by George Gamota
In 1994, the JTEC program is celebrating its tenth year of operation and the completion of its thirtieth study. In addition, the companion World Technology Evaluation Center program has completed three studies, including a landmark global assessment of satellite communications technology, and will be nearing completion of its fourth and fifth by the end of the year. This tenth anniversary affords us an opportunity to take a look back over the history of the program with a view towards gleaning some overall lessons from the program and towards understanding and refining its mission.
Just a decade ago, we had difficulty in even admitting that there was R&D of interest being done outside the United States, in spite of many major surprises coming from abroad. As each new foreign discovery was made public, we went into a series of denials and chest poundings, but very little changed. Basically, we were more interested in our own work than somebody else's. And we always went for the big payoff -- the homerun, the Nobel prize, the revolutionary breakthrough -- and discounted incremental improvements, ideas developed in other countries, and generally efforts requiring teamwork or long-term investments, be they in science, technology, or business.
When the Japanese Technology Evaluation Center (JTEC) program was initiated in 1983, the U.S. high technology trade balance coincidentally was about even (see Figure 3). But, as indicated in the figure, the equality lasted for only a short time. Our trade imbalances grew, and we moved from our status as the biggest creditor nation to being the largest debtor nation.
During the Cold War era, much attention was paid to the smallest bit of information coming from the Soviet Union -- some real threats, some imaginary (e.g., the Alpha class submarines and poly-water, respectively). The Soviets were first in space, and then potentially threatened the West with massive technological prowess to which we had little access. It was easy to convince Washington to fund Soviet technology studies, but there was little interest in learning about other foreign technologies. Meanwhile, the trade imbalances with our allies (particularly Japan) began to grow, even in high technology areas the United States had traditionally dominated.
Figure 3. High Technology Trade Balances, 1981-92 (U.S. Government 1993)
The reason for this blind-sided view of other countries was that the United States was the leader in many if not most technologies during the early post-World War II era. Therefore we became complacent about our leadership position. We took it for granted that everything important would be developed here. It was in this environment that the JTEC program started back in 1983. Even with the growing U.S. trade deficit with Japan in high technology manufactured products, the JTEC idea proved to be very difficult to sell, until some very senior U.S. government officials finally not only blessed it, but more importantly, marshalled the resources to fund the studies.
JTEC's stated goal was to systematically look at various technologies of strategic value to the U.S. government and industry. Technologies were chosen for study largely by decision-makers in Federal R&D agencies who were willing to supply dollars and were eager for the information. Initially, JTEC was coordinated by the Department of Commerce (DOC), with the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Energy (DOE) as funding partners. However, due to personnel changes at DOC, in 1984 leadership of the program shifted to the NSF, where it currently resides. Nevertheless, partnerships with key technology agencies have remained a hallmark of the program. Today the JTEC/WTEC program is one of few real cooperative government programs that have survived so many years. Appreciation is due to NSF for its consistent and far-sighted management of the program over the years (see acknowledgments at the end of this introduction). According to one report (Uyehara 1991), the JTEC program has produced over half of all in-depth studies on Japanese technology that are publicly available in the United States.
When JTEC was started, one of the fears was that it would be extremely difficult to get useful information from the Japanese, because they were perceived to be secretive, and the language barrier would give them an easy way not to tell U.S. visitors about the important things that were going on. JTEC panels found the opposite to be true. Like most researchers, the Japanese are eager to share their work. In most cases, they have provided far more information than we would have expected to glean from comparable visits to U.S. companies. To be sure, good advance work has been necessary to ensure that we visited the right places and asked the right questions; but very seldom has a JTEC team been denied access even to assembly plants that it asked to visit. The hardest visits to arrange were those to U.S. subsidiaries in Japan, which operated more like U.S. companies. But in general we have been welcomed, even when, in the case of the 1992 display technology study, we arrived in Japan in the middle of a heated trade dispute. Although language has not really presented a problem, whenever a JTEC team included at least one Japanese-speaking member, more information was exchanged.
The Japanese view JTEC very positively. They believe in the importance of gathering information, and they are very good at it. Their balance of trade with the U.S. in information gathering is roughly 3:1. That is, Japan buys three times more information from the U.S. than the U.S. buys from Japan. In terms of people exchanged, the numbers are even more skewed. For every ten Japanese scientists or engineers who visit the U.S. for an extended time, only one American goes to Japan. The imbalance is so great that the Japanese government even funds Americans to travel to Japan and spend time in Japanese laboratories.
