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Renewing U.S. Telecommunications Research
public assistance and seek an end to matching federal funding after 1996 as a result of the renewed health of the U.S. industry. A critical element of SEMATECH’s program over the years has been the development and refinement of a technology roadmap for the semiconductor industry. Reflecting the value of its work, SEMATECH has since grown and expanded to include significant international participation.4
The National Science Foundation has also established programs for collaborative engineering research among academia and industry. Chief among these is the Engineering Research Centers program5 that was established in 1985 to support cross-disciplinary, systems-oriented research between academia and industry, education and outreach, and technology transfer. The engineering research centers (ERCs) have supported research on a range of subjects from bioengineering to earthquake engineering to microelectronic systems and information technology. Fiscal year 2004 total annual funding from all sources provided directly to each ERC ranged from $3.1 million to $11.3 million, with NSF’s contribution ranging from $2.5 million to $4.0 million per year.6
NSF also administers the Industry University Cooperative Research Centers program,7 which aims to use limited NSF investments to stimulate industry-academic research partnerships with the bulk of the support coming from industry center members. Focus areas for centers in this program include advanced electronics, advanced manufacturing, civil infrastructure systems, information and communications, and system design and simulation, among others. In the past, some work coming out of this program has been very telecommunications specific. For example, in 1997 a professor at a communications-related center founded a company to design a new switch capable of applying his algorithms for maximizing quality of service. After 3 years of work, this company was acquired for nearly half a billion dollars.8
ESTABLISHING AN ADVANCED TELECOMMUNICATIONSRESEARCH ACTIVITY
The committee believes that a hybrid approach is best suited to the challenges facing the telecommunications industry. Such a hybrid, dubbed the Advanced Telecommunications Research Activity (ATRA) in this report, would (1) draw in part on the strengths of the DARPA model in enabling creative, often risk-taking research under the direction of a lean, agile, and independent cadre of program managers that would include researchers from both industry and academia; (2) draw on the strengths of the industry-driven models represented by SEMATECH, SRC, and EPRI to ensure significant industry participation and buy-in; and (3) reflect the collaborative, multidisciplinary research model in the NSF Engineering Research Centers program. Most research would be performed externally at universities and other research institutions; in-house research might be appropriate in specific areas.
A more detailed history of SEMATECH is available in Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, Funding a Revolution: Government Support for Computing Research, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1999, available online at <http://newton.nap.edu/html/far/>, p. 129.