Page 33

IV

PROCEEDINGS



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 33
Page 33 IV PROCEEDINGS

OCR for page 33
Page 34

OCR for page 33
Page 35 Welcome Henry McDonald Ames Research Center As director of Ames Research Center, Dr. McDonald welcomed the workshop attendants and offered a brief introduction the Center, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in December 1999. He showed an aerial view of the entire complex, which comprises roughly 2,000 acres. Dr. McDonald observed that the overall mission of Ames is to support the objectives of its parent agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). These objectives are classified under four major “enterprises”: aerospace technology, human exploration and development of space, space science, and earth science. With the exception of earth science, the work at Ames is distributed fairly evenly across the major enterprises. Its work is supported by a budget anticipated to be approximately $600 million. Ames also plays a major role is aviation operation systems, and is charged with developing somewhat more than 50 percent of the software that will be used to upgrade the national air transportation system to the so-called “free flight” mode. Other specific emphases include intelligent systems, high-performance computing, astrobiology (“in a word, the search for life”) and information technology. The human capital at Ames consists of roughly 3.5 thousand employees, of whom 1,500 are civil servants and 2,000 are resident contractors. Remarkably, of the total work force, 46 percent have advanced degrees, and nearly 60 percent of its scientists and engineers perform research. Graduate students and postdocs are resident during the summers. In short, Ames is a vibrant place to work, an important contributor to NASA's research enterprise, charged with one of the most stimulating research agendas facing mankind.

OCR for page 33
Page 36 Opening Remarks Zoe Lofgren U.S. House of Representatives Congresswoman Lofgren welcomed the conference participants, noting the great changes in Silicon Valley since her days growing up there in the 1950s. At that time, she said, there was “not much opportunity”; “the kind of innovation and success that is the hallmark of Silicon Valley simply did not exist.” She noted that the area had benefited from the special combination of leading research universities, its innovative private sector, and federal research facilities. She expressed her excitement about NASA's interest in developing a research park at Ames Research Center. In her view, it will provide a unique opportunity to develop and harness the talents of NASA, Silicon Valley firms, and the region's universities in a synergistic partnership that will benefit all parties. The NASA effort complements the University of California's plan to develop a regional education center in Silicon Valley. The University of California at Santa Cruz, she remarked, is leading the effort to build an education and research center that connects the resources and intellectual capital of the entire University of California with the specific interests and needs of Silicon Valley including NASA's research agenda at Ames Research Center. The University of California's plans include a new collaboration with San Jose State University and Foothill/ DeAnza Colleges that will specifically focus on bridging the digital divide in Silicon Valley and filling the workforce gap. In her view, this Center will also facilitate articulation and outreach activities with all the region's community colleges and create a distributed learning and research network that leverages technology and addresses the societal challenges of the Digital Age, including the changing demographics of California and the nation. Congresswoman Lofgren, who serves on the Space Subcommittee of the

OCR for page 33
Page 37 House Science Committee, said that Congress' support for science is sometimes insufficient, but that she sensed a growing understanding on both sides of the aisle of the importance of science funding. This funding can serve to educate our young people, to advance basic research, and to support efforts such as the Ames project in order to make sure there is an interface that works for the economy.

OCR for page 33
Page 38 Panel I: A Technology Vision for NASA Moderator: Edward Pehoet University of California at Berkeley and Chiron Corporation NASA'S TECHNOLOGY STRATEGY Sam Venneri NASA 1 Dr. Venneri began by describing the commercialization of technology as a major strategy for NASA, and praised the proposal to create a research park at Ames as a step in this direction. He then presented his vision of NASA's technology strategy for the future, involving “highly complex, first-of-a-kind missions which cannot be accomplished or afforded using current systems.” NASA's future mission challenges will require new systems for both space and Earth transportation. For the space shuttle, the goal for second- and third-generation vehicles is to increase safety and reliability. In the first-generation shuttle, some “3 million things” could go wrong. The chance that a problem will develop is about one in 250, which results in long intervals between missions and the need for some 20,000 people to prepare for each launch. (By contrast, a military pilot in combat has a one-in-10,000 chance of encountering a technical problem, and a commercial airliner a one-in-2 million chance.) NASA plans a third-generation shuttle that requires 50 or fewer people to process a payload and check out the system. Similarly, in designs for exploratory spacecraft the agency is moving away from the single, large platform toward vehicles that are smaller and work in con- 1 Dr. Venneri spoke via video connection from NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