Some technologies -- for example, those in the area of computer science -- have been the subject of several JTEC studies over the history of the program because of the great interest in the subject and rapid changes in the technology. This continuity, combined with the institutional memory of several people who have been involved with the JTEC program since its inception, makes it possible to assemble a picture of the evolution of Japanese technology in comparison with that in the United States. Because of the time that has elapsed since the earlier reports, it is also possible to see which of the predictions came true, which did not, what was missed, and, finally, why some predicted events did not come to pass.
The ICOT Fifth Generation computer project is an example. Many people consider that project a disappointment. My own opinion is that, although it did not achieve all of its goals, it taught the Japanese many things that are critical to the next phase of advanced computing. The 1987 study, Advanced Computing in Japan, dealt almost exclusively with the Fifth Generation program, and the 1990 study reflected on the degree to which that project succeeded. The 1993 JTEC report on knowledge-based systems in Japan includes a section on ICOT. One finding from that report is that ICOT has made some impressive achievements, particularly in the development of the "KL1" family of parallel symbolic programming languages. The ICOT program was actually extended for three years beyond its originally scheduled termination date. In the meantime, the Japanese government has undertaken another major project in computer science R&D, the Real World Computing (RWC) Initiative, which is sure to further promote the emergence of Japan as a major world player in the computer and information science fields.
In recent years there has been an increasing awareness among the sponsors of the JTEC program that the technological challenge facing the United States comes not only from Japan, but also from Europe and potentially from many other parts of the world. This inspired the formation of the World Technology Evaluation Center. WTEC completed its initial assessment, on European nuclear instrumentation and controls (I&C) technology, in late 1991. This focused on one aspect of nuclear technology that already had been the subject of one chapter of the broader 1990 JTEC study on Japanese nuclear technology. The detailed review of the world's major nuclear I&C technology suppliers was completed in 1993 with the publication of the WTEC Monograph on Instrumentation, Control, and Safety Systems of Canadian Nuclear Facilities. Based on these three reports, Jim White of Oak Ridge National Laboratory has now prepared the world-wide summary assessment of nuclear I&C technologies that is published for the first time in this volume. It will also be available separately. Dr. White's assessment, that the United States trails every country but Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in nuclear I&C technology and applications, should be of concern even to those who question the wisdom of further investments in nuclear power; instrumentation and controls technology is critical to the safety of our existing plants.
WTEC's second international assessment, completed in 1993, examined satellite telecommunications technology in Europe, Japan, and Russia. This study also resulted in some sobering conclusions: Japan, and to a lesser extent Europe, stand a good chance of wresting a substantial proportion of the satellite communications business away from the United States early in the next century. This is the result of a long period of slackened satellite communications R&D funding at NASA, during which time strong European and Japanese research and applications programs have proven new technologies and given their companies valuable experience and know-how.
With the breakup of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, the Departments of Energy and Defense requested that I assess the technological potential of Ukraine, the second largest of the newly independent republics of the former Soviet Union (FSU). A five volume report entitled Science, Technology and Conversion in Ukraine was published in 1993, and is the most comprehensive look at that country's R&D potential. It reviews the major R&D institutions and activities there, listing key individuals, their addresses, telephone numbers, and, whenever available, their electronic mail addresses.
As of this writing, WTEC is planning to perform its next global assessment in the area of research submersibles and related undersea technologies. A WTEC panel is now completing its report on submersible technologies in Russia, Ukraine, Finland, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Within the next few months, we hope to send the same panel to Japan, following which they will visit some sites in eastern Russia (Vladivostok area) that they were not able to visit in their May 1993 trip to European Russia and Ukraine.
WTEC is now filling in another piece of the global picture in advanced display technologies with a panel that visited Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus in October of 1993. As described above in the Annual Report section, WTEC is also collaborating with the Civil Engineering Research Foundation in an assessment of civil engineering technologies in Western Europe. This complements the earlier JTEC study of construction technology in Japan, affording a broader global perspective on the status of the U.S. with respect to another important application of advanced technology. Topics under consideration for future WTEC studies include environmentally benign manufacturing technologies and metals casting technology.
