The Japanese Technology Evaluation Center (JTEC)1 was founded in 1983 as a program in the U.S. Department of Commerce aimed at gathering and disseminating information about Japanese technology in the open literature. The National Science Foundation (NSF) took over leadership of the program in 1985, giving JTEC a renewed mission to promote two-way exchange of scientific and technological information between the United States and Japan. Thirty-one JTEC reports have now been completed, with several more in progress as of this writing. Visiting JTEC study teams have been extremely well received by their Japanese hosts, a reception enhanced by NSF's worldwide reputation for promoting international cooperation in science and technology.
Early JTEC reports pointed out the benefits to the United States of cooperation with Japan in research and development (R&D). The 1985 panel on opto- and micro-electronics unanimously called for the United States to "foster and continue to increase present day information exchanges for mutual benefit" (Wieder and Spicer 1985, p. xvi). The 1986 biotechnology panel recommended "cooperation and exchange of information with Japan" (Oxender 1986, p. xix).
These early JTEC studies also were motivated largely by competitive impulses: the perception that Japan posed a threat to the United States in certain high technology industries. Even a cursory review of the early JTEC reports clearly demonstrates that the primary thrust of the program from the inception was competitive assessment. The 1985 Mechatronics report called for a U.S. "national response to the Japanese challenge in the area of Mechatronics ..." (Nevins 1985, p. 1-4). The same biotechnology panel quoted above also found that "the United States is expected to face its most serious challenge from Japan" (Oxender 1986, p. xiii). The 1986 JTEC panel on telecommunications technology stated its purpose as to "compare the status of R&D in Japan's telecommunications industry ... with that of the United States so as to try to predict the future of trade competition between the two countries" (Turin 1986, p. xi).
More recent JTEC studies are no different in this respect: although the results are useful in helping to formulate plans for cooperative R&D among the two nations, the primary motivation of most JTEC studies remains competitive. The 1992/93 panel on satellite communications concluded that "the market share of the U.S. satellite communications industry is at risk" (Edelson and Pelton 1993a, p. 1). That study's primary sponsor at NASA concluded that the study highlights the need for "emphasis in NASA's plan on the development of advanced technologies that will contribute to future U.S. competitiveness in satellite communications" (Edelson and Pelton 1993b, p. ii). The recent JTEC report on electronic packaging in Japan states that its purpose is to "understand the strengths of Japan's electronics industry as a step towards improving the vitality of the U.S. electronics industry" (Boulton 1995, p. xv).
Why Japan Cooperates
The obvious question is: why are the JTEC study teams welcomed so
hospitably in Japan when their stated purpose is to improve the U.S.
position in high technology industries with respect to Japan? The basic
answer is that the JTEC program, both in its cooperative and its
competitive modes, serves the interests not only of the United States, but
also of the Japanese government agencies and companies that participate in
the program. Some plausible reasons for this fall into the following
categories: governmental relationships, collegial relationships, global
benefits, corporate interests, and finally the JTEC methodology.
Full access to U.S. science and technology (S&T) information is important to Japan. The Japanese may take the view that facilitating reciprocal access to Japanese information for Americans will help maintain Japan's access to U.S. information. In this light, Japanese government agencies such as STA, MITI, and the Ministry of Education (Monbusho) have provided special resources for improving foreign access to Japanese S&T information. The Japan Information Center for Science and Technology (JICST) provides an English-language version of its JICST database (JICST-E), no doubt at considerable expense. Monbusho funds the NACSIS database and initially supported special initiatives to make it available overseas. MITI and several other Japanese government agencies recently have been making a substantial amount of English-language information on Japanese S&T available on the World Wide Web. Supporting JTEC is another way that the Japanese government can help redress any perceived imbalances in the flow of S&T information between Japan and the rest of the world.
The Japanese government has an interest in attracting foreign scientific and technological talent to come to Japan. In fact, the Japanese government provides funds for programs administered by NSF and the Department of Commerce that pay for U.S. scientists and engineers to study, work, and live in Japan. The 1995 establishment of the Techno-Growth House in Tsukuba (U.S. Dept. of Commerce 1995) is only the most recent example of this.
