have that problem, he said, and is able to “just blow through it.” One U.S. advantage, he said, is that the MEP centers provide a brokerage function and can interface between agencies and governments, both large and small.
“I’m a big advocate for what the MEP is,” Mr. Rice said in closing, “but I’m a bigger advocate for what it could be. I sense that it is the essential missing piece for the evolution of this tech transfer process through public-private partnerships. It needs to be linked to a strategy—not a Fraunhofer strategy, or a Korean version per se, but an American strategy. The beauty of the American system is the diversity we bring to these problems. Let’s embrace that and figure out how to make it work on a local, state, and federal scale.”
Diane Palmintera of Innovation Associates said that when she talks to MEP directors around the country, they say that while they applaud the effort of MEP to move toward innovation and technology, their staffs are not always prepared to coach firms on tech transfer and innovative technologies. Mr. Kilmer agreed, and said that the MEP has been working on a training curriculum related to innovation. “Quite honestly,” he said, “it’s a difficult thing for the centers. Some staff will be able to make those changes and some won’t. We try to equip them, with training and professional development, but it is a challenge.”
Dr. Wessner followed up on that question, asking how much authority the federal MEP office had to revise programs or strategies in the centers, and whether any centers had been discontinued over the years. Mr. Kilmer said his first approach was to show centers how a new or revised program would benefit the manufacturing clients; this might be accompanied by a performance evaluation. There have been a few cases where the national office has had to close down centers, but it plans to reopen them. “It is very much is a process of leading, dragging, and in some cases, stronger action,” he said.