Our experience with Europe and the former Soviet Union is not as long as it is in Japan. Unlike JTEC, which is well recognized in Japan, the WTEC mission is not yet fully understood. This has required more work, particularly in planning and preparation for the site visits. Furthermore, Japan is a single country, with many R&D activities centrally located in Tokyo. Conversely, Europe is a continent with many countries; just the transportation aspect alone makes it harder to coordinate a set of visits in a short time. And most visits have to be completed in a short time; industrial panelists find it particularly difficult to get away from their jobs for more than about a week -- two weeks at the most. By including Russia, Ukraine and possibly other new countries in Eastern Europe, the WTEC trips have stretched these limits.
In spite of these problems, we have been delighted to find out that the JTEC process works well in Europe (East and West). Now after nearly completing four studies in Europe, we find that it is easier to obtain access. Logistics problems have been solved by breaking the team into subgroups and utilizing travel time for other activities -- such as sleeping, eating or site report preparation. A noteworthy addition to our process, when we have visited FSU countries, has been to invite selected hosts from our site visits to our workshop in Washington. This provides them with an opportunity to meet interested U.S. parties and initiate joint ventures or cooperative research. Many of these organizations have been previously closed to the West, and are eager to become known and engage in discussions for cooperation. This is particularly true for Russian organizations situated outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg, and most organizations in Ukraine, Belarus and the other new countries in Eastern Europe.
Each JTEC or WTEC study provides a current view of the status of research, development and/or applications of a particular technology in one or more foreign countries. It also provides a snapshot of a particular technology and its relationship to a possible range of products. Finally, most JTEC and WTEC studies include a review of mechanisms for R&D support in the subject country(ies). As such, the large body of JTEC and WTEC studies completed to-date provides a useful benchmark for the ongoing debate in Washington as to the direction that U.S. technology policy should take in the latter part of the 1990s.
First, a number of ideas that are being proposed in Washington today to stimulate the development of civilian and dual-use technologies have been tried in Japan and Europe already, to varying degrees of success. JTEC/WTEC studies can provide valuable information on why these ideas have succeeded or failed abroad, and how they may or may not work in the United States.
Second, foreign governments have identified certain technologies and/or applications as critical to their future, therefore deserving of direct or indirect government support. The debate in the United States over industrial policy must therefore be influenced greatly by the extent to which other governments around the world have already distorted the "free market" forces that would otherwise shape the development and deployment of new technologies and products. The illusion of a free market is further undermined by the behavior of large oligopolistic or monopolistic private corporations and/or consortia overseas. For example, there is no doubt that, due to differing cultural and institution frameworks, Japanese corporations behave very differently from U.S. corporations, especially with respect to long-term investments in R&D. In other words, if governments and large corporations and consortia overseas are practicing technological mercantilism by subsidizing or otherwise fostering the development of civilian high technology industry, the U.S. government cannot possibly gain from conducting a laissez faire free trade policy in isolation. JTEC and WTEC studies can provide key information concerning the mechanisms for corporate and government R&D support abroad to facilitate informed debate on this issue in the United States.
Finally, to the extent that free trade in high technology products and information does prevail in this world, U.S. government and industry must have access to reliable information concerning where the best research and technology can be found around the world. The JTEC/WTEC program can contribute in this respect as well.
In order to facilitate such contributions to the broader U.S. technology policy arena, the National Science Foundation has asked us to combine the executive summaries of all the recent JTEC/WTEC reports in a single document and to identify some issues that cut across several of the studies. This program summary presents twenty-two executive summaries from reports completed since the fall of 1989. Summaries of the first ten studies, those completed between 1984 and early 1989, are not included here. Readers are directed to Gaining Ground -- Japan's Strides in Science and Technology (Gamota and Frieman 1988), the JTEC Program Summary (JTEC 1991) and the JTEC/WTEC Program Summary (JTEC/WTEC 1992) for more information on those early studies.
The reports have been arranged according to application areas, so readers can make correlations between similar areas and compare changes reported by similar studies conducted at different times. Whereas in the 1980s it became customary in the Federal Government to organize technology policy discussions along lines of disciplines or categories of "critical" technologies, the current administration appears to be inclined instead to look at the end-result, or applications, of these technologies. This is almost the opposite of the current trend in Japan, where government agencies for the past few years have been putting greater emphasis on improving Japan's basic research capability. However, these recent policy shifts in Japan and the U.S. both represent positive responses to an imbalance that was evident in the 1980s, i.e., that the Japanese did better applied research and product development, while the U.S. excelled at basic research and, at least in the government sector, paid little attention to collaborating with industry in applied R&D and manufacturing technology. Governments in both countries are moving to redress this imbalance: Japan by putting new emphasis on basic research, and the United States by pursuing new initiatives in government-supported applied R&D projects in close cooperation with industry.
