The committee did consider the commercial engine market, since it powers many military platforms.
As recently as the 1980s, engine rivals did not engage in collaborative materials development. Materials engineering interactions among competitors were limited largely to participation in engineering standards committees and professional society technical symposiums and committee meetings. Engine company managers, acknowledging the need and benefits, endorsed participation in such meetings, and participating materials engineers understood well the importance of not divulging competition-sensitive or proprietary information. It was a competitive era during which engine manufacturers made significant investments in advanced materials that provided real competitive advantage, and therefore they did not disseminate technical information related to their work prior to obtaining patent protection.
Additionally, aerospace corporations were, then as now, further constrained by U.S. antitrust laws. Although these laws focus principally on anti competitive behavior such as price-fixing or cooperative marketing, more generally they pertain to any interaction among competitors deemed as anticompetitive, even those interactions involving engineers and strictly technical matters. In an effort to minimize compliance risk, corporate legal staff often monitor and regulate the contact of employees with those from rival companies. Oversight and concern are lessened when it is clear that interaction among engineers from competing companies involves pre-competitive technology, and particularly when the interaction occurs by invitation of the U.S. government.
Basic research to expand materials science knowledge, such as that typically conducted by universities, generally is understood to fall within the bounds of the pre-competitive classification. In contrast, technology and information gained through product-centric materials R&D are traditionally classified as competition-sensitive and are protected by controls on proprietary information or by legal patents. Materials and processing inventions are protected by patents, whereas materials information critical to the design of the engine product (such as company specifications, quality plans, drawing notes, design data practices, materials property minimum curves, and materials-related design practices) is protected through safeguards for proprietary information.
Toward the late 1980s and early 1990s, engine companies began to collaborate with universities, government laboratories, suppliers, and even competitors in the area of materials research and technology development. Three factors led to industrial cooperation in materials research programs. First, engine manufacturers were reluctant to accept individually the full cost of developing new materials because