Early program 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 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 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 WTEC 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 WTEC 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 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).
Full access to U.S. science and technology (S&T) information is important to many countries. Facilitating reciprocal access for Americans will help maintain access to U.S. information for these countries. 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 WTEC 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 government of France publishes information in English reviewing developments in French technology4, as does the British government (e.g., the Department of Trade and Industry). WTEC also has established informal reciprocal information-sharing relationships with technology-watching organizations in several countries.
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.
WTEC studies can help to increase awareness around the world of centers of excellence in the international research community. WTEC 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 local laboratories or sending local scientists to work abroad; both of these activities are in the host country'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, foreign hosts will be inclined to show famous panelists their best work, even if these panelists have no prior contacts there.
International site visits are a part of a well-established tradition in Europe and Japan. Companies and government ministries routinely send technical delegations abroad on such site visits; they understand the need to receive reciprocal visits from their international colleagues.
Healthy competition among firms, and indeed among nations, serves the best interests of both the United States and its allies abroad in general. Both government and industry officials in other countries understand that a healthy U.S. high technology economy is as important to other nations as it is to the United States. To the extent that WTEC helps U.S. firms and government R&D programs by providing better information on the status of R&D abroad, it also helps to promote the United States as a more effective competitor and a more fruitful source of S&T information useful to other nations (as well as ensuring the continued health of U.S. markets that have been key sources of income for many exporting nations).
Finally, the WTEC process provides foreign hosts with an outside perspective on their R&D programs, providing them with an independent assessment attesting to the quality of their research.
Companies visited by WTEC are often interested in developing sales or collaborative R&D relationships with specific WTEC panelists or institutions they represent. This provides an incentive for open discussion and communications with visiting WTEC delegations. Many WTEC panelists have existing relationships with the companies they are visiting; others have developed such relationships subsequently as a result of their involvement in the WTEC process. Either way, these private relationships greatly enhance the access enjoyed by WTEC panelists in their official visits.
Corporate management may also be highly confident in their ability to stay ahead of overseas competition, even when this competition is armed with detailed information from relevant WTEC studies. WTEC hosts at some Japanese companies seem more concerned about leaking confidential information to other Japanese companies through the WTEC process than they do about sharing this information with U.S. colleagues.
Japanese corporate hosts have commented several times that the WTEC 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.
A basic principal of the WTEC methodology is that the objectives listed above are best achieved through assessing the outputs of international research, rather than comparing funding inputs. In keeping with the NSF's peer-review system of evaluating research proposals, the WTEC assessments are performed entirely by leading U.S. scientists and engineers. For each technology of interest, WTEC impanels a team of about six U.S. experts. The panelists study the available literature, visit foreign laboratories, and report on the results, first orally and then in a written report. The WTEC staff serves to facilitate these activities, providing literature support, setting up the visits abroad, organizing the panel's meetings, and editing, and disseminating the reports.
The stages that a typical WTEC 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 (sometimes both U.S. and foreign trips), draft site report review, workshop (i.e., oral presentation of preliminary findings), draft analytical report review, final report production, and dissemination of results.
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 WTEC study since 1987 has included international site visits.
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 WTEC 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 both English and foreign-language publications. Foreign 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 can be very useful. This information helps WTEC 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, WTEC employs professional advance contractors to assist with literature support (particularly in reviewing foreign language sources) and organize the trip. Having an experienced person fluent in local languages as the single point of contact for the trip arrangements is extremely important, particularly in Japan and some other East Asian nations. 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 WTEC panels re-visit the same companies repeatedly, 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 WTEC 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 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 upon which to draw 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 try to 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 international hosts 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:
(1) Our funding sponsors have earliest possible access to draft information from the studies: they can participate in the site visits themselves, they have access to the first draft site reports, they get a book of workshop viewgraphs as a first written report within at most two months after the trip, and they participate in the review of the full draft report.
