The national laboratories have a long history of involvement in materials synthesis and processing, materials characterization, equipment and instrument development, and systems integration. They also have a history of organizing, operating, and maintaining major collaborative research centers and user facilities for participatory R&D by industries and universities. In general, they have much experience in bringing together multiple disciplines to solve complex problems and in overcoming problems of technology transfer between diverse institutions. However, appropriate incentives need to be developed to help these laboratories reach their full potential for collaboration with industry and universities.
There are 81 DOD laboratories supported through the Navy, Air Force, and Army, with about 90,000 staff members and a total budget of about $1.7 billion—half of the total federal laboratory budget. The property and equipment assets of these DOD laboratories are in excess of $4 billion.
Materials science and engineering is also conducted in about 124 industrial laboratories under the IR&D programs, which are reimbursed by DOD through indirect cost accounts. About 1080 IR&D projects address materials science and engineering issues, and 417 of these have materials science and engineering as their principal subject. The total amount of funding for these projects was approximately $255 million in FY1986.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST; formerly the National Bureau of Standards), which receives its funding from DOC rather than DOE, is another potentially valuable resource for materials science and engineering. The approximate budget for materials science and engineering in the NIST in 1986 was $37.8 million, with emphases across the full range of materials classes. The number of full-time equivalent NIST staff members now working in the field is approximately 400; about 200 have doctorates.
Industrial-academic interaction is an important element of the research program at the NIST. The visiting scientist program includes a unique industrial research associate program in which industry sends personnel at its own cost to work collaboratively on joint projects with researchers at the institute, for periods ranging from a few weeks to more than a year. An estimated 20 percent of NIST operating funds comes from industrial sources, mostly via contributions of equipment or the paid time of industrial research associates.