Unfortunately, a troubling trend appears to be developing in the United States. To redress the lack of support of applied research and development for commercial applications, basic research funding is now being threatened. There is a need to fill the "gap" in applied R&D funding, in order to ensure that we are prepared to capitalize on basic research discoveries. But this should not be in lieu of support for that basic research. Basic research has proven to be our insurance for the future. If we wish to remain competitive, we need to do so across the full spectrum from basic research to applied R&D.
Table 7 compares the JTEC and WTEC studies with a variety of application areas. The "critical technology" approach is still with us, however. In the U.S., there remain statutory requirements for the maintenance of several lists of critical or sensitive technologies at both the Defense and Commerce departments (U.S. Govt. 1990, 1991a, 1991b). There are several analogous Japanese lists, most notably a 1988 Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) document that ranks the United States and Japan in a wide range of industrial technologies (Govt. of Japan 1988). Similar strategic thinking is evident in the 1990 list of research projects supported by the Commission of the European Communities (EC 1990). These lists have many common themes and, not too surprisingly, include most of the topics that have been studied by the JTEC teams.
JTEC/WTEC Studies by Application Area
Note: * in progress; ** planned.
As a glance at the titles of all the JTEC studies makes clear, JTEC's sponsoring agencies have emphasized information technologies, although much work has also been done in the areas of materials, manufacturing, and space technology. No studies have directly addressed pharmaceutical, medical, and environmental technologies, though the bioprocess engineering study (completed in 1992) and the separation technologies study (completed in 1993) do cover some relevant material.
Perspective is one of several benefits that accrue from compiling the JTEC/WTEC studies. The studies suggest that if current trends continue, Japan and other advanced industrialized countries will present an increasing challenge to the United States in high-technology markets. This is not to say that they will dominate all high technology. But if there is a large market, many if not all of these countries will be participating in it, and will be trying to perform state-of-the-art R&D work to ensure that their products will be competitive. The emerging Eastern European economies also have the potential to present major competitive challenges, as well as cooperative opportunities, for U.S. high-technology industry.
The U.S. can react to these challenges, and in fact has turned a corner in at least one area that was given up by many as a lost cause -- semiconductor manufacturing. Recent advances by U.S. industry giants such as Intel and SEMATECH (a cooperative industry research institute) have made the U.S. competitive again. The Clinton Administration is proposing similar and/or complementary initiatives in automotive technology, information infrastructure, advanced manufacturing technologies, and dual-use technologies in general (Clinton & Gore 1993). The new administration is also advocating a permanent extension of the research and experimentation tax credit as a way of stimulating private R&D investments across the board.
However, one of the most fundamental lessons that we have learned in the JTEC/WTEC program is that one should be very careful in interpreting successes and failures abroad, and trying to compare them to our own experience here in the United States. Too often successes are copied by starting similar efforts only to find out that it takes more than just proclamations and/or money. Unique local conditions (culture, education, etc.) must be taken into account before a successful effort in Japan or Europe can be carried out in the United States. Certainly we can and should learn from the efforts of others, but we must understand them in their full context. Two such cases in point are Japanese consortia and the role of, or apparent lack of, basic (undirected) research in Japan.
In the mid- to late-1980s, it became fashionable in the United States to create industrial consortia. A few succeeded and are still around today, but many did not live up to their expectations. There are many reasons, but one key factor is that the close government-industry relationships typical of Japanese consortia would be viewed as legally or ethically questionable in the United States. The two best known U.S. consortia -- MCC and SEMATECH -- are currently doing well, but they have abandoned many of their original goals, and have succeeded mainly by understanding how Japanese consortia really work, modifying that model to fit the U.S. situation.
Gerald Hane in a recent article in Issues in Science and Technology (Hane 1993) has analyzed the workings of Japanese consortia. In simplistic terms, he states that the key to their success is coordination of research, not forced marriages between competitors. Many U.S. consortia tried to force cooperation between natural competitors, and it just did not work. Coordination of research, on the other hand, means that participants can keep their secrets, but know the general direction of their competitors. Taichi Sakaiya, formerly with MITI, expresses this more strikingly. Rather than viewing Japan as a monolithic "Japan, Inc.," a nation with a single purpose precisely executing a complex and cooperative effort, he argues that Japan is more like "a land of a thousand clocks" (Sakaiya 1993). The government makes sure everyone keeps the same time, but there is much less sharing than many in the West believe. He states that in Japan "everyone is first and foremost loyal to his organization." This has been evident in some of the JTEC studies, when we encountered openness to our visiting team, but concern about sharing findings with our hosts' Japanese competitors.
