5
Key Factors Influencing Leadership

In the context of this report, research leadership in chemical engineering has been measured by various factors such as numbers and citations of journal articles and a Virtual World Congress conducted by the panel members. This leadership is influenced by a multitude of factors that are largely the result of national governance, structural and support polices, and overall available resources of each country in the world. As done previously,1 the panel focused on four key factors that influence the international leadership status of the U.S. chemical engineering research:

  • Innovation: Investment and technology development mechanisms that facilitate introduction of chemical science and technology into the marketplace.

  • Major facilities, centers, and instrumentation: The physical infrastructure and materiel for conducting chemical engineering research.

  • Human resources: The national capacity of chemical engineering students and degree holders.

  • Funding: Financial support for conducting chemical engineering research.

1

National Research Council, Experiments in International Benchmarking of US Research Fields, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2000.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness 5 Key Factors Influencing Leadership In the context of this report, research leadership in chemical engineering has been measured by various factors such as numbers and citations of journal articles and a Virtual World Congress conducted by the panel members. This leadership is influenced by a multitude of factors that are largely the result of national governance, structural and support polices, and overall available resources of each country in the world. As done previously,1 the panel focused on four key factors that influence the international leadership status of the U.S. chemical engineering research: Innovation: Investment and technology development mechanisms that facilitate introduction of chemical science and technology into the marketplace. Major facilities, centers, and instrumentation: The physical infrastructure and materiel for conducting chemical engineering research. Human resources: The national capacity of chemical engineering students and degree holders. Funding: Financial support for conducting chemical engineering research. 1 National Research Council, Experiments in International Benchmarking of US Research Fields, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2000.

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness 5.1 INNOVATION A key factor influencing leadership in chemical engineering is how rapidly and easily new ideas can be tested, developed, and extended into the U.S. economy as well as the global marketplace. This process by which research ideas are developed and funded in the United States has been defined as our “innovation system.” The U.S. innovation system, like that in other countries, is characterized by a set of unique attributes. Some of the factors that influence the U.S. innovation process for the field of chemical engineering are discussed below. 5.1.a A Strong U.S. Industrial Sector Leadership in chemical engineering research in the United States over the years has been strongly linked with the development of the U.S. chemicals industry. According to Landau and Arora,2 “the rise of the research university in science and engineering gave a strong boost to the American chemical industry” particularly in the early part of the 20th century. And this relationship has been a vital part of the success of the United States as a nation. Landau and Arora further point out that the U.S. chemicals industry: (1) “was the first science-based, high-technology industry”; (2) “has generated technological innovations for other industries, such as automobiles, rubber, textiles …”; and (3) “is a U.S. success story.” At the same time, the U.S. chemical manufacturing industry is not what it used to be. Once a major net exporter, the U.S. chemical industry is now essentially a net importer (trade went negative in 2000-2001).3 Some feel that today the U.S. chemical industry is in fact fundamentally disadvantaged relative to the rest of the world because of its dependence on oil and natural gas for raw materials, which have become less abundant and much more costly than they used to be. The chemical industry consumes only 5% of the tota production of oil and natural gas, while the majority is used in transportation, residential, and other industrial requirements such as energy generation; and the cost of natural gas is 2 to 10 times higher than anywhere else in the world. This is greatly influencing investment for new plants, jobs, and even research outside the United States.4 2  R. Landau and A. Arora, “The dynamics of long term growth: Gaining and losing advantage in the chemical industry,” Pp. 17-43 in U.S. Industry in 2000: Studies in Competitive Performance, D.C. Mowery, ed., National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1999. 3  W.J. Storck, “UNITED STATES: Last year was kind to the U.S. chemical industry; 2005 should provide further growth,” ChemicalEngineering News 83 (2):16-18. 4  M. Arndt, “No longer the lab of the world.” Business Week, May 2, 2005.

