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The Government Role in Civilian Technology: Building a New Alliance
tive venture, and rotating them to and from member firms, is also critical to the success of technology transfer. Collaborative ventures should be administered as profit-making ventures, complete with budgets, schedules, and project milestones, as well as clear guidelines on intellectual property rights. The mission and goals of these projects must be clearly established from the start. In many cases, the Japanese experience suggests that the most appropriate objectives may be those that focus on technology adoption, and on the dissemination and refinement of new concepts, rather than frontier basic research. Cost-sharing provisions are also important in these projects. They strengthen links between the collaborative R&D programs and the research efforts of participants, as well as improve the ties to potential commercial market applications (Chapter 3 discusses these issues in greater detail). Government funds should not be the sole source of support for cooperative research ventures.
Several of the European experiments in collaborative R&D are especially informative in this regard. Direct subsidies to inefficient industries or R&D grants through cooperative projects to meet political agendas dilute the effectiveness of government leverage of technology strengths in private industry. Finally, as the Japanese experience with government-industry collaborative R&D indicates, independent program evaluation and termination of unsuccessful collective projects are important.
Finally, it is important to note that cooperative R&D projects are not the only methods of promoting national technology policy goals. The Japanese experience suggests that such projects supplement innovative efforts and investments made in a stable economic environment with a relatively low cost of capital and a highly skilled labor force.
As noted in Chapter 1, the adoption of new technologies is an important part of the processes through which innovation contributes to economic growth and rising standards of living. The limited data available on rates of adoption in the United States in new manufacturing processes, such as numerically controlled machine tools and robotics, however, show that U.S. firms have been relatively slow to incorporate these technological advances.123 The dissemination and use of office automation equipment have, in contrast, been relatively swift compared to other nations.
In general, nations whose manufacturing firms adopt new technologies have policies that favor adoption. In the United States, the federal role has centered almost exclusively on basic research and development. Initiatives to promote adoption and diffusion have been rare. Although the United States often has an advantage in leading-edge technology, it has suffered