Another key ingredient in Japanese consortia is the role played by the national laboratories. This is a role that U.S. national laboratories -- mostly Department of Energy laboratories -- are now aspiring to play. Unfortunately, the U.S. laboratories have evolved mostly from weapons work or basic research, and do not have any significant experience or background in understanding the commercial world. Thus they are having difficulty in acting as honest brokers between companies, a role Japanese laboratories have played well.
Close relationships between government and industry can benefit R&D, but can also cause other problems. The Japanese construction industry offers a good example. JTEC sent a team to Japan in 1991 to study construction technology. The panel learned that the Japanese construction industry invests a half percent of its revenues in R&D -- nearly five times the percentage in the U.S. This investment has allowed Japan to excel in such areas as tunneling, design and construction of intelligent buildings, robotics, and other related areas. Private R&D funding has also been assisted by the Ministry of Construction, a government agency for which there is no U.S. counterpart. Recently, however, this government-industry relationship in construction has been the subject of public scrutiny, and a number of government and industrial executives have been jailed for illegal activities that stemmed from their cozy relationships. This was, in fact, one of the causes for the recent toppling of the Liberal Democratic Party after 38 years in power.
Another area where Japanese industrial policy is encountering difficulties is in the development of the nuclear breeder reactor, Monju. The U.S. abandoned this technology 15 years ago because of potential economic, health, safety, and political problems. In spite of this, Japan continued to pump most of its advanced reactor R&D investments into this one area. Today, even as Monju is being prepared for startup this spring, Japan is reviewing its plans for the plutonium fuel cycle, at least in part in response to worldwide protests on Japan's plutonium fuel shipments from France, as well as the exorbitant cost of the Monju project (Washington Post 1994).
The debate over industrial policy will be fueled even more by the recent controversy over the Japanese HDTV standard (MUSE). After it became known early this year that the Japanese government was considering abandoning the MUSE system in favor of the new digital standard just adopted by the United States, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications was obliged to make a public announcement pledging continued support for MUSE. This apparent turnabout in Japanese government policy was reportedly sparked by a storm of protest from major Japanese electronics companies that have collectively invested billions of their own funds in the MUSE system, and are not inclined to write that investment off as yet. But the future of the MUSE system will be pretty much determined by its lack of acceptance by the U.S. and Europe -- investment or no investment.
However that question is resolved, there is no denying that the MUSE system is an excellent example of a pioneering technology that was developed by Japan completely on its own. The Japanese also have reason to feel pride in the fact that they have the world's only operational HDTV system. Japanese manufacturers are in a good position to dominate the world market for digital HDTV equipment because they currently dominate the technology and markets for more conventional equipment.
The Japanese thrust to develop HDTV, beginning in the 1970s, has also had an important side-benefit: HDTV requires advanced displays. Thus the Japanese program has included a big effort to develop wall-sized flat panel displays. Though large-scale commercial production of such displays is still in the future, it is no coincidence that Japan now dominates the technology and markets for smaller flat panel displays used in portable computers.
In sum, this is not to say that industrial policy is bad or good, but only that it must be balanced against many considerations; decisions should be reviewed periodically to assure that the original underpinnings and assumptions are still valid. One could also conclude, ironically, that a successful industrial policy requires the taking of risks. Hence, in order to succeed, you must be willing to fail occasionally. If this were not the case, there would be no need for government intervention to mitigate the risks private firms must take in order to invest in new technologies. "Sure fire" new technologies will get all the private investment they need -- only risky (and/or expensive) ones require the sort of nurturing that a government industrial policy can provide. Of course, this argument, when taken to the extreme, could result in government policies that distort the market by promoting only losing technologies.
It is very difficult to make categorical statements about a nation's strengths and weaknesses in a technology without using many caveats. Unfortunately, too many caveats make the argument less persuasive. However, without the caveats, statements can be taken out of context and wrong perceptions created.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to synthesize and present data so that policy makers and the nontechnical community can easily understand the importance and the implications of the findings. Table 8 relies on an overview of the JTEC studies to summarize the Japanese position. This table makes it obvious that the single most important Japanese strength is in product development and manufacturing, not only in the area of electronic components, but also in many other areas. Another interesting observation from the table is that in many cases Japanese R&D is competitive with that in the United States. Japanese technology is weak in many basic research areas; but by launching programs such as ERATO (described below), the Japanese show that they are trying to offset this deficiency.