OCR for page 33
Page 39 stellation with each other, such as rovers for planetary surfaces and small craft to orbit planets. These multiple, small spacecraft must be able to navigate for themselves, deal with uncertainty, and react to new conditions. This means that they must create information and knowledge from data, perform self-diagnosis and repair, and make decisions—in effect, to “think for themselves.” Electronic circuits will repair and reconfigure themselves when necessary. A rover might be able to morph into some other state on a planetary surface; if the wheels get stuck, it may switch to another propulsion scheme to crawl or climb. It must be able to “live off the land” and utilize resources from the surface of asteroids or planets. The rover might “know” how to make propellants for itself and shelters for humans. This will require new ways for humans and machines to communicate and work together. Such systems must be ultra-efficient, extremely durable, use little power onboard, generate power as needed, and move at low cost and high safety both around the earth and away from the earth. Systems must be highly distributed and comprised of interactive networks. Each system might consist of subsystems or units that can be damaged or broken apart and yet work together as constellations. In such a system, the failure of one unit does not mean the loss of the mission; failed units will be replaced or discarded. The “Mission Triangle” How does NASA plan to produce such hardy and versatile systems? Through integrating its three primary theme areas for the 21st century: biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology. Dr. Venneri described these three areas in terms of a “mission triangle,” designed in collaboration with NASA administrator Dan Goldin. The integration of the three areas highlights and employs certain cardinal qualities of each: Biotechnology brings an ability to understand and simulate unique strengths of biological systems: e.g., an organism's ability to make exact copies of itself and to hybridize with other organisms. Thus the pieces of a constellated system might replicate themselves and/or hybridize with other pieces to continue functioning. The power of nanotechnology lies in its size—or lack of size. Nanotechnology means technology at the nanometer scale (literally, a billionth of a meter, at the scale of individual atoms). Engineering at the nanometer scale will reduce launch and power requirements and permit construction of smaller, cheaper, ultra-rugged systems. Information technology (IT) creates the means for communications, data storing and retrieval, and systems intelligence, effectively “coupling” the other two systems.

OCR for page 33
Page 40 NASA's strategy—and Ames'—is to integrate the three systems to create evolvable, adaptable, self-repairing systems. This change, said Dr. Venneri, is as fundamental as moving from the vacuum tube era in the late 1940s to the transistor and semiconductor materials that have so radically transformed technology today. The Nanoscale Approach In engineering today, a typical example of a common manufacturing process is one that embeds graphic fibers in a polymer matrix to form fuel tanks and other objects. In a process at the nanoscale, this kind of process would move from the micron level upward; engineering process and failure methods are understood at that scale, and mechanistic fatigue and fracture are predicted at that scale. Instead of masking material and etching it away, as manufacturers do in conventional circuit-manufacture lithography, they would use “nanotweezers” and build up a material from atoms. Such materials actually have different physical structures and behaviors than today's materials. Over the next 15- to 20-year period, said Dr. Venneri, nanoscale abilities will be developed and integrated into biological systems and the manufacture of engineering systems, connected by the “glue” of information technology. These relationships can produce a roadmap for a new national industrial base and its radical new products. Techniques of nanotechnology (and nano-engineering) may accomplish truly revolutionary goals for NASA. They would begin with nano-structured sensors that have the ability to detect and characterize features at the quantum limit: single photons, cosmic particles, and molecules. These nanodevices and sensors would be designed to detect subtle signatures of life and to characterize deep space objects. The next stage would bring ultrarugged nanoscale materials and structures that can withstand the harsh extremes of space. These would include microstructures for planetary and small body exploration, huge apertures to characterize extra-solar planets, and huge apertures to study phenomena under extreme conditions, such as black holes. Finally, the third stage would feature a maturing of true nano-structural engineering, characterized by adaptivity and reconfigurability at the molecular level and merged software and hardware for biomimetic systems that are responsive to changes in both internal and external conditions. These advanced nano-systems would allow the development of self-repairing spacecraft, self-configuring space systems to optimize mission returns, biomimetic systems for robotic exploration, and space system lifetimes of decades to centuries for interstellar exploration. Nanobiotechnology In nanobiotechnology, the nanoscale approach is enriched by applying the capabilities of biology. Each research effort would advance nanostructural engi-