JTEC studies can help to increase awareness around the world of centers of excellence in the Japanese research community. JTEC can also be helpful in this regard by identifying specific areas where international collaboration (under government or corporate auspices) may be fruitful. Such collaborations may involve either bringing foreign talent to work in Japanese laboratories or sending Japanese scientists to work abroad; both of these activities are in Japan's interests.
We also look for senior researchers who are internationally renowned for their work; these panelists are likely to enjoy a warm welcome. Furthermore, Japanese hosts will be inclined to show famous panelists their best work, even if these panelists have no prior contacts in Japan.
International site visits are a part of a well-established tradition in Japan. Japanese companies and government ministries routinely send technical delegations abroad on such site visits; they understand the need to receive reciprocal visits from their overseas colleagues.
Healthy competition among firms, and indeed among nations, serves the best interests of both the United States and Japan in general. Both government and industry officials in Japan understand that a healthy U.S. high technology economy is as important to Japan as it is to the United States. To the extent that JTEC helps U.S. firms and government R&D programs by providing better information on the status of Japanese R&D, it also helps to promote the United States as a more effective competitor and a more fruitful source of S&T information useful to Japan.
Finally, the JTEC process provides Japanese hosts with an outside perspective on their R&D programs, providing them with an independent assessment attesting to the quality of their research.
Japanese companies are often seeking to develop sales or collaborative R&D relationships with specific JTEC panelists or institutions they represent. This provides an incentive for open discussion and communications with visiting JTEC delegations. Many JTEC panelists have existing relationships with the Japanese companies they are visiting; others have developed such relationships subsequently as a result of their involvement in the JTEC process. Either way, these private relationships greatly enhance the access enjoyed by JTEC panelists in their official visits to Japan.
Japanese corporate management may also be highly confident in their ability to stay ahead of overseas competition, even when this competition has access to detailed information from relevant JTEC studies. JTEC hosts at Japanese companies sometimes seem more concerned about leaking confidential information to other Japanese companies through the JTEC process than they do about sharing this information with U.S. colleagues.
Japanese corporate hosts have commented several times that the JTEC reports afford them a unique opportunity learn about R&D activities at other Japanese companies. This may be especially true of companies that have decided not to participate in MITI or other Japanese government collaborative R&D programs that require sharing with other participants of "background" information concerning their internal R&D activities.
The primary mission of the JTEC program is to inform decisionmakers in
U.S. government, academia, and industry on the status and trends in
Japanese technology in comparison to the United States. Specific
objectives include finding opportunities for cooperative R&D, as
described above, determining who is doing the leading or the most
promising work, and comparing Japanese and U.S. research approaches. One
important goal is to offer insights into how U.S. research programs might
be improved or funding priorities re-adjusted.
A basic principal of the JTEC methodology is that the objectives listed above are best achieved through assessing the outputs of Japanese research, rather than comparing funding inputs. In keeping with the NSF's peer-review system of evaluating research proposals, the JTEC assessments are performed entirely by leading U.S. scientists and engineers. For each technology of interest, JTEC impanels a team of about six U.S. experts. The panelists study the available literature, visit Japanese laboratories, and report on the results, first orally and then in a written report. The JTEC staff facilitates these activities, providing literature support, setting up the visits in Japan, organizing the panel's meetings, and editing and disseminating the reports.
The stages that a typical JTEC study go through in this process are illustrated in Figure 1. These stages are as follows: study definition and funding, kickoff meeting, literature review and trip advance preparations, site visits (Japan trip), draft site report review, workshop (i.e., oral presentation of preliminary findings), draft analytical report review, final report production, and dissemination of results.
Figure 1. Typical JTEC Timeline
In-person visits also can yield more current information than literature reviews. Because research results are published several months to several years after the research actually takes place, a literature review alone offers little information on current activities. Therefore every JTEC study since 1987 has included a visit to Japan.
In conducting our first visits to Japan, we quickly learned the importance of careful advance preparations. Panelists are tempted to focus on the trip as the sole source of information for the study. The JTEC staff encourages panelists to avoid that temptation by performing a careful review of the available literature prior to the trip. We conduct literature searches on databases covering publications in both English and Japanese. Japanese language publications that appear to offer key information are translated (though we must be extremely judicious in the use of translation services in order to keep within budget). Even without acquiring the actual publications, a list of titles, abstracts, and authors (such as can be found on the JICST-E database) can be very useful. This information helps JTEC panelists identify sites to visit, and, more important, the correct questions to ask at those sites. Hosts are impressed by informed questions; conversely, they will seldom volunteer the answer if the correct question is not asked.