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness 5.1.b A Variety of Funding Opportunities Another key attribute of the U.S. innovation system is the existence of a multitude of funding options—from largely government-supported academic research to entrepreneurial work supported by small and large companies. This variety of sources, with different emphases, creates a spectrum of opportunities for chemical engineering research. Industry As we will discuss later, this sector is the largest supporter of R&D. Individual companies may operate their own R&D labs as well as provide funds for academic topical/strategic research. Federal Government The National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center (ERC) and Science and Technology Center (STC) models are intended to spur innovation. While NSF mainly supports academic research, it seeks to foster successful links between academe and industry with programs such as Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaisons with Industry (GOALI) and Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT). NSF also has more directed collaborative research and education programs in the area of nanoscale science and engineering, such as Nanoscale Interdisciplinary Research Teams (NIRT), the Nanoscale Exploratory Research (NER), and Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers (NSEC). Other federal mission agencies (Department of Defense, Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology, also fund a great deal of physical science and engineering. The Small Business Administration (http://www.sba.gov) supports the agency-wide Small Business Innovative Research program (SBIR), which is a highly competitive program that encourages small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. Each year, 10 federal departments and agencies are required to reserve a portion of their R&D funds for awards to small business. The Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR) is another important small business program that expands funding opportunities in the federal innovation research and development arena. Each year, just five federal departments and agencies (Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and National Science Foundation) are required by STTR to reserve a portion of their R&D funds for awards to small business/nonprofit research institution partnerships.

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness State Initiatives There have also been a growing number of state initiatives to foster innovation and stimulate economic growth: Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance (http://www.ices.cmu.edu/pita) is a program that is designed to aid in the transfer of knowledge to provide economic benefit to the state of Pennsylvania. Texas Technology Initiative (http://www.txti.org) is a long-term economic development strategy designed to retain and attract advanced technology industries, coordinate advanced technology activities throughout the state, and accelerate commercialization from R&D to the marketplace to drive new business development in the state. New York State office of Science, Technology, and Academic Research (NYSTAR—http://www.nystar.state.ny.us) has a technology transfer innovation program (TTIP), which funds academic research that has a New York State industry partner that cost shares some of the work. Universities Many universities are now putting more funding towards supporting research, especially through centers that provide community outreach, span multiple universities, and even partner with industries. Examples include the following: The University of California solicits proposals for “UC Discovery Grants” in biotechnology to promote industry-university research partnerships. Biotechnology is one of five fields supported by UC Discovery Grants (i.e., biotechnology, communications and networking, digital media, electronics manufacturing and new materials, and life sciences information technology). UC Discovery Grants enhance the competitiveness of California businesses and the California economy by advancing innovation, R&D, and manufacturing, and by attracting new investments. Pennsylvania State University, Center for Glass Surfaces, Interfaces, and Coatings (Carlo G. Pantano) Lehigh University, Center for Optical Technologies (http://www.lehigh.edu/optics) Private Foundations There are many philanthropic organizations that help round out the support for chemical engineering R&D in the United States, such as:

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc. (http://www.dreyfus.org) The Research Corporation (http://www.rescorp.org) The American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (http://www.gatesfoundation.org/default.htm) Venture Capital Chemical engineers are increasingly involved in small business startup companies that often seek out venture capital funding. This is especially the case for biotech, semiconductor, and medical device research applications. For example, a startup firm proposing a completely new, biological means of laying down thin films and carrying out other steps in electronics manufacturing secured financing worth more than $12 million from investors that included nanotechnology specialist Harris & Harris and In-Q-Tel, a venture capital group funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.5 5.1.c Cross-Sector Collaborations and Partnerships Collaboration of university and industry researchers is another important aspect of the U.S. innovation system. Even though U.S. industry funds only about 10% of the research carried out in universities, the mobility of individuals between academic and industrial laboratories is especially vital in the transfer of new concepts and technology. In the past, many academics had significant industrial experience, where they interacted closely with industry in research and as consultants. Today, the majority of new faculty members come from academic labs where they have carried out postdoctoral research, such that the link to industry has been weakened. University faculty members also participate in the formation of high-tech companies. These relationships provide university researchers with an understanding of problems that are relevant to industry, and they provide a channel for the transfer of knowledge and new approaches developed in academia with funding from the federal government. A good example of one industry-university-government collaboration is between the Chemical Engineering Department at University of Delaware, Rohm and Haas, Engelhard (now BASF), with funding from the Department of Energy. The program seeks to develop a major new manufacturing process that will use propane instead of propylene to manufacture acrylic acid. The novel technology, if adopted worldwide by acrylic acid and other propylene derivative manufacturers, could save up to 37 trillion BTUs per 5  http://pubs.acs.org/cen/news/83/i40/8340cambrios.html.