OCR for page 33
Page 41 neering to produce high strength/mass ratios. Typical efforts would be to emulate the structure of natural structures, such as spider silk, and to produce natural or artificial biomimetics. Other joint capabilities might include nanodevices and sensors that go beyond binary, silicon-era computers and into the era of quantum, DNA, or proteinbased systems that operate at different scales. They might also include parallel processing that starts to mimic how the brain processes information. Devices at the atomic level may even be able to monitor body systems at the cellular level. These devices could work in clusters and communicate with each other as they observe, for example, cellular damage and mutations. NASA is presently working with NIH on a nanotechnology to monitor signs of early ovarian cancer, which is almost impossible to detect with conventional technology. Information Technology, Nanotechnology, and Biotechnology NASA will make use of any appropriate IT systems developed by the commercial IT industry. Because many space systems have little commercial application, however, the Agency anticipates the need to develop many IT systems of its own. In particular, it plans to explore four specific areas that couple nanotechnology with biotechnology: The first is fundamental research in automated reasoning—the ability to embed intelligence in systems through software techniques (or “soft” computing). These are systems that reliably make and execute decisions that traditionally require human intervention. Constellated systems will require neural net technology, genetic algorithms, and fuzzy logic, and a substantial move away from the hard, deterministic numerical computing of today. The second area is “human-centered computing,” systems by which humans deal with machines in ways that amplify what either can do. This may be thought of as a matrix: an intelligent agency computing with humans, perhaps even in a natural language. Such a matrix would allow humans to work with all their senses, not just a Windows-type environment. The third area is intelligent data understanding. This involves autonomous techniques to transform data into information, information into knowledge, and knowledge into understanding. A growing problem for NASA is the overwhelming quantity of data that is produced by systems operation, remote sensing, and other processes. This information must be presented in ways the human brain can process; in other words, as a knowledge base. This “data fusion,” or data product development, has the goal of maximizing human interaction with knowledge.

OCR for page 33
Page 42 The fourth area is revolutionary computing that moves beyond the silicon era to provide a platform for the development of future “intelligent systems.” Next-generation computing systems may be quantum-based, biology-based, photonic, or (very likely) a hybrid of these systems. The computers of the future may be the size of the human brain and function at power levels of watts, not kilowatts—much like biological systems. The computing environment of the future might be very different from the familiar present. This environment might be three-dimensional, and it might allow people to use all their senses. It might also mean that the “person” we see and communicate with would not be human at all, but an intelligent agent manifesting in a cave vision dome environment. Geographically dispersed teams would come and go from this virtual world, where intelligent agents would interact with each other and with humans to develop complex products or knowledge. A practical exercise for this kind of computing is to develop a new idea through virtual means—to move a conceptual, detailed engineering design through manufacture, use and its entire life cycle—in one year rather than the five years required today. Every step would be designed and rehearsed in virtual space before the first piece of hardware is cut. NASA hopes within the next 20 years to be able to extend this ability to the nanoscale, mimicking and manipulating atoms and molecular biological structures at the atomic scale by virtual means. Artificial DNA and its components, for example, would be part of such a design space, starting with the fundamental building blocks of nature. Self-Healing Structures For physical structures, NASA's goals include self-healing organic binders for structural composites, ionomers that can heal cracks with ultrasonic or microwave energy, and the capability to regrow materials and repair damage in load-carrying structures. One biological model is living bone, which is able to regenerate and repair itself by adding material around stress concentrations before cracks grow too far. This might be mimicked by adding tubes of material adjacent to load-carrying fibers so that the material would be available to ooze into new cracks and repair them by hardening in place. Such techniques would be applied to aircraft and spacecraft to keep structures airtight and prevent failures. Dr. Venneri said that a typical objective in biomimetic engineering might be to emulate the efficient skeletal structure of a frigate bird, whose wings span some seven feet but whose skeleton weighs only four ounces. The secret is the use of a hollow, tubular bone structure. To use biomimetics for such “novel” structural designs, one would design hollow tubes that resembled wing bones, rather than using the traditional spars and ribs of aircraft wings. To complete a

