Chapter 1
Introduction

This report, by the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), was motivated by a report on U.S. science and technology goals (COSEPUP, 1993). That document (the Goals report) recommended two related objectives: "(1) that the United States should be among the leaders in all major fields of science, and (2) that the United States should seek to maintain preeminence in selected fields of national importance." These recommendations reflect the view that scientific and technological advances are fundamental to improving the nation's economy, public health, education, environment, and quality of life.

The Goals report, like other recent reports, refers to the process by which the results of research may be transformed into new ideas, processes, and techniques that benefit the nation. This complex process, which includes technology transfer, innovation, commercialization, application, and other components, is described in the present report as "capitalizing on investments in science and technology." COSEPUP's goals are to call attention to a process of significant complexity and great importance to the nation, to demonstrate the importance of a supportive capitalizing environment, and to suggest ways in which capitalizing might be strengthened.

The members of COSEPUP concluded that in recent years the United States generally has been effective in capitalizing on research, whether it is performed in this country or abroad. At the same time, COSEPUP feels that the U.S. research, entrepreneurial, and policy establishments need to understand the capitalization process better if the nation is to maintain and extend this effectiveness in the future.

This report seeks to contribute to the ongoing science and technology policy debate by raising three basic questions: What are the principal features of the capitalizing process? How are they likely to be affected by the changes sweeping across science, technology, and the economy? In the face of these changes, how can we maintain and extend the effectiveness of capitalization?

This study, which was planned by a working group organized under COSEPUP, has involved two main thrusts. The first is the use of workshop discussions and a survey of relevant literature (see Appendix A for examples of capitalization) to examine particular fields of research and their applications. The working group discovered that its questions were best addressed through the examination of spe-



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--> Chapter 1 Introduction This report, by the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), was motivated by a report on U.S. science and technology goals (COSEPUP, 1993). That document (the Goals report) recommended two related objectives: "(1) that the United States should be among the leaders in all major fields of science, and (2) that the United States should seek to maintain preeminence in selected fields of national importance." These recommendations reflect the view that scientific and technological advances are fundamental to improving the nation's economy, public health, education, environment, and quality of life. The Goals report, like other recent reports, refers to the process by which the results of research may be transformed into new ideas, processes, and techniques that benefit the nation. This complex process, which includes technology transfer, innovation, commercialization, application, and other components, is described in the present report as "capitalizing on investments in science and technology." COSEPUP's goals are to call attention to a process of significant complexity and great importance to the nation, to demonstrate the importance of a supportive capitalizing environment, and to suggest ways in which capitalizing might be strengthened. The members of COSEPUP concluded that in recent years the United States generally has been effective in capitalizing on research, whether it is performed in this country or abroad. At the same time, COSEPUP feels that the U.S. research, entrepreneurial, and policy establishments need to understand the capitalization process better if the nation is to maintain and extend this effectiveness in the future. This report seeks to contribute to the ongoing science and technology policy debate by raising three basic questions: What are the principal features of the capitalizing process? How are they likely to be affected by the changes sweeping across science, technology, and the economy? In the face of these changes, how can we maintain and extend the effectiveness of capitalization? This study, which was planned by a working group organized under COSEPUP, has involved two main thrusts. The first is the use of workshop discussions and a survey of relevant literature (see Appendix A for examples of capitalization) to examine particular fields of research and their applications. The working group discovered that its questions were best addressed through the examination of spe-

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--> cific examples in subfields that are fairly well defined, such as speech recognition and monoclonal antibodies, rather than overviews of broader fields, such as computer science and biology. Although the number of fields examined is not large, the working group tried to choose areas that would illustrate a range of scientific, engineering, and capitalization issues. The second thrust of the study consisted of additional workshops, commissioned papers, and other activities that address crosscutting issues. These issues include the role of private finance, educational and human resource issues, and the economic environment for investments in research and commercialization. Throughout, the working group has given particular attention to human resources, expanding on the theme of another COSEPUP (1995) study. On the basis of these two thrusts, COSEPUP developed an understanding of the capitalization process as the transformation of research investments into national benefits. In Chapter 2, the working group discusses the workings of the capitalization process and the elements that favor capitalization, such as an environment conducive to financing new technology-based businesses and a system of education and training that produces graduates who are not only skilled but also flexible and adaptable. Chapter 3 examines the changes in the education, legislative, and economic climates that bring new challenges to the capitalization process. Chapter 4 discusses the the study findings and the important tasks facing the United States as it seeks to maintain and enhance its ability to capitalize on research leadership. Chapter 5 presents the working group's recommendations. A considerable part of the working group's focus has been on the economic and commercial benefits of capitalizing on research. This is partly because commercial benefits often can be identified and measured, and because the economic returns to capitalizing on research are widespread and have an important effect on everyday life. Still, capitalizing on research is understood to lead to other important benefits, and several aspects of the project illustrate how research leads to national advantages in other areas, such as education, public health, environmental protection, and national security. Discussions about capitalization are fueled by new conditions, especially the globalization of commerce, the emergence of advanced technological capability throughout the world, and experiments to transform the mission of federal research and development agencies in the wake of the Cold War. Policy choices that will be made in the near future have the potential to shape science policy for years to come. It is time for scientists and engineers to contribute their expertise, to demonstrate how their work delivers benefits to the nation, and to join in the process of defining and prioritizing national goals. The study was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Research Council.