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Technology Policy and Critical Technologies: A Summary of Recent Reports (1991)

Chapter: CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES REPORTS

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Suggested Citation:"CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES REPORTS." National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Technology Policy and Critical Technologies: A Summary of Recent Reports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/20840.
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Page 15
Suggested Citation:"CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES REPORTS." National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Technology Policy and Critical Technologies: A Summary of Recent Reports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/20840.
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Page 16
Suggested Citation:"CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES REPORTS." National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Technology Policy and Critical Technologies: A Summary of Recent Reports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/20840.
×
Page 17
Suggested Citation:"CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES REPORTS." National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Technology Policy and Critical Technologies: A Summary of Recent Reports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/20840.
×
Page 18
Suggested Citation:"CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES REPORTS." National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Technology Policy and Critical Technologies: A Summary of Recent Reports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/20840.
×
Page 19
Suggested Citation:"CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES REPORTS." National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Technology Policy and Critical Technologies: A Summary of Recent Reports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/20840.
×
Page 20
Suggested Citation:"CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES REPORTS." National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Technology Policy and Critical Technologies: A Summary of Recent Reports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/20840.
×
Page 21
Suggested Citation:"CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES REPORTS." National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Technology Policy and Critical Technologies: A Summary of Recent Reports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/20840.
×
Page 22
Suggested Citation:"CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES REPORTS." National Academy of Engineering. 1991. Technology Policy and Critical Technologies: A Summary of Recent Reports. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/20840.
×
Page 23

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Critical Technologies Reports The second recent line of activity with major implications for U . S . technology policy and competitiveness is a series o f projects aimed a t identi­ fying critical technologies . The basic concept behind critical technologies is the need to focus attention and resources on important areas of technology. With some exceptions, the reports do not address questions of what kinds of actions need to be taken by government or the private sector to ensure U.S. leadership and participation in the critical technologies. The iden­ tification of critical technologies in the reports, whether sponsored by govern­ ment or the private sector, does not necessarily imply government action. Yet the reports may give this impression, because they generally stress the federal role and provide few, if any, details on the private sector role. As noted in the previous section, the federal government has for years supported certain specific areas of commercial technology. These pro­ grams-exemplified by the Hatch Act of 1 887 !which created the Agricultur­ al Extension Service ), the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics founded in 1 9 1 5, and more recently SEMATECH and the Manufacturing Technology Centers-have generally been ad hoc, narrowly focused, and isolated from broader national policies .8 The current effort to identify critical technologies is to some extent an attempt to approach such govern­ mental involvement in a more systematic manner-that is, to help set priorities among the many requests for government support for commercial technologies and to establish a framework for public and private sector actions . Several lists of critical technologies have been compiled. Each repre­ sents an attempt at achieving agreement among an important set of players in national technology policy that a particular set of technologies is in some respect critical to the future of the United States. Some have been prepared by federal government agencies, others by private groups. Some focus on technology needs for U . S . industrial competitiveness, others on defense technology needs . Each group means something different by "critical " technology. The critical technologies reports reviewed here are listed in Table 1 . The reports' origin, focus, and criteria for selecting critical technologies are summarized. The critical technologies identified in each report are summa­ rized in Table 3. 15

TABLE 3 Comparison of Critical Technologies Lists National Critical coc 1 990 DOD Technologies Critical DOC Emerging Critical CSPP Critical AlA Key Panel0 Technologiesb Technologiesc Technologiesd Technologiese Technologies! MATERIALS Materials Advanced Advanced Composite Composite synthesis and structural materials materials materials processing materials Advanced Semiconductor Electronic&. Materials semiconductor materials&. photonic processing devices microelectronic materials circuits Electronic&. photonic materials Supercon- Supercon- Supercon- ductors ductivity ductivity Ceramics Composites High- performance metals&. alloys MANUFACTURING Flexible Design&. Flexible Machine Manufacturing Artificial computer engineering computer- intelligence/ technology intelligence integrated tools integrated robotics manufacturing manufacturing Integrated Commerciali- circuit Intelligent zation&. Artificial fabrication processing production intelligence equipment equipment systems Micro- and Process nanofabrica- equipment tion Systems management technologies INFORMATION&. COMMUNICATION Software Software High- Software Software Software performance producibility engineering development Microelec- Microelec- computing tronics&. tronics optoelectronics 16

