Yet this technology was the fruit of U.S. government investment, possessed by several companies. So this single company making a decision on its break-even point was not taking into account lost sales and possible downstream competition for other companies. In this context, does the U.S. government, which used tax-payer money to fund the technology in the first place, have a responsibility to take the big picture into account?
In any event, the issue is that if the investment is a truly private investment, then there is no problem. Companies are free to go ahead and make whatever kind of deal that makes sense taking into account cost, revenues, profits, potential competition, and so forth. But where the government is involved in funding investment, selling or trading technology becomes a much more complicated matter. There do not appear to be neat formulations that might resolve either of these issues.
__ The symposium participants raised and grappled with a number of critical questions that have come to the fore due to the ongoing globalization of science and technology.5 If national strategies are increasingly focused on S&T investments that spur economic growth, and the private sector will play a predominant role in overall funding and globalization, how do we ensure adequate long-term investment in S&T that addresses global problems? Is there a role for expanded international cooperation? What lessons have we learned from positive and negative examples of the last decade? What contributions can existing and new institutions, such as ICSU, OECD, EU, APEC, IIASA, UNESCO, and others make?
__ Would it be desirable to pursue a more coordinated global approach to funding research that advances fundamental knowledge and aims at broad areas of application? If knowledge is a global public good, how do we ensure adequate investment and address the problem of "free-riding" by those who use that public good but do not contribute to it?
__ Even as national science and technology strategies converge, and international S&T cooperation in the private sector expands rapidly, differences in national approaches to political economy (producer-oriented vs. consumer-oriented economies) continue to cause international friction. There continues to be tension between national S&T investments for national benefit, on the one hand, and the global movement of capital, technology, and people facilitated by MNCs. Who benefits and who loses when information flows freely but markets are not fully open?
See two recent reports of the Academy complex: Hamburg Institute for Economic Research, Kiel Institute for World Economics and National Research Council, Conflict and Cooperation in National Competition for High Technology Industry (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996), and National Academy of Engineering, Foreign Participation in U.S. Research and Development: Asset or Liability? (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996).