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness year, eliminate 15 million pounds of environmental pollutants annually, and potentially save U.S. industry nearly $1.8 billion by the year 2020. Such partnerships in general—whether between universities and industry or among companies—have become critical to improving the effectiveness with which industry commercializes research. However, many larger companies no longer carry out the level of exploratory research they once did, and U.S. universities can sometimes present significant barriers when it comes to intellectual property ownership. At the same time, other regions of the world that are presently accommodating in their licensing policies are increasingly moving toward the U.S. model of academic licensing. 5.1.d Strong Professional Societies The American Institute for Chemical Engineering (AIChE) provides strong support for chemical engineering research in the United States as well as the world at large through the publishing of high-quality scholarly journals, holding annual meetings, and making connections between chemical engineers and the broader community. AIChE is a nonprofit professional association of more than 40,000 members that provides leadership in advancing the chemical engineering profession. Through its many programs and services, AIChE helps its members access and apply the latest and most accurate technical information; offers concise, targeted, award-winning technical publications; conducts annual conferences to promote information sharing and the advancement of the field; provides opportunities for its members to gain leadership experience and network with their peers in industry, academia, and government; and offers members attractive and affordable insurance programs. In addition, the American Chemical Society supports both chemistry and chemical engineering R&D efforts. 5.2 CENTERS, MAJOR FACILITIES, AND INSTRUMENTATION Chemical engineering research is at the interface with many other disciplines, requiring specialized facilities (hardware, software) used by several other disciplines. Therefore the health and competitiveness of chemical engineering research depends on the health and availability of cutting-edge facilities at U.S. universities and national laboratories. The Office of Basic Energy Sciences at the Department of Energy6 funds and operates several major facilities of relevance to chemical engineers that will be highlighted below: synchrotron radiation light sources, high-flux neutron sources, electron beam microcharacterization centers, nanoscale science research centers, and specialized single-purpose centers. There are also many 6 http://www.er.doe.gov/production/bes/BESfacilities.htm.

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness National Science Foundation-funded centers and facilities, but these tend to be for used more heavily at the local university level—or with nearby universities. However, some of these centers do span multiple universities and provide an invaluable resource at the national level (some examples are included below). When available, important international facilities are included in the lists as well. The types of facilities of interest to chemical engineering research fall into the following broad categories: materials synthesis and characterization facilities materials micro- and nanofabrication genetics, proteomics, and biological engineering fossil fuel utilization facilities (combustion centers) cyberinfrastructure (supercomputing) 5.2.a Materials Synthesis and Characterization Facilities Synthesis and characterization of materials often requires high-energy light sources—such as synchrotron and neutron sources—or other specialized facilities that need a significant level of funding to operate and maintain. These are typically only available at national facilities, both here and abroad. Examples of important synchrotron sources include7 Advanced Light Source (ALS), Advanced Photon Source (APS), National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL), Los Alamos Neutron Scattering Center, IPNS (Intense Pulsed Neutron Source) at Argonne and High Flux Isotope Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the United States; Berliner Elektronenspeicherring-Gesellschaft für Synchrotronstrahlung (BESSY) in Germany; European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in France; INDUS 1/INDUS 2 in India; and National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center (NSRRC) in Taiwan. Examples of important neutron sources include8 Spallation Neutron Source, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the University of Missouri Research Reactor Center in the United States; ISIS-Rutherford-Appleton Laboratories in the United Kingdom; and Hi-Flux Advanced Neutron Application Reactor in Korea. 7 For a full list of worldwide synchrotron light sources, see http://www.lightsources.org/cms/?pid=1000098. 8 For a full list of worldwide neutron sources, see the National Institute of Standards and Technology Center for Neutron Research at http://www.ncnr.nist.gov/nsources.html.