OCR for page 33
Page 43 strong but light aircraft structure, engineers would assemble a thin skin from optimized lightweight material and design an aerodynamically efficient, thin airfoil. Dr. Venneri concluded by saying that Ames and the surrounding region is an appropriate base from which to pursue this technological vision and its three main emphases. “This synergistic coupling offers a revolution that any of these areas on their own would not begin to achieve,” he said. “We have the potential for self-assembling electronics, for artificial DNA, for a third-generation launch system that is truly a thinking vehicle. With a distributed nervous system it can self-certify, it can talk to people, it can warn of a structural part going bad and ask permission to replace it. Through partnerships in the universities and private firms in this region, we can become the wellspring for this new technological level. Ames is our seed gene for really bringing this together in the agency.” AMES' TECHNOLOGY STRATEGY Henry McDonald Ames Research Center Dr. McDonald extended the discussion of NASA's three primary theme areas, explaining that all the elements of the agency's new scientific and technological direction have significant leadership and representation at Ames. The origins of this leadership have much to do with Ames' location in Silicon Valley. The center began early to build up a strong infrastructure and staff in information technology, and is now the lead NASA center for IT. It also became a national leader in advanced computing, and extended its work to artificial intelligence. Dr. McDonald emphasized the world-class science being done at Ames, where researchers have won two Feynman Prizes, published more than 100 scientific papers, and earned four patents since 1996. When Ames was asked by NASA Administrator Goldin to revise its strategic plan, it was logical for Ames to continue its focus on IT. In recent years, the center had begun to build up expertise in life and microgravity sciences, adding significant strength in biology. It is NASA's lead center for astrobiology. Expertise in the third theme area, nanotechnology, grew out of Ames' supercomputing mandate. Dr. McDonald expanded on several points made by Dr. Venneri, including the use of nanotechnology to produce very light launch vehicles. Over the last 25 years spacecraft have become lighter by roughly an order of magnitude (from 1000 to 100 kg) and in the future will shed another order of magnitude (to approximately 10 kg). Rather than more 1000-kg Cassinis, whose design might require 15 years and whose failure would mean frustrating loss for its designers and the agency, NASA will build a larger number of smaller, less-expensive, more-reliable vehicles. He also discussed a change in the way the space agency quantifies its missions. For the past few decades it has focused on launch mass and reliability. A

OCR for page 33
Page 82 involve the investment community and leverage that community's “dynamic structure and agile operations.” “What we are trying to do,” he said, “is use the best practices of identifying the market and leveraging the power of the marketplace to help NASA commercialize its technology.” The enterprise fund would take advantage of two existing resources. The first is the research base created by NASA's $100 million SBIR program authorized by Congress. This research spans 18 major technological areas. Every year about 70 companies graduate from phase 2 of the program, when their technology has reached the prototype stage and a business plan has been submitted. The new fund would essentially add a “phase 3,” in which the technology would be developed further by a partnership. The second resource is NASA's in-house R&D program, which generates some $800 million worth of mission-relevant technology each year. This program includes five strategic areas, and 40 near-term development areas, all of which have a mandate to seek commercial partnerships. Major markets include rapid design tools, telecommunications, smart sensors, data mining, medical and environmental instrumentation, and information technology. Dr. Norwood said that the entrepreneurial community has encountered difficulties in using the standard SBIR model to convert technology into commercial products. An enterprise fund would attempt to structure venture partnerships based on the NASA technologies in a new way. Rather than using traditional contracts for Phase III activities, the fund would create an investment agreement between NASA, a contractor, and the investment partners. He said that there is risk in starting a company from an enterprise fund, as there is for any new venture, including NASA's own risk in providing the initial funding from existing sources. In addition, directors of the enterprise fund would have to contend with traditional private-sector suspicion of government involvement and the fear of controls that might delay or encumber innovation. But he suggested that the enterprise concept would soon allay any private-sector suspicions by demonstrating that it is “a new business organization independent of government controls and aligned with industry practices.” Dr. Norwood said that the authority to undertake such partnerships is already described in the Space Act under an “other transaction authority” that allows relationships with private firms. He added that the enterprise fund concept is not conceptually different from current licensing agreements to transfer knowledge to companies. In conclusion, Dr. Norwood summarized the arguments in favor of the enterprise fund. For NASA, it would provide a profit center for innovations derived from NASA mission technologies and applied to commercial markets; opportunities to accelerate the development of mission-relevant technolo- OCR for page 33
Page 83 gies in the commercial marketplace and to acquire these technologies for use by NASA at lower cost; and a reduction in the business risks of technology transfer by involving the investment community and benefiting from its market expertise. For the business and investment communities, the fund would provide opportunities to gain substantial returns on investment by leveraging NASA technologies; a capable partner in the acceleration of market-relevant technology; and direct linkage to the research strengths of NASA, which reduces technological risk for companies. QUESTIONS & COMMENTS Mr. Windham asked about the connection between the enterprise fund and the research park at Ames. Dr. Norwood replied that they would complement one another, and that the entrepreneurial activities of the fund would help move NASA technologies from all of its research centers into the marketplace. Mr. Windham also asked whether the enterprise fund had advantages above the transaction authority that already exists and the Space Act authority that is similar to CRADAs. Dr. Norwood answered that the main purpose in designing the enterprise fund is to add the agility and drive of venture capitalists and other elements of the investment community. A VENTURE CAPITAL PERSPECTIVE ON RESEARCH PARKS Kathy Behrens Robertson Stephens Investment Management Dr. Behrens, who invests venture capital in high-tech firms for RS Investment Management, emphasized the “vast differences” between the world of scientific and engineering research and the world of venture capital. She questioned whether the two worlds could find sufficient overlap and alignment to form successful partnerships. One difference concerns basic goals. Unlike most researchers in science and engineering, whose goal is to answer interesting questions and discover new products and processes, for traditional venture capitalists the primary goal of their work is financial return. Closely related to return is monetary compensation, which is based on the profitability of a company in which the venture capitalist has invested.

OCR for page 33
Page 84 A second difference is that the main service of venture capital is not a product or a technology, but an application with concrete monetary value to the market. A third difference is in the time scale of activities. Venture capitalists are compensated partly for their ability to “get there first”—to predict where the market is going and to be there when it arrives. When they sense a change in the market, they quickly—even instantaneously—make changes in their investments. Researchers, by contrast, must plan and develop support for their work gradually; government organizations traditionally make changes at a deliberate pace. A variation on traditional venture capital—corporate venture capital—has far more in common with what Ames is trying to do. Goals are more strategic in nature, and time frames are longer. Certain features of corporate venture capital could provide a useful model for Ames. Dr. Behrens suggested that Ames should not get into the “let's find a home for our technology” business. Venture capitalists prefer to finance people rather than specific, already-developed technology. She underscored the difficulty of taking a new technology—even a good one—and finding a market for it. She said that Ames has a great geographical advantage in its Silicon Valley location, where the local economy is uniquely vibrant. At the same time, venture capital is “the most competitive business in the world today.” Three years ago, she said, venture capitalists put $6 billion to work per year in new companies; by last year the figure had passed $50 billion in a single year. Ames would face a difficult challenge in learning the business, building up a network of contacts, communicating its story to the Valley, and learning to promote their technology. Hiring people who can “work in the Valley” is critical, she said, and those people must be listened to at Ames and have ample time to develop an Ames network. QUESTIONS & COMMENTS Dr. Luger questioned the focus of discussions on Silicon Valley, and asked whether other high-tech centers were not important as well. A number of participants agreed that technological development is now global, and that venture capitalists, like researchers, seek out partnerships all over the world. Dr. Behrens agreed, but emphasized that individual specialists in venture capital need to be physically close to their partners to operate effectively.

OCR for page 33
Page 85 Panel V: Ames as an Entrepreneurial Center: Opportunities and Challenges Moderator: Mark Myers Xerox Corporation COMMERCIALIZING TECHNOLOGY Carolina Blake Ames Research Center Ms. Blake, chief of the Commercial Technology Office (CTO) at Ames, recalled the challenge issued by NASA Administrator Dan Goldin several years ago: “If Ames could find corporate partners willing to work on technologies that were both critical for NASA's mission and profitable for the companies, NASA would provide space for them to work at Ames.” The response at Ames, she said, was to leverage what Ames already does by adding something new: an entrepreneurial center to expand the pool of technological resources through focused partnerships. CTO Roles The existing Commercial Technology Office at Ames has several roles: technology assessment (finding the right time to take a technology to market); marketing (throughout the U.S. and abroad); working with NASA's patent counsel to license intellectual property; and bringing companies into partnerships when the technology needs further development for patenting. The office is the focal point for business incubation at Ames and will be for the research park. Its mission, in the words of NASA headquarters, is “leveraging opportunities and partnerships with organizations outside of NASA in areas of emerging technologies.”