(2) We are convinced that by honoring the confidentiality concerns of our hosts, and thus reaffirming our trusting relationships with them, we are afforded better access both in the United States and abroad. Failure to do so would jeopardize our access for future studies.
It is in this latter respect that we try to assure our hosts that the WTEC program is and will remain as much in their interests as it is in ours. Some may feel that we go too far in allowing our hosts to "sanitize" the results of our analyses, thus allowing our process to be "coopted." We do not accept that argument for the simple reason that our primary clients in the U.S. government have full access to early drafts. Furthermore, we do not feel obligated to honor review comments from hosts in which they seek to modify our analyses. Finally, it is not our role to ferret out information that our hosts wish to keep private -- confidential information that may slip into first draft reports is there inadvertently, and thus is willingly deleted from published versions.
One measure of the value of WTEC reports is how overseas hosts view them. WTEC reports are in demand in Japan. At last count, Japanese corporations were purchasing more WTEC reports from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS)6 than any other category of NTIS customer. A summary of one WTEC report was reputedly used as part of a funding justification submitted to the Japanese Diet. European and Asian users regularly download large sections of WTEC reports from our World Wide Web server.
In evaluating the merits of the WTEC program, however, it is still a worthy exercise to find out what we can concerning the uses these findings have been put to. The WTEC staff is not privy to internal discussions within the U.S. government agencies that sponsor our studies. Paul Herer cites a few recent examples in his Foreword this this report. The following are some additional examples:
Similarly, it is in the best interests of both the United States and its major trading partners to cooperate in R&D at the same time we compete freely in downstream R&D-intensive industries. This is true for the exact same reasons that simultaneous cooperation and competition benefits Japanese companies.
Thus, the WTEC program serves the best interests of both the United States and its major trading partners abroad. The program identifies opportunities for cooperation and helps the U.S. high technology sector compete more effectively. It provides the factual basis and analytical framework for informed policymaking in both industry and government.
Other countries maintain comparable efforts to assess and learn from the latest U.S. technology. A recent report by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO 1993) 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 foreign corporations are probably on a larger scale than government efforts. European nations also allocate significant resources to monitor foreign technology. WTEC maintains friendly cooperative relationships with several foreign technology monitoring programs of other countries and even of private corporations.
Some may say that this is a zero sum game: advantages gained by one nation in foreign technology assessment are at the expense of another nation. This is absolutely not the case. 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). The results of our kind of information gathering benefit all the parties involved. International information exchange is essential to continued rapid progress in science and technology.
This point was driven home a few months ago when the WTEC office received visitors from a major European corporation that maintains a technology monitoring office in Tokyo. The subject of the 1994 JTEC study on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) 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 MEMS panel found that, although the United States is ahead in many important MEMS technologies and applications, there are also many 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 published, one of the MEMS panelists commented that WTEC 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 one of the main motivations for 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 and/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 R&D in MEMS field. So, 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.
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 WTEC underscore the countervailing threat: that important markets, continued economic progress, or even national security could be undermined by unwise or precipitous downsizing of R&D activities.
Directly and indirectly, cost-effective WTEC research helps stimulate investments in R&D that benefit the United States by fostering 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 undreamed of just a few years ago.
The most fundamental lesson that WTEC 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 along the lines discussed above will be instrumental to our mutual success in the next century.
We hope that the executive summaries included in this report aptly demonstrate the breadth and depth of excellence in science, technology, and industry that can be found around the world, and that decisionmakers in U.S. government and industry, as well as those abroad, will benefit from this information.
Bosma, John T. "Our Discussion of JTEC's Report on U.S. Competitiveness in Satellite Communications" (unpublished letter). Sandia Park, NM: Meinel/Bosma Research, September 1993.
Brandon, William T. "Observed Impacts of the National Science Foundation Study" (unpublished letter). Bedford, MA: The Mitre Corporation, February 1994.
Clemens, James and Robert Hill (eds.). JTEC Panel Report on X-Ray Lithography in Japan. Baltimore, MD: Japanese Technology Evaluation Center, Loyola College, October 1991. NTIS PB92-100205.
