on research and education. Culture and physical location also affect innovation. Pockets of innovation exist throughout the United States in regions that, for various reasons, promote innovation. Innovation happens in organizations that think in terms of investment and that are willing to take risks by looking for new ways to do things.
NSF began to fund science and technology centers (STCs) and ERCs that would perform research in areas important to the private sector and find ways to collaborate with the private sector. Hurt also mentioned that companies wanted access to academic faculty for consultation and directed research and to students for internships and other employment. Several examples were discussed at the workshop of how the centers took ideas that seemed high risk or unattainable and turned them into products used by companies.
The discussion led by John Huggins mentioned the implications of being associated with an IUCRC. The credibility that the NSF logo brings to a center is recognized across the campus and across the nation. The long history of the IUCRC program also provides center directors with guidelines on how to operate a center successfully. Vehicles for collaboration were discussed by Huggins in the second portion of his presentation. The obvious collaboration vehicle for the BSAC is the interaction between industry representatives and academic researchers. This interaction, which goes beyond a simple description or presentation of results, centers on developing relationships. Member companies hire students for both summer internships and full-time employment after graduation. Industry representatives to the BSAC have unique opportunities to spend longer periods of time with practitioners of similar technologies. Huggins has observed business relationships developing out of these associations.
Another collaborative vehicle that has proven to be successful for BSAC is the “in residence” concept. Center members (i.e., companies) send their employees to campus as visiting fellows. Each fellow spends a year or two working on projects in which he or she is interested or working in a research group as one of the University of California, Berkeley, faculty. Huggins described it is as an excellent way for individuals to immerse themselves in a broad technology area.
Huggins spent the remainder of his presentation discussing the general topic of government, industry, and academic relationships. He mentioned the paradigm of a technology conduit, conceived by BSAC co-director Albert Pisano. (Huggins himself thought that a helix would also be a good description of the paradigm.) The “conduit” begins with the generation of a research idea. The idea might lead to the preparation of a grant proposal to a federal agency. If the proposal is successful—that is, if it attracts funding—some amount of reusable basic technology will be generated, which will, in turn, attract interest from the center’s industry partners. If the center is doing commercially relevant research, the early, high-risk phase of technology development is supported by federal funds. During the project’s tenure, the research can be modified or a new research idea can even emerge. This new idea becomes the basis for a new proposal, starting the cycle over again. The key is to use federal funding to develop technology for new devices and processes that can be used in the industry, and to reduce the risk of this development.