OCR for page 33
Page 86 New Procedures for New Firms In response to this mandate, the current office will expand into a new Entrepreneurial Center. Among its goals are to devise ways of resolving common technological problems in ways that accelerate the spin-off of NASA technology and expand opportunities for NASA incubators, both at Ames and throughout the country. The office is trying to expand its resource pool to make this happen. It plans to focus on individual partnerships so that each has its own approval process, its own line of communication between NASA researchers and commercial partners, agreed beginning and end points, and milestones. The office will employ mini-CRADAs when possible, because of their flexibility, and manage the project once approved. New Agreements On March 13, 2000, the office signed an MOU with an internet consortium of companies. It is also working on a Space Act Agreement, a land lease agreement, and a programmatic agreement, which will call for each partner to put in two dollars for every dollar NASA invests. Focus Areas Initial areas of collaboration will probably include nanotechnology, biotechnology, and internet security. Intellectual Property Issues The office is working with NASA's legal counsel to resolve a number of problems regarding intellectual property. They will use existing authorities from the Space Act and the Stevenson-Wydler Act, and new models are being developed to allow some revenues to be invested back into new partnerships. The office is aware of the need to make government rules more flexible in working with industry.5 “As a technology transfer office,” she said in conclusion, “we must protect the public investment, and our leadership. And so far, everything we plan makes use of authorities NASA already has. But we are also aware of the rigidities of government rules, and we have to examine these in light of the new realities of globalization.” 5 The STEP Board has launched a major review of U.S. intellectual property policy. See The National Research Council, Intellectual Property Rights: How Far Should They be Extended: Report of a Workshop. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, forthcoming. See also www.nationalacademies.org/ipr.

OCR for page 33
Page 87 THE EXPERIENCE OF ONE START-UP COMPANY Elizabeth Downing 3D Technology Laboratories Dr. Downing is a founder of 3D Technology Laboratories, which is now four years old. She described an important distinction among start-up companies. Some have low technological risk and are able to attract angel or venture capital funding early on. 3D Technology Laboratories, however, is developing a technology with substantial risk and therefore requires a different funding path. Developing a Technology This technology, called cross-beam volumetric display, is a means of providing realistic and safe three-dimensional display. It employs a gated, two-frequency up-conversion and requires two elements to function: an active ion and a host medium in which the active ion can be doped and dispersed fairly uniformly. The ion itself has a number of energy levels, including infrared wavelengths and a different, excited-state wavelength. The result of the gated photonic excitation (as opposed to electronic excitation) is the emission of visible light. This allows the interception of two infrared laser beams. At the point of intersection, visible light is emitted, and scanning this light around the inside of an image chamber produces three-dimensional images. The technology has been demonstrated and the company is now increasing its scale. It has a number of features. By addressing information in a volume, rather than a flat plane, it provides real stereo depth perception. There is no conflict between accommodation (the focusing action of the eye) and convergences (the angle between the eyes as they focus). This conflict is what causes headaches and nausea in stereo and shutter-glasses displays. Nor are glasses or headgear needed. It offers 360-degree, walk-around viewing of the data that's being displayed inside the image chamber; multiple viewers can see it simultaneously and interact with it. The images can be dynamic (refreshed at 30 hertz) and have the potential for multiple colors and opacity. Another attribute of this technology is that the image chamber is a nonpixillated homogenous volume of material, which confers a manufacturing advantage. Traditional CRTs are pixilated, and liquid crystal displays are pixilated with wires and electrodes, so that conversions to 3-D would be complex. With the cross-beam system, information is addressed remotely: lasers are scanned remotely and modulated remotely. Then the material “does all the work.” Unlike a laser, it poses no “eye fry” hazard because the radiation is incoherent. The value of this technology has been recognized for decades, but potential developers—and venture financiers—were daunted by the issue of scaling. It was originally demonstrated on a very small sample, then scaled up to the order of a

