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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research
On the other hand, roadmapping is not a panacea and brings with it a number of tradeoffs and possible limitations. For example, the roadmapping process could hinder the adoption of new, disruptive technologies (e.g., incumbents may be unwilling to try radical innovations). It also should be recognized that there is quite a leap from agreement on an element of a roadmap to a commitment to purchase a product.
MECHANISMS FOR INDUSTRY, GOVERNMENT, AND UNIVERSITYCOLLABORATION ON R&D FUNDING
A variety of interesting models for mobilizing research and development support have developed to answer particular R&D needs. CableLabs, described in Chapter 2, provides an example of a telecommunications sector organizing itself to address the focused needs of a particular set of stakeholders.
Experiences from the electric power and semiconductor industries provide additional examples of how industry or industry in combination with the federal government can come together to address critical research needs:
Electric Power Research Institute. In 1971, U.S. public and private utilities created an organization to conduct electricity-related R&D. Under pressure from Congress (which had signaled in hearings that it might call on a federal agency to play this role), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) began work in 1973 as a private, nonprofit organization to provide clear, credible scientific and technical research. Today, EPRI’s members represent over 90 percent of the U.S. electricity research community, and the organization maintains a member-driven annual budget of around $272 million. The majority of EPRI’s members are investor owned, but the organization’s membership also includes international organizations, and it classifies roughly 7 percent of its members as “federal/state” (e.g., the Tennessee Valley Authority, California Energy Commission, and so on).
Semiconductor Research Corporation. The Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) was created in 1981 with the help of the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) to stimulate cooperative research into semiconductor technology by industry and U.S. universities. SRC was funded by member companies through fees based on their semiconductor sales and other factors. Early 1982 saw the newly incorporated SRC lining up a number of industry and university partners, and by 1983 SRC could count as members nearly 30 universities and such industry heavyweights as, among others, AMD, DEC, Honeywell, Intel, IBM, Motorola, GE, Harris Corp., and HP. SRC’s 1983 budget was approximately $11 million—primarily industry funding—and since it was established SRC has funded more than $500 million in long-term semiconductor research. SRC has also established partner relationships with other institutions such as NSF and SEMATECH.
SEMATECH. In 1987, 14 U.S. semiconductor companies joined forces to create a nonprofit research and development organization called SEMATECH to improve domestic semiconductor manufacturing. A year later, Congress—worried about the increasing U.S. dependence on foreign suppliers for semiconductor technology—appropriated $100 million per year for 5 years to match SEMATECH’s industrial funding. The federal funding for SEMATECH was channeled through DARPA because semiconductor manufacturing was seen as vital to the nation’s defense technology base. DARPA continued its investment in SEMATECH beyond the original deadline, but in 1995 SEMATECH announced that it would wean itself from