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The Government Role in Civilian Technology: Building a New Alliance
produce commercially useful technology and to operate profitably over a seven-to ten-year period.
The Optoelectronic Technology Research Corporation (OTRC) is an example of this new approach to cooperative R&D. Founded in 1986, the center has 13 member companies and an annual budget of about $7.5 million, 70 percent of which is supplied by the Japanese government. OTRC's research agenda is the product of a planning process involving member companies, government, and universities. The goal of the center's research program is to develop the knowledge and tools to design and manufacture integrated circuits that combine electronic and photonic technologies.35 Optoelectronic integrated circuits are expected to be important components of future communications and computing equipment. R&D work at OTRC is divided between the center's laboratory in Tsukuba Science City, outside Tokyo, where 20 scientists focus on process-related issues, and the in-house laboratories of member firms, where collectively some 30 researchers work on various devices and applications.
Technology transfer between member firms is promoted by the dissemination of reprints of articles and other presentations by center scientists, an annual workshop for company representatives, and semiannual panel discussions in which government and university scientists also participate. To date, the center's R&D work has not produced any inventions that have resulted in patents. Should patented technologies result from the research, decisions on licensing the inventions to nonmember firms will be made on a "case-by-case basis." Rights to patented inventions, however, are assigned to the member firms, not the government.
Issues for Consideration
Several workshop participants suggested criteria for evaluating the merits of proposed collaborative ventures and defining the roles of prospective partners. Two criteria that might be used to select areas of collaboration are (1) high levels of technical and financial risk and (2) a chance of high returns for successful ventures. Without the incentive of profit, individual businesses will not undertake R&D on potentially risky projects.
There are other mechanisms by which technologies developed through government-supported collaborations can lead to product refinement and commercialization. A clear lesson of the past, participants noted, is the need to pull technology from R&D ventures. Historically, an industry representative noted, government-funded projects have been operated under the assumption that technology will flow to industry, which will then commercialize the product or process application. As was noted often throughout the workshop, however, this expectation leads to less than successful technology transfer outcomes.