United States? Like the study of materials itself, the task of assessing current and future impacts of the globalization of MSE R&D is complex and involves interconnected and multidimensional elements.

Today global MSE R&D is diversifying geographically at an accelerating rate as various other countries, including some not previously known as centers of MSE expertise, invest in the creation of their own MSE knowledge base. As a result, the relative U.S. position in many MSE subfields is in a state of flux. The European Union and the Asia-Pacific region, most notably Japan and most recently China, are now challenging traditional U.S. leadership in various subfields of MSE; it appears, for instance, that Japan has surpassed the United States in the area of alloys and will surpass it in ceramics. In all the MSE subfields examined during this study, global R&D is diversifying and becoming increasingly dispersed geographically, but how this trend will evolve and what the full impact will be for the United States are not yet clear.


The committee offers these conclusions on MSE R&D today:

Conclusion. Globalization of MSE R&D is proceeding rapidly, in line with broader trends toward globalization. As a result of increasing international trade and investment, the emergence of new markets, and the growth of the Internet and the global communications system, MSE R&D in the United States is an internationalized activity with a diverse set of international partners.

Conclusion. The globalization of MSE R&D is narrowing the technological lead of the United States.

Patent and literature surveys suggest that at the moment the United States remains either the world leader or among the world leaders across the MSE subfields. The benchmarking evidence in this report and from a previous study2 paints a varied picture across the MSE subfields, indicating that the United States leads in some critical areas and is among the leaders in others. In some subfields, however, all the data suggest that the probability of the United States’ maintaining leadership in MSE R&D varies from uncertain to unlikely.


National Academy of Science, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, Experiments in International Benchmarking of U.S. Research Fields, Committee on Science and Engineering Public Policy, Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press (2000).

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