Japanese Strengths and Weaknesses
Japan has had a definite lead in manufacturing for some time. Some interesting findings have been reported by our current JTEC panel on electronic packaging, chaired by Professor Michael Kelly from Georgia Tech. Although the report is not yet available, the panel released some preliminary findings at a workshop held on January 12th of this year. Gene Meieran of Intel, one of the JTEC panelists, lists U.S. strengths as university research, information technology research, generic company research, and entrepreneurial activity and risk taking. According to Dr. Meieran, the Japanese are best at active involvement in research, manufacturing research, and coherent company and government policies.
Information research is an area in which the U.S. seems to continue to lead. Japan is behind in networks, database systems, electronic mail, and system integration. The U.S. also maintains its lead in software engineering, even though this has been targeted by the Japanese for a number of years. Their effort to "leapfrog" the United States by creating software factories has just not worked. The biggest threat to U.S. software engineers and programmers is an increasing volume of software now being written in India -- often by Ph.D.-educated scientists who cannot find work in their field. They can produce software for a fraction of what it costs in the United States. Similar growth in the software business has been reported in Russia, although the language barrier could prove to be a hurdle there in the immediate future.
The United States still leads in basic (or "undirected") research. This lead is often quite wide, particularly in areas that are not clearly identified as relevant to key industries. This is in part because much "basic" research in Japan is focused, ultimately tied to possible applications. One example of this is superconductivity, a basic research topic the Japanese have singled out for emphasis, and in which they have been competing successfully worldwide. Their focus is on high-temperature superconducting materials, an area with obvious applications.
The Japanese government has started a number of programs to enhance basic research. One of its successes in this respect has been the ERATO program, initiated in 1981 under the sponsorship of the Science & Technology Agency (STA) through its Japan Research and Development Corporation (JRDC). ERATO is unique in its operation. All ERATO projects have a senior director (recruited from industry, national laboratories or universities) and a handful of younger researchers who work together on some specific long-range problem for five years. Considerable freedom is allowed in how funding is allocated within the individual projects. Most projects fall into two major categories -- physics/engineering and biotechnology. The nature of the work has been in almost all cases basic research not explicitly tied to any specific application. The results, however, often are applied to specific problems, instruments, and products that the ERATO office publicizes in its reports. ERATO was designed to bring industry and university scientists together. These factors have helped ERATO attract increasing funding contributions from industry. Funding is modest at about two to three million dollars per year per project. The total ERATO budget is currently about $85 million per year, allocated to 37 projects.
In a departure from previous practices, ERATO recently announced a new project that will be based outside Japan. It will be headed by Yoshihisa Yamamoto from Stanford University. He will receive $17 million over five years. A spin-off ERATO program has also been announced that will fund a large scale cooperative program between researchers at Tokyo University and the University of California at Santa Barbara.
JTEC studied ERATO in 1988, and a follow-up study has been proposed for this year. The focus of such a study would be not only to examine the quality of ERATO research, but also to look at its impact on career paths followed by young people engaged in the various projects.
As a part of the Japanese move to improve basic research, they have also strengthened their university research and made efforts to more closely couple that research with industry. University research has traditionally played a secondary role in Japan's research enterprise. Early JTEC teams were so disappointed with what they observed that for a long while few teams even wanted to visit universities except to pay social calls. Today that is changing. Recent JTEC teams have noted that university research is improving steadily. Even more significantly, Japanese industry is starting to pay more attention to what is going on at universities. There is a significant new initiative within the Japanese government aimed at improving university infrastructure, including a 29% increase in fiscal year 1993 (ending 4/94) funding for the Ministry of Education. Much of this additional funding is reportedly targetted at buildings and equipment.
Nevertheless, U.S. university research remains unquestionably superior. Despite Japan's efforts to improve university-industry coupling, it is difficult to point to any one area today where Japanese university research plays a significant role in providing results of interest to industry. There is probably more coupling between Japanese industry and American university research than there is with their own universities. Part of the problem lies in lack of real incentives for Japanese academic researchers to collaborate with industry.
In some critical areas -- for example, artificial intelligence and software -- the Japanese have decided to fund basic research in the United States. Some of the work is being done at prestigious U.S. universities, and some at Japanese-owned R&D centers at U.S. locations such as Princeton, Palo Alto, and Michigan. The work there is first class, and most of the results are published in U.S. journals. To be sure, the Japanese scrutinize the results for possible applications to their product lines.