TABLE 3 Con tinued National Critical coc 1 990 DOD Technologies Critical DOC Emerging Critical CSPP Critical AlA Key Panel0 Technologiesb Technologiesc Technologiesd Technologiese Technologies! Electronic Advanced Semiconductor Microelec- Ultra-reliable controls semiconductor materials&. tronics electronic devices microelectronic systems circuits Optoelectronic Optoelectronics Photonics Optoelectronics Optical components information Electronic processing Electronic packaging packaging&. intercon- nections High- Computers High- Parallel Processor Computational performance performance computer architecture science computing&. Database computing architectures networking systems Database systems Operating systems Applications technology High definition Displays Digital imaging Data fusion Displays imaging&. technology displays Hardcopy Hardcopy technology technology Sensors&. Sensor Data fusion Advanced signal technology sensors processing Signal processing (includes phased arrays) Passive sensors Sensitive radars Machine intelligence/ robotics Data storage&. Information High-density Photonics Storage (optical peripherals storage data storage &. magnetic) Computer High- Simulation and simulation&. performance modeling modeling computing Computational fluid dynamics 17

TABLE 3 Con tinued National Critical coc 1 990 DOD Technologies Critical DOC Emerging Critical CSPP Critical AlA Key Panel0 Technologiesb Technologiesc Technologiesd Technologiese Technologies/ Human Human interface & interface visualization technologies Visualization Networks & Networks & communica­ communica­ tions tions Portable telecommuni­ cations equip­ ment & systems BIOTECHNOLOGY AND LIFE SCIENCES Applied Biotechnologies Medical devices Biotechnology molecular and diagnostics materials & biology processes Medical Biotechnology technology AERONAUTICS &. SURFACE TRANSPORTA­ TION Aeronautics Propulsion Air-breathing Air-breathing propulsion propulsion Rocket Surface Powertrain propulsion transportation technologies ENERGY&. ENVIRONMENT Energy technologies Pollution Environmental minimization, technologies remediation, & waste management 18

TABLE 3 Continued National Critical coc 1 990 DOD Technologies Critical DOC Emerging Critical CSPP Critical AlA Key Panel0 Technologiesb Technologiesc Technologiesd Technologiese Technologies! ALSO LISTED Signature control Pulsed power (includes high power micro­ waves) Hypervelocity projectiles High energy density mater­ ials Weapon system environment Sources for Table 3: 0U.S. National Critical Technologies Panel, Report of the National Critical Technologies Panel (Washington, D.C. : U.S. Government Printing Office, March 1 99 1 ) b council on Competitiveness, Gaining New Ground: Technology Priorities for America 's Fu ture (Washington, D.C., 1 99 1 ) cu . s . Department of Commerce, Technology Administration, Em erging Technologies: A Survey of Technical and Economic Opportunities (Washington, D.C. : Spring 1 990) du . s . Department of Defense, Critical Technologies Plan, 1 990 ( Report to the Committees on Armed Services, U.S. Congress, 1 5 March 1 990) ecomputer Systems Policy Project, Perspectives: Success Factors in Critical Technologies (Washington, D.C. : July 1 990) IAerospace Industries Association, Key Technologies for the 1990s: An Overview (Washington, 1 987) NATIONAL CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES PANEL REPORT The 1 99 1 R eport of the Na tional Critical Technologies Panel, a group consisting of 13 individuals with expertise in science and engineering cho­ sen from the federal government and the private sector, is the first of a series of biennial reports required by Congress in the FY 1 990 Defense Authorization Act. This report is widely viewed as a product of the Office of Science and Technology Policy ( OSTP), because the Director of OSTP appointed nine of the panel members and the panel was chaired by an Asso­ ciate Director of OSTP. A spokeswoman for the White House stated, how­ ever, that the report does not represent a Bush Administration position. A disclaimer that the views expressed were "solely those of the National Critical Technologies Panel " was also inserted into printed versions of the report .9 19