As key part of these advance preparations, JTEC employs professional advance contractors to assist with literature support (particularly in reviewing Japanese language sources) and organize the trip. Having an experienced person fluent in Japanese as the single point of contact for the trip arrangements is extremely important. The advance contractor visits prospective hosts in person to explain the purpose of the mission, seek advice on other sites that should be visited, and make detailed arrangements for the visit, all the while taking care to go through the correct channels and follow the appropriate procedures. Since JTEC panels re-visit the same Japanese companies over and over again, we depend on the judgement and tact of our advance contractors to make sure that we will be welcomed again.
As discussed above, the personal contacts and professional reputations of JTEC panelists are important in convincing some potential hosts to receive our study teams. Advance contractors for the trip carefully coordinate letters of introduction from panelists and other personal contacts made on behalf of the panel. They also capitalize on the reputations of our panelists, circulating biographies of all travelling team members to prospective hosts.
Ideally, team members prepare draft site reports the evening after each visit, transcribing notes and getting as much down on paper as possible right after the visit, while the information is still fresh in their minds. These site reports are an essential part of the process: panelists are not always able to visit every site relevant to their sub-topics in the report outline, so they depend on site reports prepared by other team members for information relevant to their respective chapters in the analytical report.
The early review of first draft site reports also provides another information source for the report. We can ask follow-up questions when sending the draft site reports to the hosts, or simply leave question marks or blanks in the draft site report trusting that the hosts will provide the missing information.
Of course, anyone who has been involved in this kind of production work understands that there is no such thing as a perfect manuscript. We get as close as we can within the constraints of budgets, time, and human fallibility.
As described above, we go out of our way to make sure that our hosts in Japan are as satisfied with the published results of our studies as are our customers here in the United States and our readers elsewhere in the world. Some may even conclude that we have gone too far by instituting multiple review phases (three phases, counting the draft site reports, the workshop, and the full draft report) that inevitably delay the publication of the final results.
We do not feel that this is the case for two main reasons:
One measure of the value of JTEC reports is how the Japanese view them. JTEC reports are in great demand in Japan. At last count, Japanese corporations were purchasing more JTEC reports from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) 5 than any other category of NTIS customer. A summary of one JTEC report was reputedly used as part of a funding justification submitted to the Japanese Diet. Japanese users regularly download large sections of JTEC reports from our World Wide Web server.
Of course, our primary purpose is to serve the interests of the United
States. Measuring how well we achieve that purpose is no small task.
Survey responses from workshop participants and report recipients are
overwhelmingly positive. But finding out how our reports are used, either
by our direct clients in the U.S. government or by U.S industry, is very
difficult indeed. We disseminate the findings of our studies as widely as
possible, leaving it to others to draw policy conclusions or take
Japanese Strengths and Weaknesses (Compared to U.S.)
Source: Holdridge 1994
Correlation Between JTEC Study Topics and
Potential Civil Industrial Technology Initiative Topics
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce and Government of Japan 1995
We can only speculate on the sources of information that negotiators have been drawing from in formulating this list. However, those responsible for conducting the ongoing negotiations on implementation of the Civil Industrial Technology initiative include several perennial JTEC sponsors.
For the same reasons that simultaneous cooperation and competition benefits companies within Japan, cooperation in pre-competitive R&D is beneficial internationally. Thus, the JTEC program serves the best interests of both the United States and Japan by identifying opportunities for cooperation and by helping the U.S. high technology sector compete more effectively. It provides a factual basis for informed policymaking in both industry and government.
Japan maintains comparable efforts to assess and learn from the latest U.S. technology. The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO 1993) has concluded that the Japanese government spends far more to keep track of U.S. technology than does the U.S. government in assessing developments in Japan. Internal foreign technology monitoring activities in both U.S. and Japanese corporations are probably on a larger scale than government efforts. European nations also allocate significant resources to monitor Japanese technology. Undoubtedly there are European programs aimed at keeping track of developments in U.S. technology as well.