With this new emphasis on basic research, particularly in the Japanese government, Japan now faces somewhat of a dilemma. It was much easier in the past for the Japanese to import and absorb foreign technology than it is now for them to forge ahead in areas in which they lead. The reasons may include the following:
First, lack of a critical mass of basic researchers makes it difficult to identify new directions. One contributing factor to this is that Japan has had less success than the United States in attracting foreign scientific and technological talent. There are many foreign students in Japan, but comparatively few of them stay for any extended period beyond their education. Such imported talent has been a key contributor to U.S. successes in basic research, especially since many foreign students have chosen to settle here after their education is complete. Second, Japanese culture has for the last 120 years (not just recently as some believe) excelled at absorbing and using information from abroad. Even prior to the Meiji Restoration of the 1860s, Japan imported the best of foreign (primarily Chinese) culture and technology, adapting it as appropriate. Japan's Charter Oath, which bears a resemblance to our Declaration of Independence, says in part, "knowledge shall be sought throughout the world, and the foundations of the empire shall be strengthened." During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, foreign experts were recruited, including specialists on railways, mining engineering, communications, and medicine. In 1873 the Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo (later Tokyo University) became the first university in the world to offer a program in electrical engineering. James Clerk Maxwell said of the work done there by the founding professors, William Ayrton and John Perry, that they had "... moved the center of gravity of electrical engineering greatly eastward." One of Ayrton's Japanese students helped to found one of the companies to form Toshiba, and another became one of the founders of NEC. Countless students were sent abroad at great expense to learn and come back and build upon what they had studied.
Third, basic research requires staying power and very long term investment. Given the current economic situation in Japan and the recent closer view of the bottom line in industry, it is questionable whether the commitment can be sustained. Some reductions in R&D spending have been reported recently at Fujitsu, Hitachi, JVC, NEC, and Toshiba. Industrial funding of research at Japanese universities has also seen reductions.
While the need to send students abroad has greatly diminished due to the excellent schools at home, the Japanese continue to be passionate about learning about the world's good ideas. They have no qualms about honoring foreigners who have achieved greatness. For example, last year Dr. George Heilmeir was honored for his work on liquid crystals while he was a researcher at RCA laboratories. It is a sobering fact that here was a man being honored in Japan for work that could have meant tremendous profits to RCA or other U.S. companies had they exploited this discovery themselves. Unfortunately, we just let it go.
In the West, and particularly in the U.S., being associated with a technological failure is usually detrimental to one's career. In Japan, decisions are made by consensus, and risks are shared by all concerned. If a program fails to meet its technological objective, the people associated with the undertaking share the disappointment; but seldom does such a failure threaten an individual's career, because the group made the decisions. Moreover, the Japanese try to learn from failures, documenting findings just as if the results had been positive. As a result, there appears to be much less "going over the same ground" in Japan than in the United States. The ICOT program, mentioned earlier, is a good case in point. Its almost impossibly ambitious goals were not achieved, but much was learned from the attempt, and the program did raise Japan's level of competence in computer science. Parenthetically, realizing that they have gone as far as anyone in this area, the Japanese invited international participation in their next computer science effort -- the RWC Initiative (also known as the Sixth Generation Project). For policy reasons, the U.S. has declined to participate in the whole program, but has agreed to cooperate in aspects related to optoelectronics.
The WTEC studies covering Western Europe are still too few to make many general statements, so I will mention only a few findings, mostly dealing with the FSU.
The first and probably most important conclusion is that we in the United States have taken an overly narrow view of opportunities in the FSU. "Soviet" has meant "Russia" to most of us in the West, and Russia has meant Moscow. The Soviets wanted the window to the Soviet Union to be through Moscow, and we continue to suffer from that tunnel vision. However, it is outside of Moscow in Russia, and in Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic countries, that many exciting possibilities exist. To be sure, it will take more time to find them, but the rewards are worth it. The once closed cities are now open; much of the technology (applied research and advanced development) is found outside Moscow, which has been the center of basic research. For example, Kharkiv boasts the world's largest aviation complex; Dnipropetrovsk is the site of the most modern former Soviet rocket facility; and Mykolaev has the only nuclear aircraft carrier shipyard.