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness 5.2.b Materials Micro- and Nanofabrication Most research intensive universities are well equipped with conventional micro- and nanofabrication techniques such as thin-film deposition (e.g. chemical vapor deposition, physical vapor deposition), lithography, chemical etching, and electrodeposition, as well as characterization techniques such as electron microscopy, electron and X-ray diffraction, and probe microscopy that are used routinely to characterize small structures, small volumes, and thin films. However, the ability to characterize extremely small nanostructures or to tailor materials at an atomic level requires much more specialized equipment. The Department of Energy is now in the process of opening five Nanoscale Science Research Centers9 that will provide just such capabilities. Four of these centers are listed here, and one is mentioned later when we discuss biological capabilities. The Center for Nanoscale Materials is focused on fabricating and exploring novel nanoscale materials and, ultimately, employing unique synthesis and characterization methods to control and tailor nanoscale phenomena. The Center for Functional Nanomaterials provides state-of-the-art capabilities for the fabrication and study of nanoscale materials, with an emphasis on atomic-level tailoring to achieve desired properties and functions. The Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies features low vibration for sensitive characterization, chemical/biological synthesis labs, and clean room for device integration. The Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences is a collaborative nanoscience user research facility for the synthesis, characterization, theory/modeling/simulation, and design of nanoscale materials. Other agencies and even some universities support key nanofabrication facilities. The National Science Foundation funds several nanofabrication facilities, such as at Cornell University, that are available to external users, and which are part of a larger National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network10 (NNIN). The Cornell Nanofabrication Facility11 provides fabrication, synthesis, characterization, and integration capabili- 9 http://www.science.doe.gov/Sub/Newsroom/News_Releases/DOE-SC/2006/nano/index.htm. 10 http://www.nnin.org. 11 http://www.cnf.cornell.edu.

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness ties to build structures, devices, and systems from atomic to complex large scales. Carnegie Mellon University independently operates its own user facility that serves the broader community. The Nanofabrication Facility at Carnegie Mellon12 provides facilities for data storage thin film and device development and includes extensive clean-room space. 5.2.c Genetics, Proteomics, and Biological Engineering Biological engineering capabilities are increasingly important to chemical engineers. A few examples of new centers providing state-of-the-art facilities and approaches are given below—starting with one of the Department of Energy nanoscale science research centers. The Molecular Foundry13 provides instruments and techniques for users pursuing integration of biological components into functional nanoscale materials. The Institute for Systems Biology14 takes a multidisciplinary approach to addressing systems biology that includes integration of research in many sciences including biology, chemistry, physics, computation, mathematics, and medicine. The Broad Institute15 brings together research groups with a shared commitment to important biomedical challenges, along a set of key “platforms”: biological samples, genome sequencing, genetic analysis, chemical biology, proteomics, and RNAi. The Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (SynBERC)16 focuses on synthetic biology, fabricating new biological components and assembling them into integrated, miniature devices and systems. 5.2.d Fossil Fuel Utilization Facilities (Combustion Centers) Chemical engineers have long required capabilities for understanding combustion and fossil fuel utilization. A few examples of centers providing state-of-the-art facilities and approaches are given below. 12 http://www.nanofab.ece.cmu.edu. 13 http://foundry.lbl.gov/. 14 http://www.systemsbiology.org/. 15 http://www.broad.harvard.edu/. 16 http://www.synberc.org.

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness The Combustion Research Facility (CRF) at the Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore17 is a Department of Energy Office of Science user facility, conducting basic and applied research that has pioneered the use of laser diagnostics for in situ measurements in a wide range of furnace and engine applications. The Building and Fire Research Laboratory at NIST 18 has unique facilities and programs for addressing the needs of the building and fire safety communities and provides science standards developments, metrology for standards, and responses to major fires using its full-scale fire laboratory. The International Flame Research Foundation at Livorno, Italy,19 is a cooperative international organization focusing on applied combustion research and serves industry and academia, with 10 national committees, including the American Flame Research Committee, and excellent facilities at the ENEL plant outside of Pisa. 5.2.e Cyberinfrastructure (Supercomputing) According to the National Science Foundation, cyberinfrastructure refers to the distributed computer, information, and communication technologies combined with the personnel and integrating components that provide a long-term platform to empower the modern scientific research endeavor.20 Two examples of engineering cyberinfrastructure capabilities include: The Collaborative Large-scale Engineering Analysis Network for Environmental Research (CLEANER)21 addresses large-scale human-stressed aquatic systems through collaborative modeling and knowledge networks. The Network for Computational Nanotechnology22 connects theory, experiment, and computation in a way that makes a difference to the future of nanotechnology. 17 http//www.ca.sandia.gov/CRF. 18 http//www.bfrl.nist.gov. 19 http//www.ifrf.net. 20  See extensive list of links on cyber-infrastructure at http://www.nsf.gov/crssprgm/ci-team/#ecl. 21 http://cleaner.ncsa.uiuc.edu/home/. 22 http://www.ncn.purdue.edu/.