We must avoid the mistake of thinking of these technology monitoring and exchange projects in the same way that we think about military intelligence activities (where one side's gain is clearly the other's loss). This is not a zero sum game. Advantages gained by one nation in technology monitoring are not at the expense of others. The results of our kind of information gathering benefit all the parties involved.
Technology monitoring and reporting activities such as JTEC create stimuli for R&D on an international scale. This point was driven home a few months ago when the JTEC office received visitors from a major European corporation that maintains a technology monitoring office in Tokyo. The subject of the JTEC study on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) (Wise 1994) came up during this meeting. This JTEC study was at least partially motivated by concern that the MITI micromachine initiative might pose a competitive challenge to the United States. The JTEC MEMS panel found that, although the United States is ahead in many important MEMS technologies and applications, there are also exciting and promising developments underway in Japan, both in laboratories funded by the MITI Micromachine Center (MMC) and at private corporations not participating in the MMC program. However, after the study was completed and the final report was published, one of the MEMS panelists commented that JTEC had actually picked the wrong country to study, asserting that the real competition in MEMS applications will come from Europe. He went on to describe some of the seminal developments at Karlsruhe (Germany) and other European labs.
When we related this anecdote to our European guests that day, their response was that early U.S. leadership in the MEMS field was used as an argument to justify the acceleration of European R&D funding for MEMS. Similarly, the MITI program, and perhaps also the unrelated efforts at some Japanese companies, also may be motivated to some extent by a concern that the Americans or the Europeans would "steal a march" on Japan in this arena, developing a dominant position in the huge potential markets for MEMS devices and downstream products.
The net effect of all this is a rapid acceleration around the world of MEMS R&D. Much as the U.S. - Soviet "space race" of the 1950s and 1960s, predicated in part on incorrect U.S. assessments of the size of the Soviet ICBM force, greatly speeded up the pace of innovation in aerospace technology, so the (possibly) mistaken notion around the industrial world that "the competition" is ahead in MEMS is in fact promoting the accelerated development of MEMS technology and applications worldwide. Why is this in the interests of the taxpayers and consumers who are paying the R&D bills? One only need look as far as the nearest U.S. auto showroom, where even the least expensive vehicles sport one or more air bags incorporating MEMS accelerometers. Without the cost-savings offered by MEMS technology, it is not clear that air bags could have been offered routinely in the U.S. market long before they were mandated by U.S. federal law.
The ongoing budget crisis in the U.S. government underscores the need for
cost-effective foreign technology assessment activities. In the current
political climate, R&D programs are difficult to justify to the U.S.
Congress. Accurate assessments of overseas R&D activities help budget
cutters decide how to set new R&D priorities without unduly harming
U.S. interests. Such assessments can be helpful in formulating strategies
to encourage the development of promising new technologies, rather than
preserving the status quo.
It is difficult in almost any democracy to explain why scarce resources should be allocated to research and development at the expense of social programs or tax cuts (depending on the current political wind). In the corporate boardrooms of the world, proposals for R&D spending face a virtual gauntlet of stockholders demanding improved quarterly earnings and Wall Street raiders threatening hostile takeovers. Technology assessment activities like JTEC underscore the danger of ignoring the long-term view: important markets, or even national security could be undermined by unwise or precipitous downsizing of R&D activities.
Directly and indirectly, JTEC research stimulates investments in R&D that benefit U.S. high technology industries and employment. The whole world benefits from competition in high technology R&D, both through economic multiplier effects and the development of new products and services.
A fundamental lesson that JTEC draws from Japan is the value of foreign technology assessment itself. At least since the Meiji Restoration, this has been one key to Japan's success. Continued international exchange of scientific and technological information will be instrumental to our mutual success in the next century.
Geoffrey M. Holdridge
Michael J. DeHaemer
International Technology Research Institute
Loyola College in Maryland
4501 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21210
Boulton, William (ed.). JTEC Panel Report on Electronic
Manufacturing and Packaging in Japan. Baltimore, MD: International
Technology Research Institute, Loyola College, February 1995. NTIS
Edelson, Burton and Joseph Pelton (eds.). NASA/NSF
Panel Report on Satellite Communications Systems & Technology,
Executive Summary. Baltimore, MD: International Technology Research
Institute, Loyola College, July 1993. NTIS PB93-231116.