Diefendorf, Judd (ed.). JTEC Panel Report on Advanced Composites in Japan. Baltimore, MD: Japanese Technology Evaluation Center, Loyola College, March 1991. NTIS PB90-215740.
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.
Federal Coordinating Council for Science, Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET). Machine Translation Technology: A Potential Key to the Information Age. Washington, DC: FCCSET Committee on Industry and Technology, January 1993. NTIS PB93-134336.
Harrison, Michael (ed.). JTEC Panel Report on Advanced Computing in Japan. Baltimore, MD: Japanese Technology Evaluation Center, Loyola College, October 1990. NTIS PB90-215765.
Holdridge, Geoffrey (ed.). JTEC/WTEC Annual Report and Program Summary, 1993/94. Baltimore, MD: International Technology Research Institute, Loyola College, March 1994. NTIS PB94-155702.
Kelly, Michael J., William R. Boulton, John A. Kukowski, Eugene S. Meieran, Michael Pecht, John W. Peeples, and Rao R. Tummala. Electronic Packaging in Japan (book of viewgraphs shown at the JTEC Workshop on Electronic Packaging in Japan). Baltimore, MD: International Technology Research Institute, Loyola College, January 1994.
King, Judson (ed.). JTEC Panel Report on Separation Technology in Japan. Baltimore, MD: Japanese Technology Evaluation Center, Loyola College, March 1993. NTIS PB93-159564.
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.
Nevins, James (ed.). JTECH Panel Report on Mechatronics in Japan. McLean, VA: SAIC, May 1985. NTIS PB86109378.
Oxender, Dale (ed.). JTECH Panel Report on Biotechnology in Japan. McLean, VA: SAIC, May 1986. NTIS PB85-249241.
Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). "Machine Translation Technology Will Aid U.S. Competitiveness" (press release). Washington, DC: Executive Office of the President. January 1993.
Rich, Elaine (ed.). JTEC Panel Report on Machine Translation in Japan. Baltimore, MD: Japanese Technology Evaluation Center, Loyola College, January 1992. NTIS PB92-100239.
Tannas, Lawrence E. and William E. Glenn (eds.). JTEC Panel Report on Display Technologies in Japan. Baltimore, MD: Japanese Technology Evaluation Center, Loyola College, June 1992. NTIS PB92-100247.
Turin, George (ed.). JTECH Panel Report on Telecommunications Technology in Japan. McLean, VA: SAIC, May 1986. NTIS PB86-202330.
U.S. Department of Commerce. "Techno-Growth House, Tsukuba City" (press release). Washington, DC: Office of International Technology Policy, June 1995.
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U.S. General Accounting Office. Collection and Dissemination of Japanese Information Can Be Improved. Washington, DC, September 1993. GAO/NSIAD-93-251.
Wang, Daniel (ed.). JTEC Panel Report on Bioprocess Engineering in Japan. Baltimore, MD: Japanese Technology Evaluation Center, Loyola College, May 1992. NTIS PB92-100213.
Wieder, Harry and William Spicer (eds.). JTECH Panel Report on Opto- and Microelectronics. McLean, VA: SAIC, May 1985. NTIS PB85-242402.
Wiederhold, Gio (ed.). JTEC Panel Report on Database Use and Technology in Japan. Baltimore, MD: Japanese Technology Evaluation Center, Loyola College, April 1992. NTIS PB92-100221.
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 PB95-10244.
2 In the early years the program was known by the acronym "JTECH."
3 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.
4 Technologies "France," Agence pour la Diffusion de l'Information Technologique (ADIT). Unique format periodical.
5 The 1991/92 JTEC study on X-ray lithography was wholly funded by a direct grant from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to Loyola College. ONR has also contributed to NSF-funded JTEC studies recently through direct grants to Loyola.
6 NTIS, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the archival distributor of JTEC and WTEC reports.