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness 5.3 HUMAN RESOURCES Human resources are an essential component for leadership in chemical engineering. Below we discuss trends and several key characteristics of science and engineering human resources in the world overall, and then drill down into some important features of the U.S. supply of chemical engineers. 5.3.a Strong Competition for International Science and Engineering Human Resources At the international level, the United States ranks lower than most industrialized nations in terms of the quantity of natural sciences and engineering degrees awarded per number of 24-year-olds in the general population (Figure 5.1). Many more overall science and engineering (S&E) degree holders are being produced abroad than in the United States. However, over the years, the United States has been successful at attracting foreign-born scientists and engineers (Figure 5.2). 5.3.b Steady Supply of Chemical Engineers in the United States It is difficult to find numbers for chemical engineering human resources at the international level. The best we can do is look at the trends in U.S. chemical engineering graduate degrees to get some indication of the current health of the discipline and where things are headed. Over the period 1983-2004 (shown in Figure 5.3), there has been an overall steady supply of graduate students enrolling in chemical engineering. However, if we look more carefully at the residence status of graduate students, there has been a significant decrease in the number of U.S. citizens/permanent residents enrolling in chemical engineering graduate programs. As it turns out, the decrease has been made up by enrollment of temporary residents. A better indicator of current trends, however, is to look at first-time full-time graduate enrollments, because overall graduate student enrollments include individuals who began school up to 5 or 6 years ago. We see that since the mid 1980s, first-time full-time graduate student enrollments in the United States (Figure 5.4) have fluctuated, but have overall remained constant. At the same time, recently reported numbers from National Science Foundation show a nearly 13% decrease in enrollment of first-time full-time chemical engineering graduate students. Since we are most interested in competitiveness of chemical engineering research, it is critical to look at the supply of PhDs. We see in Figure 5.5 that between the late 1970s and early 1990s, the number of earned chemi-

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness FIGURE 5.28 National Science Foundation Engineering Directorate funding for divisions in millions of U.S. dollars: Bioengineering and Environmental Systems (BES), Chemical and Transport Systems (CTS), Civil and Mechanical Systems (CMS), Design and Manufacturing Innovation (DMI), Electrical and Communications Systems (ECS), Engineering Education and Centers (EEC), Office of Industrial Innovation (OII). NOTE: *FY05 planned budget; **FYO6 proposed budget. SOURCE: NSF FY06 Budget request, available at http://www.nsf.gov/about/budget (accessed October 5, 2006). TABLE 5.2 Research Proposal Funding Rate for National Science Foundation Chemical, Bioengineering, Environment & Transport (CBET) Division from Fiscal Year 1997 to 2005. Fiscal Year Number of Proposals Number of Awards Funding Rate (%) Median Annual Size ($) 2005 2,712 353 13 94,124 2004 2,084 421 20 87,188 2003 1,962 397 20 86,816 2002 1,449 403 28 79,818 2001 1,449 374 26 79,994 2000 1,459 410 28 75,000 1999 1,122 364 32 69,035 1998 1,267 379 30 64,400 1997 1,363 413 30 57,523 SOURCE: National Science Foundation Budget Internet Information System http://dellweb.bfa.nsf.gov/ (assessed October 6, 2006).

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness with whom these individuals work, a superior economy, and outstanding research facilities. Evidence of this is the level to which foreign doctorate recipients plan to remain in the United States to work after graduation (Table 5.3). However, with changes in visa policies (such as the drop in student visas issued after 9/11 shown in Figure 5.29) and global leveling in research capability, the United States may be losing ground. The data presented so far raise many issues that affect the future ability of chemical engineering programs to attract high-quality graduate students, and include Recruiting students from both within the United States and abroad. The decreasing numbers of U.S. citizens or permanent residents attending Ph.D. programs is worrisome. Improving and strengthening academic programs so they can still remain poles of attraction for young people with intellectual curiosity. Retaining an open and active research environment, which has been one of the most attractive features, especially for non-U.S. prospective Ph.D. students. Ensuring adequate financial support for U.S. students pursuing graduate education. Maintaining a strong job market for chemical engineering graduates (especially PhDs) with improved incentives and more attractive career paths. Increasing diversity in academia, government, and industry chemical engineering leadership. 5.5.b R&D Funding Whereas U.S. industry and government are shifting funds toward shorter-term research, many other countries, notably Japan, are increasing long-term and basic research funding. Many U.S. companies have eliminated or significantly reduced in size corporate or central research TABLE 5.3 Percentage of Foreign Doctorate Recipients Reporting Plans to Stay in the United States After Graduation, 1995-2003   1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 Definite Plans to Stay 34 35 42 44 46 49 49 54 52 48 Plans to Stay 62 65 67 68 67 70 71 74 73 71 SOURCE: Special Tabulation of Data from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients, prepared by National Opinion Research Center.

