Intelligent Manufacturing System, micromachine, and other new programs were conceived as international projects.

In terms of technology fusion, we make the following interpretation: the networking of different kinds of ''technological competence," 14 owned by different companies in different industrial sectors and different countries, is being created by government-organized research consortia. In this way, policy can play the key networking role of matching competencies and needs. The benefits of the consortia go beyond the R&D subsidy value, because networks are formed more quickly than if the initiative had been left entirely to the firms themselves. Technical and market information exchanged through these relationships will lead to faster corporate investment in innovation.

Japan's experience has relevance for U.S. policymakers. The U.S. government has increased support for collaborative research in recent years. Examples include SEMATECH, the Department of Commerce's Advanced Technology Program, and the Department of Energy's battery consortium among the Big Three automakers. If the Japanese experience is valid and if technology fusion is facilitated by wide industry membership in collaborative research, the United States might benefit from focusing on bringing a variety of competencies into consortia.

The American position on foreign participation in government-sponsored collaborative research is unclear at this point. But increasingly, technical competencies are found in firms throughout the world. Therefore, by excluding foreign nationals from government-sponsored research consortia, a country risks limiting technology fusion. It should not be assumed that a country can cover the entire spectrum of needed technological competence. The inclusion of foreign companies that have unique technical competence, therefore, might enhance the probability that global technological networking will result in heightened technology fusion in fields in which domestic organizations do not have high competence.

14  

S. G. Winter, "Knowledge and Competence as Strategic Assets," in D. Teece, ed., The Competitive Challenge: Strategies for Industrial Innovation and Renewal, (Berkeley: Center for Research in Management, University of California, 1987), pp. 159–184.



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