Perspectives of Consortium Managers

R&D consortia offer a number of potential benefits to member firms, according to one consortium official involved in semiconductor, computer, and software systems R&D. Efficiencies result from sharing the costs and risks of research and from reducing R&D duplication. Consortia can also monitor and fund university research, as well as serve as vehicles for integrating and transferring the results of that research. Collaborative R&D arrangements may promote the development of standards for specific technologies. In the semiconductor and information technology industries, for example, collaboration can advance the development of standards and protocols for hardware, software, and communication networks. One such industry-wide activity, undertaken by SEMATECH, qualifies and certifies vendors that supply materials and equipment to member firms.20

Outside Pressures and Changing Circumstances

To be successful, collaborative research ventures must be structured and operated in ways that are consistent with the realities of corporate R&D, participants noted. For example, although consortia are often viewed as mechanisms to facilitate long-term research, most companies invest in short-term R&D, an emphasis that may influence how they judge the value of investments in collaborative R&D projects. Rather than focusing exclusively on long-term projects, it was suggested consortia should accommodate a mixture of projects with varying time horizons. Plans for R&D projects should be reviewed periodically and revised to reflect circumstances, such as changes in membership. Consortium managers and researchers should recognize that their organization represents only one of several options available to companies pursuing their corporate research goals. Finally, it was noted that consortia management needs to understand that breakthrough research advances may be less important than continuous, incremental improvements in processing, product quality, marketing, and customer service. Understanding these elements of success can lead to productive redirection of consortia activities.

Enhancing Technology Transfer

A plan for transferring the results of research conducted by consortia must be established, in as detailed a manner as practical, at the start of the collaborative venture, according to several workshop participants. Participants also suggested that R&D sponsors maintain regular contact with researchers to facilitate the exchange of ideas, prevent surprises, and foster

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