OCR for page 33
Page 88 sugar cube, then to a cubic inch. 3D Technology Laboratories is currently attempting a chamber about 7 inches on a side, but the materials are difficult to make. Another issue is the size of the addressable data set, which requires rapid scanning; if scanning is too rapid, brightness is poor. The solution is to develop higher efficiency materials, which requires time and work. As Dr. Downing points out, however, the CRT was first presented in the 1920s as a dim, monochrome experience; 80 years later it is bright, colorful, and omnipresent. A third area that requires more work is software. It is not a high-risk area, but little of it exists because there is no market yet. Finding Support for Development In her pursuit of funding to develop this technology, Dr. Downing has received little support from private firms or universities. Private firms saw that the technology had a long lead time and wanted rights to her intellectual property, her only real asset, before investing. Several partnerships with universities brought more difficulties than value to the company. In particular, she found the technology licensing offices to be demanding, even unreasonable, and one professor who was contracted to write software for the company attempted to profit from the software on his own. 3D now has a policy of avoiding partnerships with universities. Instead, Dr. Downing has found support through a series of government grants, beginning with an SBIR contract when she was in graduate school. Soon after that a Phase 2 grant from NSF provided an essential foundation for development, and was followed by grants from DARPA, NIH, the Air Force, and more recently, the ATP.6 In essence, “The company tries to mitigate the technology risk and make itself more appealing to outside investors by trying to solve some of the scanning and system architecture problems with government funding.” She added that venture capital firms were not interested in her technology as long as it required further development. At present, the company has a “fairly substantial” materials R&D program under way to improve efficiency and brightness and to improve the image chambers—as Dr. Downing says, to make them “bigger-brighter-cheaper-lighter.” She feels that her work is important, even though it has taken 12 years to progress this far, because of the chance that it will be an enabling technology. 6 3D Technology Laboratories is in a sense a poster child for the Committee's analysis of Government-Industry Partnerships for the Development of New Technologies. The 3D technology is technically complex, results from research at a major U.S. university, and has a long lead time. At the same time, it also has multiple potential applications across a wide range of agency missions, from space exploration and defense to health care. Reflecting this diversity of applications, and the management's steep learning curve, 3D Technology Laboratories has made use of a surprising range of government programs to support new technologies, cited in the text. Relatively few companies do this, either because the technology would not qualify or because the management is unaware of the opportunities for federal funding.

OCR for page 33
Page 89 “Without government support,” she concluded, “new technology-based products cannot be developed. If this one lives for decades past what we are putting into it, then America as a country and our economy and the industries that can use this new type of visualization tool will benefit. My goal is to take it to the point where it can survive on its own.” She is beginning to look for nongovernment sources of funding for the next stages of development. DISCUSSANT Jim Turner House Science Committee Mr. Turner agreed with other participants that the conditions at Ames amounted to a unique opportunity to develop partnerships, and that the geographical, technological, and other assets of Ames gave this lab an excellent chance of succeeding in its objectives. He also offered several notes of caution. First, he reminded the audience that Congress is highly critical toward programs that bring any suggestion of “corporate welfare” or government giveaways—even for programs that are essentially self-financing. He suggested that Ames planners take special care in how they interact with private firms and that they pay special attention to how their plans might be perceived in Washington. He added that it appears that Congress intends to create a new requirement that Phase 2 SBIR awards include a commercial plan, including steps in marketing and selling technology, and said that those companies who work with Ames would be well prepared for these new requirements. He commented on Dr. Downing's unsatisfactory experiences with university partnerships, suggesting that while the Bayh-Dole Act had generally “proved itself” in the context of federal laboratories by transferring the rights of discoveries to the inventor, the allocation of IP rights at universities is still evolving. He proposed that she might find a more satisfactory partnership with a national lab, such as Ames. In regard to the In-Q-Tel program, Mr. Turner said that an SBIR program for the CIA might have some advantages over a venture capital fund. He said that while the In-Q-Tel program may indeed “hit it big” with a useful and moneymaking technology, it would be highly visible money vulnerable to appropriation by Congress. He suggested that a more orthodox program to seek out existing technologies and issue small contracts might be a practical way to financing startups with less political risk. Importantly, he urged the Ames planners not to use up their “very precious resource” of land too quickly with many small programs. A good strategy, he

