ratories have demonstrated that peer interactions among graduate students brought together from different disciplines to share facilities can intensify the environment for creativity and greatly broaden the learning experience.
Unfortunately, industry’s exposure to the work of the MRLs has been, by and large, indirect, partly because the focus of the MRLs has been considerably upstream conceptually from that of industry. With the exception of a handful of outstanding industrial research laboratories, most companies do not seek out common interfaces with the MRLs. Moreover, interaction with industry was not designed into the MRL model at the outset, certainly not to the extent that it has been included in more recent NSF programs such as the Engineering Research Centers and the Presidential Young Investigators programs.
However, the existing NSF models for industry-university interaction are still far more concerned with leveraging the funding inputs than with leveraging the technology transfer outputs. Since technology transfer is best achieved through personal interactions, the potential for improving the effectiveness of these interactions through collaborative research, scientist exchanges, internships, and the like is far greater than has been realized to date.
Finally, although the United States enjoys a comparative advantage over the rest of the world because of its strong materials science base, this is not enough in the face of growing worldwide competition. We must also be comparatively effective in strengthening our science base and in exploiting it to add greater value to our industrial products. We all share a vital interest in the success of this enterprise because future investment in the national science and technology base will depend directly upon a strong and growing economy. We must find ways to increase the dividends from such investment if we are to build the university research infrastructure that we believe is needed.
While the key to global industrial competitiveness is not science and technology alone, nations that have a strong science and technology base will have a decided advantage in providing new products and services at the highest quality and lowest cost.
This chapter addresses these and other issues centering on the role of materials research in relation to current and future needs, opportunities, and threats in selected industries.
The Materials Research Laboratories and the many associated events that have taken place in the materials field since 1960 are in large part responsible for our recognition today that advanced materials are key to many future