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The Government Role in Civilian Technology: Building a New Alliance
One important legislative development during this period was the 1887 Hatch Act, which provided funds to the states for agricultural “experiment stations."14 In conjunction with agricultural colleges, the stations formed a system that “extended” agricultural knowledge and research findings to the farmer. The 1906 Adams Act encouraged mission-oriented, basic research at the local level through increased funding of state experiment stations, with the stipulation that they use funds for “conducting original researches.''15 The 1914 Smith-Lever Act provided grants for such activities as farmers’ institutes, demonstration farms, and vocational education.
The Department of Agriculture has placed much of its research locally in experiment stations managed by the states.16 County-based agents were essential to dissemination of technology from the federal, regional, and extension laboratories to the local farmer.17 This emphasis on government-sponsored technology extension is unique to agriculture (standing in sharp contrast to the lack of extension programs to support U.S. manufacturing). Agricultural research and extension programs are focused on servicing external “clients” (i.e., which reinforces the link between R&D and commercial markets).18 Extension agents provide both technical information on advances in agricultural technology and assistance with business management.
Agricultural extension programs have been a useful, although costly, mechanism for upgrading the technological capabilities of farmers and promoting the diffusion and adoption of new technologies. The agricultural program provides several important lessons on federal involvement in civilian technology development and adoption. The most important of these include (1) the need for a wide diversity of specific projects and flexibility in extension management; (2) the value of a continuing focus on the application of findings and technology adoption that affect a wide range of private sector actors; (3) the importance of a long-term, stable source of funding; and (4) the benefits of wide access to projects among private sector participants.
Computers and Microelectronics
Federal R&D support was essential to the creation of the U.S. computer and semiconductor industries. The first computers were constructed in military research and development projects during World War II. In the 1950s and early 1960s, government military purchases of semiconductors, largely for use in missile guidance systems, aided the development of the U.S. semiconductor industry. Through R&D and procurement programs, federal assistance to private R&D projects helped to lower production costs through subsidization of manufacturing test and production facilities. In addition, the SAGE air defense program required development of innovations to coordinate multiple computers operating continuously. (Additional contribu-