OCR for page 33
Page 90 said, is to reserve enough land to accommodate changes in their strategic vision as the years go by. Finally, Mr. Turner praised the involvement of UC Santa Cruz and Carnegie Mellon, and also urged Ames not to rule out relationships with Stanford and Berkeley, “two of the best computer schools in the nation, right in your back yard.” QUESTIONS & COMMENTS Dr. Penhoet extended Mr. Turner's comment about the danger of too many objectives, adding that it is rare to be able to meet multiple objectives under the same program. A participant, David Audretsch, offered the good-humored objection noting that Berkeley, where Dr. Penhoet serves as a dean, has multiple mandates itself. Dr. Penhoet replied that Berkeley also has a 150-year history of managing programs, and even so, it has had programs with multiple goals that do not thrive. He also observed that as a businessman he had seen many failures in the use of venture capital for multiple objectives. “You can either try to make money on venture capital,” he said, “or you can try to use it as a window on technology, but you are unlikely to do both well.” He suggested that this is a constraint to keep in mind. Dr. Ballhaus of Lockheed Martin agreed with Dr. Behrens that the Ames plan may resemble corporate venturing more closely than traditional venturing. In corporate venturing, he said, the projects that work are those you do not micromanage. When Lockheed sets up a partnership, he said, it takes only a minority position, late in development, because “larger corporations that are managing things strategically are usually mismatched with respect to startups that are moving in an entrepreneurial fashion.” He mentioned some of the triumphs of Xerox PARC in the form of its “offspring,” including 3Com, Adobe, and Bay Networks. All of them avoided a strategic relationship with Xerox because they were moving swiftly to markets that were no longer interesting to the larger corporation. Dr. Wessner agreed with a comment by Jim Turner about “virtual” partnerships conducted at a distance. Collaborations with off-site researchers would reduce crowding and increase the national reach of NASA, he said. He also cautioned against too much focus on equity investments. In conclusion, Jim Turner praised the effort at Ames as an innovative use of the space program's resources. Turner also reiterated his word of caution, advising that Ames take special care to avoid the perception of “corporate favors” while at the same time profiting from the synergies and management experience that the private sector can bring. Charles Wessner suggested that the flexibility of the Space Act, and its legitimacy, should be kept in mind as the project goes forward. Seed capital, from SBIR awards, and other arrangements already permitted under the Space Act might accomplish most of Ames' objectives without

OCR for page 33
Page 91 raising as many policy questions as would equity investments. The technological and perhaps political risk associated with equity investments or venture activities should be kept in mind. Success rates for investments, even when made by outstanding venture capital firms, may not be high enough to meet Washington's admittedly ill-defined expectations. Nonetheless, while keeping in mind these cautionary comments, Dr. Wessner suggested that it is only fair to observe that this ambitious initiative does address needs central to the NASA mission and provide a means of meeting educational needs which are equally central to the continued development of the region.

OCR for page 33
Page 92 Concluding Remarks Henry McDonald Ames Research Center Dr. McDonald thanked the presenters and discussants, and summarized the intent of the Ames strategic plan as enhancing “this center's ability to contribute to the fulfillment of NASA's mission.” As a major part of that, he said, Ames will involve itself with people who are likely to help do that, including universities and industrial organizations. “We'll also get involved in the educational process as a natural fallout from this collaboration, and this will also train our next generation workforce. So we will connect ourselves rather directly to the mission of the Agency and judge ourselves on that basis.” He concluded by addressing the issue of affordable housing, which had been raised by several participants. He pointed out that the area had been crowded and expensive since before he immigrated to the United States from Scotland many years ago, “yet we manage to recruit some of the best scientists in the country because of the stimulating intellectual opportunities we have to offer them.” Some of these scientists eventually leave for tenure at a university, he said, but Ames gets some of their best years. Current plans to use housing on site, and to develop plans to extend that housing, can help alleviate the problem and allow for the expansion of on-site programs and the inclusion of graduate students, postdocs, and summer programs for faculty. In closing his remarks, and the symposium, Dr. McDonald again thanked the participants, noting that their expert but informal dialogue had sharpened the formulation of Ames' objectives in exactly the manner they had hoped when they asked the Academies' STEP Board to review their plans and objectives.