Another observation is that, while the people in the FSU are very hospitable, they are becoming weary of the large number of delegations that are visiting with no follow up. To a far greater extent than in Japan, there is an expectation in the FSU of a quid pro quo. That is one of the reasons we have included invitations to some of our hosts to visit the U.S. and attend our workshops, affording them an opportunity to meet potential research or business partners. Their infrastructure is crumbling, and the window for collaborative work will not remain open much longer. Facilities will deteriorate, or the people will leave. Worse yet, political changes could close these sites to the West, and a new arms race could well begin. This should not come as a surprise; it has happened already twice in this century.
Lastly, focusing now on Western Europe, the WTEC panels are finding a substantial body of excellent basic research in Germany, France, Switzerland and other Western European countries. There is a fair amount of willingness there to invest in research, and even to support intra-European efforts (e.g., CERN). Additionally, one finds a surprising number of U.S.-educated and experienced Europeans who have returned to their native countries after spending 20 years or more in U.S. facilities such as AT&T Bell Laboratories or IBM Watson laboratory.
With the demise of the Superconducting Supercollider Project (SSC), I suspect a fair number of our best high energy physicists will be going to Europe soon. The two most recent major discoveries in high temperature superconductivity were made in Europe -- the first in Switzerland, and the most recent in France. I do not want to argue whether or not the SSC was a good investment at its inception, but I do feel that once the U.S. decided to fund such an important and long term project, terminating it in the middle of construction was unfortunate. Many first rate scientists committed their careers to it, and the U.S. government and the State of Texas had already committed and expended billions.
JTEC/WTEC has initiated 36 studies of foreign technology over the past 10 years (six are still in progress, and final reports are expected in 1994). This series of studies gives a fairly comprehensive picture of the status and trends, and the strengths and the weaknesses, of Japanese R&D over a wide spectrum of strategic technology areas. It is inevitable that the 22 executive summaries included in this volume will be vulnerable to misinterpretation when taken out of the context of the full reports. Nevertheless, even a brief perusal of these summaries conveys an overall impression of Japanese R&D that is scarcely subject to misinterpretation: Japan is engaged in a systematic effort to achieve parity with, or superiority over, the United States in virtually every technology that is of current or potential economic significance. The Europeans are evidently following a similar path of strategic investment in high technology. The mechanisms by which Japan and Europe have pursued this strategy, and the extent to which they are succeeding, cannot help but be of great interest to policymakers in the United States and in the rest of the world.
The Japanese make no secret of their objectives or methods in pursuing their strategy; quite the contrary, they offer the rest of the world a possible blueprint for the pursuit of economic prosperity through thoughtful long-range investment in science and technology. The authors of the JTEC and WTEC reports and the other contributors to this summary report hope that readers will find this information to be a useful contribution to the debate over how valid and applicable this Japanese model of technological and economic development is to the rest of the world.
Since 1992 the world has been experiencing a recession, and Japan and Europe are not immune to its effects. Industrial funding for R&D in the U.S. is down, and there is talk that Europe is following suit. Even in Japan there are signs of strain. The JTEC electronic packaging panel heard comments from some of their Japanese hosts last fall that traditional supplier relationships are being disrupted by the recession. However, there is no indication yet that there has been any wholesale cutback in Japanese R&D funding, either in the private sector or in the government. If the Japanese follow their previous strategy, they will use this time to increase R&D rather than cut it back. Time will tell, and we hope our current and future JTEC reports will provide us with more detailed information. But the recession is certainly not sufficient grounds for the United States to become complacent about the long-term economic and technological challenge posed by Japan and Europe.
Too many people have contributed to the overall JTEC/WTEC effort to list here, though we are grateful for all of their work -- and particularly for the work of the panelists and chairpersons of all the study teams, without whom there would have been no JTEC program. I would also like to thank the numerous hosts in Japan, Europe, Canada, and the former Soviet Union, who have been very gracious in accepting our teams, sharing information, and making our visits very memorable. I will conclude by thanking those whose efforts have most directly led to the success of JTEC/WTEC and to the publication of this document: Paul Herer of the National Science Foundation, who manages the JTEC/WTEC program for NSF; Frank Huband, formerly in charge of JTEC at NSF and now executive director of the American Society for Engineering Education; Duane Shelton, director of the International Technology Research Institute at Loyola College; Michael DeHaemer, principal investigator for the JTEC/WTEC grants at Loyola College. Additionally, I want to give special thanks and credit to Geoff Holdridge of the JTEC/WTEC staff, who edited and produced this summary report.
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