FLAT PANEL DISPLAY INFRASTRUCTURE

This section discusses specific areas of the infrastructure in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus that are important to the flat panel display industry. A technology-oriented discussion of many of these topics can be found in the individual chapters on technology. The observational basis of these remarks was not systematic.

Educational Systems and Personnel Resources

One thing that was abundantly clear was that there is a large and well-educated labor force within the countries the WTEC team visited. The quality of technical education appeared to be very good. However, many of the individuals that the panelists met, especially at academically-oriented basic research institutions, lamented the sudden decline in the size of university classes and the unwillingness of today's young people to invest in education. Another measure of this decline was the lack of younger researchers at many of the institutions that the panel visited. This was certainly not universally true, and the panel's sample may well have been biased, but there did seem to be a paucity of young new researchers, especially at basic research institutions. Current salaries are so low that the lack of young people at the institutions visited may result from economic necessity rather than young researchers' lack of desire to do science and engineering.

Fundamental Research and Research Institutes

The WTEC panel visited several major institutes that were previously linked to the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Some of these institutes focused on basic science, others on the development and manufacture of scientific equipment. But even at institutes that primarily produced precision instruments, there was also an active basic research program. It was surprising to visit an institute for scientific instrumentation and see it not only design and manufacture scientific instruments, but also use these instruments in an ongoing program of fundamental research possibly unrelated to the manufacture of the instrument. Many institutes worked very closely with enterprises to develop manufacturing processes or to characterize and control materials manufacturing. Because some of the enterprises have now been privatized, the nature of these relationships is changing. It is often unclear who owns the technologies created by these partnerships. And now, as the state's role changes and some of these collaborations continue, it is even more difficult to determine the ownership of intellectual property and technology.

Research and Development

In the past it was commonplace for the institutes that focus on basic science to collaborate with the companies that transferred the fundamental science into applications. This spirit of cooperation continues despite the changes in the financial support system. In one case, LCD manufacturing in Belarus, the integration of effort across university-based researchers, government laboratories, and recently privatized companies, is continuing and impressive. However, issues of ownership and compensation are often not worked out or are murky at best. The condition of the physical plants and renewal of equipment within research institutes was also quite diverse and spotty. In one institute, a relatively new massively parallel western computer was being used for research. In other institutions, the support for research was thin to nil, with aging laboratory equipment and little money to support continuing research. The panelists saw many instances of customized and unique laboratory equipment that was idle due to lack of funds, parts, or both.

Throughout the institutions, panelists saw considerable laboratory hardware manufactured in the West as well as unique hardware manufactured in the FSU, but most of this equipment appeared to be old. Laboratory computers were usually ten years behind those common in the West. But component technologies like vacuum pumps for large chambers may actually be better than corresponding western technologies. At one institute a researcher pointed out a vacuum pump in a very dirty research lab environment that had survived all matter and form of insult, and yet continued pumping flawlessly, enabling the chamber it evacuated to produce high-quality heterojunction devices to the present.

Precompetitive R&D

Because of the former organization of the economy within the FSU, the quantity and quality of precompetitive research and development related to displays appears to be good. It is not clear what business mechanisms are available to transfer and utilize this research base. The panel saw excellent research on deposition technologies, planarization methods, and other technologies directly related to displays.

Supporting Industries

In the United States, there are over 800 companies that manufacture machine tools and raw materials for the electronics industry. Many of these companies are small, employing less than 200 people. Because the companies are small, the financial resources to develop new products are often limited. In the United States, the infrastructure of supporting industries is helped by institutions such as SEMATECH and the United States Display Consortium. In the FSU countries the transition to privatization is creating these companies out of the fabric of the formerly monolithic electronics industry. As a consequence, a supporting infrastructure for a display manufacturing industry is beginning to emerge. Many essential industries, for example interconnect technology, currently do not exist within these countries, and necessary machine tools and materials must be imported from abroad.

Transportation

The WTEC panel did not directly address the issues of transportation on either the supply side or product delivery side of manufacturing. It did appear that materials were in short supply, and that the lack of transportation was a major contributor to this problem. The panelists' data and experience in this important arena are very limited, but the transportation infrastructure appears to be in decline.

Manufacturing Facilities

Facilities for manufacturing are available; however, space for completely private enterprises can be difficult to locate. Basic utilities and services such as electricity, water, and waste disposal can also be unreliable and scarce.

Finance

Most of the enterprises and institutions that the panel visited were directly supported by the government. It was unclear what it means to be a private enterprise when salary and operating budgets often continue to come from the government. Although panel members did not discuss these issues in detail, it appeared that a banking system to support private enterprise is beginning to emerge.

Legal Systems

There are many unsolved problems with patent law and ownership. Unless explicit agreements are in place, individuals and not corporations own intellectual property. One can only question or wonder how ownership of technology is decided for technologies that have or are being developed by individuals whose salary is provided by the state, and who develop the technology within state-operated buildings. In some cases, private enterprises rent space in state-owned factories. If the state provides heat or electricity or engineering support, then who owns the resulting technology?

Profit and Corruption

In many conversations with individual scientists and engineers, panel members were impressed by the lack of distinction between an individual who is making a profit and someone who is actually corrupt. Corruption in the form of protection money and other illegal taxes exists in the FSU. And certainly excessive profit- taking can be corrupt, but many citizens in these countries do not distinguish between simple corruption and making a reasonable profit from an enterprise.

Marketing and Sales

Marketing and sales are emerging as integral components of private enterprises. The panel saw large manufacturers of component technologies that did not have a marketing or sales department. Channels of distribution, wholesalers, and so forth, are new concepts and institutions in the these countries. It is not clear whether the people of the FSU recognize that marketing and distribution add value, and therefore deserve to be compensated by recovery of direct costs and rewarded with profits.

Consumer Markets and Marketplaces

Panel members saw very little that would be easily recognized as a western-style consumer marketplace. The systems for dissemination of services and goods are radically changing.


Published: December 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian