The panel, therefore, recommends the establishment of a national program in industrial extension. The Department of Commerce is the most appropriate agency for any new federal initiative to assist U.S. firms in adopting new manufacturing process and product technologies.
The Technology Administration at the Department of Commerce is currently charged with the responsibility to aid industry in a wide range of areas, including the transfer of technology, the commercialization of federally funded R&D to industry, and the adoption of advanced manufacturing techniques by small and medium-sized firms. The National Institute of Standards and Technology also manages programs in technology adoption. These programs are, however, small-scale efforts that have suffered from inadequate funding and staff resources. Specifically, although the MTC program at NIST has the potential to serve a limited client base in regions where it is established, a more comprehensive, nationwide service for the 350,000 small and medium-sized firms is necessary to impact technology adoption rates in the United States in a significant manner. This new program could leverage the resources available through the MTCs, as well as state-based programs, to better accomplish technology adoption and extension goals.
The panel recommends the establishment of an Industrial Extension Program (IES) at the Department of Commerce. The IES would assist industry to absorb technical information on best practice in manufacturing systems from both foreign and domestic science and engineering sources, and would disseminate information on new technologies through regional offices managed by the Department of Commerce.
This chapter outlines selected federal programs that support civilian technology development. It assesses both strengths and weaknesses in the current national system to support private sector technology. The panel concentrated its efforts on those programs that, in its judgment, both require significant changes and have the potential to contribute in a substantial manner to U.S. performance in technological innovation. Additional material on federal agencies and their role in pre-commercial R&D is presented in the following chapter.
There need to be substantial changes in the framework that supports civilian technology development in the United States. This conclusion is based on our assessment that post-war federal science and technology policy needs to be reevaluated. There have been fundamental changes in the economic and technological environment in which U.S. companies compete. There have been great benefits from federal support of basic scientific