic growth in the United States and worldwide that will lead to lasting and productive joint efforts.