The Panel's report emphasizes the importance of identifying technolo­ gies for concentration of effort, noting that technology development and deployment, because of the time and resources involved, require a greater selectivity and concentration of resources than does basic science. The purpose of the report is to highlight the importance of the critical technolo­ gies in meeting future national needs and to point out opportunities for public and private sector investments and actions . The Panel report describes 22 technologies considered essential for the United States to develop for the Nation's long-term national security and economic prosperity. The criteria for selection of the technologies fall into three general categories: National Needs •Industrial Competitiveness •National Defense •Energy Security •Quality of Life Importance/ Criticality • Opportunity to Lead Market • Performance/Quality /Productivity Improvement • Leverage Market Size/Diversity •Vulnerability •Enabling/Pervasive •Size of Ultimate Market The Panel report provides brief definitions of the criteria used in select­ ing the critical technologies. For example, the criterion "industrial competi­ tiveness" is defined as "technologies that improve U. S. competitiveness in world markets through new product introduction and improvements in the cost, quality, and performance of existing products, " and the criterion "vul­ nerability" is defined as when "potentially serious damage may be caused if a technology is held exclusively by other countries, and not the United States. " Primary consideration was given to technologies that could be incorporated into commercial products or processes or defense systems within 10 to 1 5 years. It is noteworthy that the panel did not focus explicitly on economic growth or promoting high-growth industries as a criterion. Also, it is clear that even with these criteria, difficult judgments were required and the resulting identification of critical technologies was inherently subjective and uncertain-a comment that applies as well to the other critical technologies reports. The critical technologies identified by the Panel fall into six broad areas: materials, manufacturing, information and communications, biotech­ nology and life sciences, aeronautics and surface transportation, and energy 20

and environment. Because there is much interdependence among the tech­ nologies-i.e., some technologies support or enable others-the Panel does not attempt to prioritize them. However, the Panel notes that the first three categories " form the basic 'building blocks' for virtually all sectors of the economy, " whereas the last three categories are " major areas for tech­ nology applications. " DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES PLANS The Department of Defense (DOD) has prepared critical technologies plans in 1 989 and in 1 990 in response to the National Defense Authoriza­ tion Act . 1 0 The intent of the requirement was to encourage the DOD to establish a planning process that would ensure that critical needs in defense technology development would be reflected in budget priorities . The 1 989 DOD plan identifies the 22 technologies that were considered most essential to develop in order to ensure the long-term qualitative supe­ riority of U . S . weapons systems. They were chosen on the basis of whether they enhance performance of conventional weapons systems or provide new military capabilities, and whether they improve weapon systems availabili­ ty, dependability, or affordability. Nuclear technologies are not included on the list. The technologies identified as critical by DOD ( see Table 3) illus­ trate the broad scope of defense technology needs-from those derived from the general industrial base (e.g., microelectronics ) to unique needs such as high-power microwaves ( Strategic Defense Initiative) and high-energy-densi­ ty materials. The 1 990 DOD list differs slightly from that of 1 989. Consisting of 20 technologies, it includes two technologies not included in the original list­ high-energy-density materials and weapons systems environment-and merges several of the other 1 989 technologies. In selecting the 1 990 critical technologies, the 1 989 criteria were applied, along with two additional criteria: pervasiveness in major weapons systems and strengthening the industrial base. The latter was added to " reflect explicitly the growing concern for spin-of£ to the industrial base. " It seems equally likely that it reflects a concern for "spin-on" to defense from commercial technologies . The 1 990 DOD plan provides estimates of the amounts in the DOD and DOE budgets for the support of the development of each critical technology . In addition, it assigns three levels of priorities to the 2 0 critical technolo­ gies. The system of priorities is not very detailed and places lowest priority on emerging technologies. Little information is provided on how the priori­ ties would affect funding decisions. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE REPORT The Department of Commerce (DOC ) has identified 1 2 emerging tech­ nologies, defined as technologies that offer substantial economic benefits for 21

