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Government-Industry Partnerships for the Development of New Technologies VIII CONCLUSIONS
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Government-Industry Partnerships for the Development of New Technologies Conclusions The analysis of Government-Industry Partnerships for the Development of New Technologies project has focused on the contributions that partnerships can make by accelerating the development of new technologies. The 18 public meetings and 10 major reports produced in the course of this analysis represent a substantial contribution to our understanding of the operation of partnerships.1 The Committee’s desire to carry out an analysis of current partnerships that is directly relevant to contemporary policy making has conditioned the selection of the specific programs reviewed. This summary of the overall study identifies several key lessons that are important to the development of new technologies in the United States. KEY LESSONS Partnerships work. To be effective, partnerships need to be properly constructed and ably led. They work best with clear goals, shared contributions, and regular evaluations. Well-structured and -operated partnerships serve as valuable intermediate organizations able to bring together the partners needed to develop new products and processes of value to society as a whole. Innovation in the United States has often been accelerated through public support for research and development partnerships. Federal participation in the innovation process, which 1 It is important to acknowledge at the same time that the Committee’s analysis is a necessarily limited portion of the variety of cooperative activity that takes place between the government and the private sector.
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Government-Industry Partnerships for the Development of New Technologies extends back to the beginning of the republic, has been characterized by experimentation and flexibility. These attributes contribute to the versatility and vigor of the U.S. innovation system. • Partnerships Involve Success and Failure Partnerships are essentially experiments; each new effort entails genuine risk as well as the potential of societal gains. With experimentation comes failure as well as success. In assessing the outcomes of these partnership experiments, it is important to recognize that the failure of a particular project is not necessarily an indication of an overall program failure; failure is to be expected if genuinely risky ventures are undertaken. A willingness to encourage experiments in public-private cooperation, however, must also be matched by a willingness to identify and cancel projects that fail, or simply under-perform. • Strength Through Diversity The U.S. innovation system draws strength from the variety of its mission priorities and institutions. The array of objectives, organizations, and partnership mechanisms reflect the range of challenges faced by government agencies charged with complex missions, industries facing new technological challenges, and universities increasingly seeking to move promising ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace. • Sustained Support Maintaining the strength of this innovation system requires substantial and sustained federal R&D support. Furthermore, federal R&D investments are needed across a broad portfolio of research and development activities, both because new technologies emerge over time and because advances in one sector can have a profound impact on progress in other sectors. • Multidisciplinary Approaches New research opportunities, such as those emerging from the genome, increasingly require cross-disciplinary approaches. Greater support and facilitation for interdisciplinary training and multidisciplinary research is essential therefore to promote new frontiers in technology. Partnerships are a key mechanism to facilitate cross-disciplinary cooperation. • Linkages More broadly, partnerships also serve to link different parts of the U.S. innovation system. These include firms of different sizes and specialties, universities in different regions, and the exceptional facilities of the national laboratories. In doing so, public-private partnerships help achieve a
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Government-Industry Partnerships for the Development of New Technologies creative balance between diversity and coordination, while helping to bring research from development to application. PARTNERSHIPS AND EARLY-STAGE FINANCE Early-stage financing of innovation plays a key role in supporting the development of new technologies and is therefore a focus of innovation policy. Award partnerships, such as those in the ATP and SBIR programs, can provide an effective means to encourage small firms with promising ideas and technologies to gain access to early-stage financing. In doing so, partnerships contribute to the achievement of government missions in important ways. Programs such as the SBIR can accelerate and facilitate the modernization of the U.S. defense establishment by introducing new and better information systems. Programs such as the ATP are helping to bring new energy-saving technologies to the market as well as new medical devices and instruments to the healthcare system. Around the world award-based partnerships, such as the ATP and SBIR, are increasingly seen as an effective means to overcome obstacles to new technological development. Inadequate access to early-stage finance can pose no less a barrier to advocates of new ideas in large firms than for small firm entrepreneurs. Partnership awards and participation in consortium with universities and small firms can help provide incentives to researchers and managers in larger firms to push new “game changing” technologies. Large firms in collaboration with small firms can often make partnerships more effective by drawing on the technical expertise; the financial, engineering, and management resources; and the marketing skills marshaled by large firms. Both large and small firms can benefit from partnerships, and the society as a whole can benefit from their joint accomplishments. U.S. PARTNERSHIPS IN A GLOBAL CONTEXT The public discussion, empirical research, and well-documented analysis of U.S. programs have generated substantial interest among policy makers in the United States. There is also growing interest in the contributions of partnerships among foreign policy makers, research institutes, and leading international organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. This interest reflects the awareness of the benefits of science-based growth and the belief in the need for effective public-private cooperation to help achieve this objective. In the global economy, technology development has important international dimensions. Initiatives in international benchmarking of national and regional technology programs are therefore important. Such analysis helps us learn about what other participants in the global economy believe is necessary and effective. Cooperative comparison allows for exchanges of experience, research, and some-
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Government-Industry Partnerships for the Development of New Technologies times solutions to issues and questions common to many technology programs. Cooperation among firms and facilitative agreements among governments can help to further the progress of innovation. The emphasis on this international dimension reflects the twin realities of global competition and cooperation. Effective public-private partnerships can help industry to bring the benefits of science and technology to society. Technologies concerned with medical diagnostics, for example, offer the means for improving the quality and length of our lives. Collectively these technologies offer vast personal and societal benefits—whether through more effective diagnostic tools and medical treatments or new information technology contributions to increased labor productivity. POLICY IMPACTS OF THIS STUDY OF PARTNERSHIPS The analyses and results presented throughout this study of government-industry partnerships have, as intended, already resulted in concrete policy actions. The enhancement of the U.S.-E.U. science and technology cooperation, the decision of the Department of Defense to continue and expand the Fast Track component of the SBIR program, the adoption of many of the study’s recommendations and findings on the ATP program, and the passage of legislation supporting a solid-state lighting consortium, all speak to the direct policy impact of the committee’s research and analysis. The Committee has also highlighted pressing needs in the U.S. R&D portfolio by recommending increased support for research in the academic disciplines supporting continued advances in new technologies. While this summary report underscores the policy relevance and impact of public-private partnerships in the United States, it also suggests the need for continued, pragmatic assessment of the conditions under which public-private partnerships can best contribute to U.S. technological leadership, economic growth, and national security. Finally, partnerships, flexible in form and scale, are an effective policy tool to rapidly respond to new national security needs. In the current war on terrorism partnerships can be an effective means to channel the nation’s deep but often scattered reservoirs of expertise and innovative potential to develop capacities to anticipate, counter, and cope with this menace.
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