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness FIGURE 5.29 Student, exchange visitor, and other high-skill-related temporary visas issued, 1998-2005. SOURCE: NSF 2006 Science & Engineering Indicators. laboratories in order to more closely align research and development with shorter-term business opportunities. Chemical engineering research in universities has been sponsored mainly by the federal government. The National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy have provided the most support for a range of fundamental chemical engineering research. In particular, the National Science Foundation now dominates support for chemical engineering with 66% of academic research in the field. The overall federal research and development funding strategy for chemical engineering research is currently unbalanced. As a result, important developments in key subareas could lag behind in world competition. As was discussed in Chapter 4, several core areas of chemical engineering research are at serious risk. The dynamic range of the discipline, which has been a principal strength for more than 50 years, is seriously threatened by reductions in support of core research areas. This is illustrated by the funding data shown in the table in Appendix 5A. For the areas in the table, the funding rates have dropped to less than half their peak levels over the last 4-5 years. Biophotonics is the only area that has kept a constant funding rate. The overall drop in rates occurred despite a large number of proposals

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness in 2005 (over 600) in biotechnology and biomedical engineering that are far more than the submissions 4-5 years ago. Although some academic researchers have turned to industry for financial support, in many cases, industry-funded research is of shorter duration and, compared with federal grants, has a specific, short-term focus. Some research projects are conducted under contract terms that capture intellectual properties, protect confidentiality, restrict publication, and require detailed planning and reporting of progress. These conditions rarely attract top graduate talent to the research effort. In Chapter 4 we discussed areas in which industrial research collaborations can be most valuable, where special equipment not generally found in universities is required to achieve process control and to evaluate sequencing protocols and scaling parameters. 5.5.c Infrastructure The quality of the basic research infrastructure and the development of new technology from research strongly influence the long-term health of chemical engineering research. The position of the U.S. research enterprise will be determined by the elevation or decline of this infrastructure, which, in this context, is defined broadly to include tangible (facilities) and intangible (supporting policies and services) elements. Several trends for the elements of this infrastructure have been identified: The university structure in which the chemical engineering organization resides strongly influences the fortunes of the discipline. The high quality of academic leadership in chemical engineering and the excellence of the engineering research enterprise have placed the discipline in a position of strength at most of the top research universities in the United States. The prominence of chemical engineering in nonacademic institutions (industry and government agencies) is also well established here and abroad. Major centers and facilities provide key infrastructure and capabilities for conducting research and have provided the foundation for U.S. leadership. Key capabilities for chemical engineering research include materials synthesis and characterization, materials micro- and nanofabrication, genetics and proteomics, fossil fuel utilization, and cyberinfrastructure. U.S. facilities have instrumentation that is on par with the best in the world. However, rapid advances in design and capabilities of instrumentation can create obsolescence in 5-8 years. Forward-looking intellectual property policies, administrative support, and access to patent expertise are improving for U.S. academic researchers in chemical engineering. These policies are generally more flexible and advanced here than they are abroad. The anticipated continuing liberalization of rules that permit academic researchers to commercialize their inventions