U. S . industry by the year 2000. Technologies were included if they had the potential to ( 1 1 "create new products and industries with markets of sub­ stantial size, " ( 2 ) "provide large advances in productivity or in the quality of products produced by existing industries which supply large, important markets, " or (3 1 "drive the next generation of R&D and spin-off applica­ tions. " The purpose of the DOC emerging technologies report i s to "provide a source of information to be used by industry, labor, government, and aca­ deme as programs and policies are developed to exploit new, emerging tech­ nologies. " It explicitly states that it "is not intended to set out a limited set of technologies which the government has pre-selected for support, " but rather reflects an assessment of promising fields with large potential eco­ nomic impact. The DOC report also identifies 1 3 policy areas "where actions could be defined and implemented toward improving the climate and capabilities for competitive economic development of all emerging technologies . " They are grouped according to degree of government-industry interaction, ranging from government leadership, to government-industry coordination or cooper­ ation, and industry leadership. COMPUTER SYSTEMS POLICY PROJECT REPORT Another report, Success Factors in Critical Technologies,identifies technologies critical to the computer systems industry. It was published by the Computer Systems Policy Project (CSPP), a group of 1 1 chief executive officers from the computer systems industry formed to develop and advocate a public policy agenda for that industry. Based on analyses conducted by the chief technologists from each of the 1 1 companies that are represented on the CSPP, the report identifies 16 critical technologies upon which America's computer industry will depend into the next century. They are technologies that are essential to the development and production of future generations of competitive computer systems . .In addition, the CSPP critical technologies report identifies critical success factors which, if improved, can enhance U. S . performance in the technologies. In this way the report seeks to provide guidance to govern­ ment and industry on where to focus to improve policies that can bolster the U. S . computer system industry's competitive position. AEROSPA CE INDUSTRIES A SSOCIATION REPORT The Aerospace Industries Association (AlA), which represents the major U . S . aerospace companies, published a report in 1 98 7, Key Technologies for the 1 990s, which identifies and describes eight technologies that have been determined to be most important to the future competitiveness of the U. S . 22

aerospace industries. The criteria that were used to select the key technolo­ gies and their definitions are: • multiple use-for both military and civilian applications • enabling and high leverage-to get more output from R &D input • long-term, generic, and high-risk-to allow cooperative planning at a precompetitive stage • needs more emphasis-a judgment that funding levels may be inade- quate. The report also proposes a national strategy of cooperation among industry, government, and academia on focused development of key enabling technol­ ogies to regain the U.S. aerospace industry's world leadership. Since the 1 98 7 report, the number of AlA key technologies has grown to 1 1 . The AlA, through its National Center for Advanced Technology ( NCAT), has been preparing technology development plans for each key technology, such as advanced composites and artificial intelligence. For each technolo­ gy, a lead firm coordinates a Technology Team ( composed of industry, gov­ ernment, and academic experts ) in reviewing and validating the technical content of industry-developed "road maps" for technology advance. Subse­ quently, the road maps are refined into more detailed National Technology Development Plans; plans have been produced for rocket propulsion and advanced composites to date. The overall goal of the planning effort is to get a consolidated and coordi­ nated national plan for each key technology, including resources, facilities, programs, and goals. The plans will then be used as guidance for industry­ government-academia cooperation in development of the technologies. COUNCIL ON COMPETITIVENESS REPORT The Council on Competitiveness report, Gaining New Ground, identi­ fies a core group of 23 technologies that are basic to the performance of nine U . S . industrial sectors. 1 1 Criteria for identifying technologies as "critical" are not explicit. Lists of critical technologies were generated by senior technology experts from each sector and verified with leading executives from business, labor, and academia. These technologies were then com­ bined into a master list and again verified with a broad group of experts. The Council's analysis focuses on technologies that will be important over the next 10 years. The 23 technologies are divided into 5 categories: 1 ) materials and associated processing technologies, 2 ) engineering and production technologies, 3) electronic components, 4) information technolo­ gies, and 5 ) powertrain and propulsion technologies. As noted in the previ­ ous section, the Council's report also makes recommendations for public policy and private-sector management related to technology. 23

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