Edelson, Burton and Joseph Pelton (eds.). NASA/NSF
Panel Report on Satellite Communications Systems & Technology, Volume
I: Analytical Chapters. Baltimore, MD: International Technology
Research Institute, Loyola College, July 1993. NTIS PB93-231116.
National Economic Council (NEC), National Security
Council (NSC). Enhancing the Competitiveness of U.S. Electronic
Packaging Industries. Washington, DC: Executive Office of the
President. March 1994.
Wieder, Harry and William Spicer (eds.). JTECH Panel
Report on Opto- and Microelectronics. McLean, VA: SAIC, May 1985. NTIS
Wilkins, Dick J. (ed.). JTEC Panel Report on Advanced Manufacturing Technology for Polymer Composite Structures in Japan. Baltimore, MD: International Technology Research Institute, Loyola College, April 1994. NTIS PB94-161403.*
Wise, Kensall D. (ed.). JTEC Panel Report on
Microelectromechanical Systems in Japan. Baltimore, MD: International
Technology Research Institute, Loyola College, September 1994. NTIS
Other JTEC and WTEC reports not specifically cited in this paper are
listed below in chronological order. Some recent reports are available
directly from the JTEC/WTEC office. All JTEC/WTEC reports are available
from NTIS (5285 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22161; tel.
1-703-487-4650; FAX 1-703-321-8547).
JTECH Panel Report on Computer Science in Japan (12/84). NTIS PB85-216760.
JTECH Panel Report on Advanced Materials (5/86). NTIS PB86-229929/XAB.
JTECH Panel Report on Advanced Computing in Japan (12/87). NTIS PB88-153572/XAB.
JTECH Panel Report on CIM and CAD for the Semiconductor Industry in Japan (12/88). NTIS PB89-138259/XAB.
JTECH Panel Report on the Japanese Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO) Program (12/88). NTIS PB89-133946/XAB.
JTECH Panel Report on Advanced Sensors in Japan (1/89). NTIS PB89-158760/XAB.
JTEC Panel Report on High Temperature Superconductivity in Japan (11/89). NTIS PB90-123126.
JTEC Panel Report on Space Propulsion in Japan (8/90). NTIS PB90-215732.
JTEC Panel Report on Nuclear Power in Japan (10/90). NTIS PB90-215724.
JTEC Panel Report on Space Robotics in Japan (1/91). NTIS PB91-100040.
JTEC Panel Report on High Definition Systems in Japan (2/91). NTIS PB91-100032.
JTEC Panel Report on Construction Technologies in Japan (6/91). NTIS PB91-100057.
JTEC Program Summary (9/91). NTIS PB92-119429.
WTEC Panel Report on European Nuclear Instrumentation and Controls (12/91). NTIS PB92-100197.
JTEC Panel Report on Material Handling Technologies in Japan (2/93). NTIS PB93-128197.
JTEC Panel Report on Knowledge-Based Systems in Japan (5/93). NTIS PB93-170124.*
NASA/NSF Panel Report on Satellite Communications Systems & Technology: Vol. II. Site Reports (7/93). NTIS PB94-100187.
WTEC Monograph on Instrumentation, Control & Safety Systems of Canadian Nuclear Facilities (7/93). NTIS PB93-218295.
ITRI Monograph on Benchmark Technologies Abroad: Findings From 40 Assessments, 1984-94 (4/94). NTIS PB94-136637.
WTEC Panel Report on Research Submersibles and Undersea Technologies (6/94). NTIS PB94-184843.*
WTEC Panel Report on Display Technologies in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus (12/94). NTIS PB95-144390.*
JTEC Monograph on Biodegradable Polymers and Plastics in Japan (3/95). NTIS PB95-199071.*
* indicates reports available on the JTEC/WTEC World Wide Web server (http://itri.loyola.edu).
1. Plenary Session of the U.S. - Japan Common Agenda, May
11, 1995. The Common Agenda has been negotiated under the U.S. - Japan
Framework for a New Economic Partnership. While some of the trade-related
aspects of the Framework talks have proven contentious, both sides point
to the Common Agenda as one successful outcome from these negotiations.