EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

To be leaders in industrial growth and to maintain a vibrant economy, it is critical that the United States lead the world in materials science and engineering innovations. Materials have been central to economic growth and societal advancement since the dawn of history. With the ever strengthening fundamental underpinnings of the fields and the growing interdependence of materials with other emerging technologies, these societal and economic contributions of the field are accelerating.

The Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) Panel on International Benchmarking of US Materials Science and Engineering Research examined the leadership status of the United States in materials science and engineering research. Its members determined that the United States is among the world leaders in all subfields of materials science and engineering research and is the leader is some subfields, although not in the field as a whole. A general area of US weakness for most subfields is in materials synthesis and processing. Increasingly, US researchers must rely on specialty materials suppliers in Europe and Japan for bulk crystals and other specialty materials.

The United States is currently the clear leader in biomaterials and the leader in metals and electronic–photonic materials. However, the lead in electronic–photonic materials is endangered because industrial exploratory research has been cut back. The United States is currently one of several leaders in magnetic materials; previously, the United States had been preeminent, and this field needs particular attention in the future. US leadership is likely to be eroded in composites, catalysts, polymers, and biomaterials because of the high priorities given to these subfields by other countries. Of particular concern is the catalysts subfield, where there are not enough university multidisciplinary centers to conduct cutting-edge research and reduce the development cycle time for commercialization.

The panel also found that

  • The flexibility of the materials science and engineering research enterprise is as much an indicator of its success as is its funding level.

  • A major determinant of the nation's leadership in materials science and engineering leadership is its innovation system—the entrepreneurship ability of its researchers and the influence of its diverse economy.

  • The nation enjoys strength in materials science and engineering through intellectual diversity—its ability to draw intellectually from all of the science and engineering research infrastructure.

  • The ability of the United States to capitalize on its leadership opportunities could be curtailed because of shifting federal and industry priorities, a potential reduction in access to foreign talent, and deteriorating facilities for natural materials characterization. Of particular concern is a lack of adequate funding to modernize major research facilities in the United States—many are much older than are those in other countries—and to plan and build new facilities needed to maintain research leadership.



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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US MATERIALS SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH EXECUTIVE SUMMARY To be leaders in industrial growth and to maintain a vibrant economy, it is critical that the United States lead the world in materials science and engineering innovations. Materials have been central to economic growth and societal advancement since the dawn of history. With the ever strengthening fundamental underpinnings of the fields and the growing interdependence of materials with other emerging technologies, these societal and economic contributions of the field are accelerating. The Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) Panel on International Benchmarking of US Materials Science and Engineering Research examined the leadership status of the United States in materials science and engineering research. Its members determined that the United States is among the world leaders in all subfields of materials science and engineering research and is the leader is some subfields, although not in the field as a whole. A general area of US weakness for most subfields is in materials synthesis and processing. Increasingly, US researchers must rely on specialty materials suppliers in Europe and Japan for bulk crystals and other specialty materials. The United States is currently the clear leader in biomaterials and the leader in metals and electronic–photonic materials. However, the lead in electronic–photonic materials is endangered because industrial exploratory research has been cut back. The United States is currently one of several leaders in magnetic materials; previously, the United States had been preeminent, and this field needs particular attention in the future. US leadership is likely to be eroded in composites, catalysts, polymers, and biomaterials because of the high priorities given to these subfields by other countries. Of particular concern is the catalysts subfield, where there are not enough university multidisciplinary centers to conduct cutting-edge research and reduce the development cycle time for commercialization. The panel also found that The flexibility of the materials science and engineering research enterprise is as much an indicator of its success as is its funding level. A major determinant of the nation's leadership in materials science and engineering leadership is its innovation system—the entrepreneurship ability of its researchers and the influence of its diverse economy. The nation enjoys strength in materials science and engineering through intellectual diversity—its ability to draw intellectually from all of the science and engineering research infrastructure. The ability of the United States to capitalize on its leadership opportunities could be curtailed because of shifting federal and industry priorities, a potential reduction in access to foreign talent, and deteriorating facilities for natural materials characterization. Of particular concern is a lack of adequate funding to modernize major research facilities in the United States—many are much older than are those in other countries—and to plan and build new facilities needed to maintain research leadership.

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