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness is a positive step toward decreasing the time from invention to market. Another positive step is the growing assistance from the universities in finding industrial commercialization partners. Federal laboratories and the national laboratories of the Department of Energy are critical in providing unique facilities for research; they have instrumentation no single university could afford to put in place. An important complement is the availability of world-class scientists who engage in long-term fundamental research, provide assistance through research collaborations with the user community, and provide advanced instrumentation design and methods. Large central facilities, such as neutron and synchrotron sources, electron microscopy centers, and analytical facilities, many of them at Department of Energy laboratories, must be continuously upgraded and maintained. Although the United States has enjoyed a research and funding environment that allows for the installation and operation of a diverse range of facilities to support leading-edge research in chemical engineering, this position is not assured forever. 5.5.d Cooperative Government-Industry-Academia Research Maintaining a competitive advantage in chemical engineering depends on strong collaborations between government, industry, and academia. As industrial research focuses more and more on short-term (2-3 year) targeted advances and product impact, execution of longer term (5-10 year) basic and innovative exploratory research at universities and national laboratories will require even closer interactions. Collaborative research is accomplished in several foreign countries by individuals with joint academic-commercial appointments and through publicly supported research institutes linked to universities (similar to many U.S. national laboratories) that serve industry’s need for longer-term research. One challenge is also a major opportunity for a government-university-industry initiative: There is a 15-year cycle time in many cases from demonstrating the scientific feasibility of a new idea to its commercial implementation. There is a need for continuity of support and a general recognition of the time it takes to go from observation to hypothesis to experimentation to discovery to implementation. A reduction in this schedule could be realized through more extensive integration of modeling and simulation of the processes with evaluation of fabrication concepts and designs, processing yields, performance, and reliability. There are clearly defined, mutually supportive roles for academia, government, and industry where they can work together. For example, the Department of Energy advanced supercomputer initiative is an effort to develop new computer methods for the simulation of nuclear weapons. Analogous models of cooperative gov-

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness ernment-industry-academia research may be needed to enhance the transfer of results from fundamental research to viable engineering solutions in the new and evolving areas. 5.5.e Government Policy and Regulations Government policy and regulations have a direct impact on the choice of directions and intensity of chemical engineering research by industry and academia. They affect cost of raw materials (e.g., natural gas), influence research undertakings (e.g., biorefineries, fuels from cellulose), determine the scope of new technologies (e.g., processes and materials for tighter control of air and water effluents), and encourage or discourage the introduction of new materials in the market (e.g., regulations governing the approval of new biomedical devices and the litigation-based culture in the United States). Most of our analysis in forecasting the future position of U.S. research in chemical engineering has been predicated on rather “neutral” new regulations. However, the Panel believes that this is a question of significant uncertainty and with enormous impact on the directions and position of future chemical engineering research. 5.6 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS Historical research leadership in chemical engineering in the United States is the result of many key factors, which have been outlined in this chapter. Over the years, the United States has been a leader in innovation as a result of a strong U.S. industrial sector, a variety of funding opportunities (industry, federal government, state initiatives, universities, and private foundations), cross-sector collaborations and partnerships, and strong professional societies. While U.S. chemical companies will retain a very strong presence in the global market, the corresponding size of their operations from the U.S. market will grow at a rather low rate. In time, it may have an impact on the number and type of employment opportunities offered to U.S. chemical engineering researchers and the cultivation of research initiatives in collaboration with U.S. universities. Major centers and facilities provide key infrastructure and capabilities for conducting research, and have provided the foundation for U.S. leadership. Key capabilities for chemical engineering research include materials synthesis and characterization, materials micro- and nanofabrication, genetics and proteomics, clean and efficient fossil fuel utilization, renewable energy sources, and cyberinfrastructure. In the past, the United States was well endowed with human resources in science and engineering. There has been an overall steady supply of

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness chemical engineers in the United States, and job prospects and salaries for U.S. chemical engineers are still favorable. However, with changes in U.S. citizenry interests and international capabilities, there is increasingly strong competition for international science and engineering human resources. Other professions offer higher monetary compensation and attractive career paths, which help them draw talented young people away from science and engineering education or away from science- or engineering-oriented employment positions. Most major companies are building new R&D centers outside the United States, such as in China and India. For example, DuPont recently announced plans to invest over $22.5 million to construct its first research and development center in Hyderabad, India, which is expected to accommodate more than 300 scientists and other employees.30 Additional examples include GE (India and China), Dow Chemical (India and China), and Rohm and Haas (China). Citizens of those countries are increasingly gaining access to world-class facilities to work in, which will increasingly be competitive with those in the United States. Research funding for S&E overall and chemical engineering in particular has been steady over all the years. However, the landscape for chemical engineering has changed significantly, and a reassessment of funding policy directions may be needed in view of this report’s findings. 30 See http://www2.dupont.com/Media_Center/en_US/daily_news/february/article20070202.html, last accessed March 5, 2007.

