Summary

Charles W. Wessner

National Research Council

Dr. Wessner observed that while it would be a challenge to summarize this wide ranging discussion, several general points had emerged. For example, it was clear that Sandia's project would require close cooperation among multiple institutions at the federal, state, and local levels, in addition to the DOE. The discussion had also revealed that the S&T Park proposal incorporated a number of distinct objectives. Sandia, of course, has its own rationale which it sees as directly linked to the completion of its core missions. The laboratory is seeking an environment able to attract and retain capable staff at a time when the nuclear weapons mission is perhaps less compelling to young researchers than it once was. Secondly, Sandia's management believes that to successfully execute laboratory missions, they increasingly need to rely on ''spin-on,'' that is, to acquire commercial technologies developed outside the laboratory. This is a significant point. Major areas such as materials modeling and simulation, advanced manufacturing and semiconductor processing technologies are evolving very rapidly. Michael Borrus underscored the importance of this rationale in his remarks, suggesting this explanation needs to be more fully articulated for the Washington policy community.

The Link to the Sandia Mission

Dr. Wessner also reminded the group of the importance of the observation by Robert Simon of Senator Bingaman's office that for the foreseeable future Sandia would continue to receive its share of the $4.5 billion earmarked for the maintenance of the weapons stockpile. This large public investment reflects the importance of the mission. The effective execution of the mission requires the best



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--> Summary Charles W. Wessner National Research Council Dr. Wessner observed that while it would be a challenge to summarize this wide ranging discussion, several general points had emerged. For example, it was clear that Sandia's project would require close cooperation among multiple institutions at the federal, state, and local levels, in addition to the DOE. The discussion had also revealed that the S&T Park proposal incorporated a number of distinct objectives. Sandia, of course, has its own rationale which it sees as directly linked to the completion of its core missions. The laboratory is seeking an environment able to attract and retain capable staff at a time when the nuclear weapons mission is perhaps less compelling to young researchers than it once was. Secondly, Sandia's management believes that to successfully execute laboratory missions, they increasingly need to rely on ''spin-on,'' that is, to acquire commercial technologies developed outside the laboratory. This is a significant point. Major areas such as materials modeling and simulation, advanced manufacturing and semiconductor processing technologies are evolving very rapidly. Michael Borrus underscored the importance of this rationale in his remarks, suggesting this explanation needs to be more fully articulated for the Washington policy community. The Link to the Sandia Mission Dr. Wessner also reminded the group of the importance of the observation by Robert Simon of Senator Bingaman's office that for the foreseeable future Sandia would continue to receive its share of the $4.5 billion earmarked for the maintenance of the weapons stockpile. This large public investment reflects the importance of the mission. The effective execution of the mission requires the best

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--> techniques, technologies and engineers available. Emphasizing the benefits of the S&T park for the Sandia laboratory's core mission is therefore essential to gain public understanding and support. This is in fact the best response to those who question the possibility of private gain from long-term public investments in Sandia's infrastructure and research program. At the same time, the limited direct federal financial role should be emphasized. Today's discussion made it clear that Sandia's S&T park project is not directly dependent on federal funding. However, Dr. Wessner continued, it is also important to recognize that there are likely to be some indirect costs to taxpayers involved in using a federal lab and federally contracted employees to develop the project. These costs would have to be weighed against what appear to be multiple potential benefits, including the not inconsiderable benefit of maintaining the technological edge of Sandia's facilities and staff. We should also keep in mind that these costs are in any case related to the fixed costs associated with the laboratory's core missions. Mission Expansion? Dr. Wessner suggested that concerns about "mission creep" may be overstated. The laboratories have to adopt themselves to the post-Cold War environment both in terms of new sources of technology and new national objectives. Simulated testing is one example. There are others. For example, at the beginning of the symposium, Dr. Kelly suggested a series of potentially valuable applications of laboratory capabilities in areas such as health, environmental remediation, and public safety. Fundamentally, as Dr. Kelly and Dr. Simon both suggested, the Sandia asset base is a unique resource which can help the nation meet evolving security challenges, contribute to the competitiveness of U.S. companies, and advance national welfare. Criteria for Success Concerning the criteria for success, and mechanisms for recognizing failure, as well as the corresponding need for intermediate metrics, Dr. Wessner said that it might be possible to turn to DARPA's experience for help in this area. It is important to recognize publicly, however, that metrics of success are hard to develop, partly because, as many speakers noted, S&T parks have long gestation periods. The Sandia management should note, from a planning perspective, the many references to S&T parks requiring patience and deep pockets. One of the most provocative challenges raised in today's discussion is that, because of the long gestation period, the failure of this type of initiative may not be readily apparent. It would therefore probably be useful for the Sandia management to develop specific milestones. For example, a regular assessment of user involvement, user satisfaction, and returns to the laboratory would be useful.

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--> Also, it would be desirable if park tenants included multiple sectors, multiple companies, and companies of different sizes (i.e., they should not all be Fortune 500 companies). In following up this symposium, Dr. Wessner observed that the STEP Board's project on "Government–Industry Partnerships for the Development of New Technologies" hopes to look at the experience of foreign S&T parks and at manageable criteria for allowing foreign-owned companies to participate in federally funded research programs. Given the growing importance of collaborative research conducted over the Internet, Dr. Wessner asked whether the S&T park should act as a node on the Internet for regional research activities. This could perhaps add value to projects at the S&T park. This prompted one participant to observe that although he agreed the park should be on the Internet, it was not yet simple or easy to access specialized research facilities, such as those at Sandia, over the Internet. In conclusion, Dr. Wessner recalled that several speakers had called for increased discretion for program managers and for reduced bureaucracy. Although clearly desirable, substantial increases in managerial discretion might prove difficult to achieve in the current political climate. He supported the notion that some easily understood benchmark criteria might therefore be a good safeguard. Other U.S. partnership programs, such as ATP, might offer valuable lessons in this regard. Last, he noted that, although he had heard several participants observe that Sandia is new to the partnership process and is, in effect, feeling its way, this remains an observation, not an explanation. The political and policy environment in which Sandia operates is likely to remain unforgiving. Dr. Wessner closed the proceedings by thanking the many participants from around the country, and, in particular, the Sandia management who, at their own initiative, had asked the Academy to organize this discussion of Sandia's plans for a S&T park.