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness APPENDIX 5A Research Proposal Funding Rate for National Science Foundation Chemical, Bioengineering, Environment & Transport (CBET) Division Research Areas from fiscal year 1997 to 2005. SOURCE: NSF Budget Internet Information System, http://dellweb.bfa.nsf.gov (accessed October 6, 2006). CBET Funding Areas Fiscal Year Number of Proposals Number of Awards Funding Rate Median Annual Size BIOCHEMICAL & BIOMASS ENG 2005 34 5 15% $111,685 2004 49 8 16% $90,000 2003 84 11 13% $100,000 2002 57 15 26% $111,636 2001 61 21 34% $79,544 2000 66 19 29% $108,400 1999 75 27 36% $81,866 1998 60 20 33% $69,932 1997 63 20 32% $62,500 BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING 2005 301 32 11% $100,000 2004 324 33 10% $100,500 2003 218 30 14% $79,978 2002 282 37 13% $76,683 2001 248 45 18% $76,198 2000 265 66 25% $75,086 1999 164 45 27% $65,143 1998 159 53 33% $54,593 1997 158 40 25% $51,912 BIOPHOTONICS PROGRAM 2005 42 9 21% $110,000 2004 27 7 26% $100,000 2003 37 9 24% $98,247 BIOTECHNOLOGY 2005 374 20 5% $100,000 2004 206 30 15% $138,271 2003 239 29 12% $109,242 2002 116 23 20% $128,642 2001 107 35 33% $99,999 2000 87 26 30% $101,490 1999 59 18 31% $88,327 1998 45 21 47% $85,000 1997 54 21 39% $63,847

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness CBET Funding Areas Fiscal Year Number of Proposals Number of Awards Funding Rate Median Annual Size CATALYSIS AND BIOCATALYSIS 2005 161 23 14% $99,881 2004 129 27 21% $81,325 2003 116 27 23% $87,185 2002 73 26 36% $74,999 2001 73 19 26% $84,000 2000 96 26 27% $79,501 1999 61 25 41% $70,000 1998 65 30 46% $83,073 1997 84 27 32% $60,650 COMBUSTION AND PLASMA SYSTEMS 2005 153 17 11% $76,495 2004 73 15 21% $52,500 2003 78 31 40% $102,398 2002 53 23 43% $80,800 2001 49 22 45% $81,334 2000 75 24 32% $86,820 1999 56 23 41% $82,500 1998 45 16 36% $65,012 1997 69 23 33% $60,000 ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING 2005 306 42 14% $99,998 2004 205 47 23% $80,001 2003 273 50 18% $90,749 2002 163 40 25% $80,531 2001 127 32 25% $81,393 2000 59 17 29% $59,750 1999 50 13 26% $65,000 1998 87 17 20% $70,305 1997 118 29 25% $62,258 ENVIRONMENTAL TECHNOLOGY 2005 51 12 24% $104,942 2004 70 12 17% $81,386 2003 78 4 5% $110,689 2002 54 17 31% $95,196 2001 150 26 17% $76,263 2000 147 30 20% $66,845 1999 133 20 15% $60,360 1998 97 34 35% $50,296 1997 115 45 39% $49,931

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness CBET Funding Areas Fiscal Year Number of Proposals Number of Awards Funding Rate Median Annual Size FLUID DYNAMICS & HYDRAULICS 2005 228 25 11% $73,690 2004 104 35 34% $81,200 2003 72 16 22% $80,000 2002 115 33 29% $75,000 2001 134 29 22% $75,000 2000 96 38 40% $70,000 1999 76 24 32% $58,125 1998 99 23 23% $67,083 1997 150 29 19% $62,500 INTERFAC TRANS & THERMODYN PRO 2005 177 19 11% $90,155 2004 89 30 34% $80,000 2003 186 34 18% $51,991 2002 106 43 41% $83,094 2001 102 24 24% $81,054 2000 117 38 32% $73,041 1999 75 35 47% $62,500 1998 80 42 53% $57,305 1997 111 42 38% $64,500 PARTICULATE & MULTIPHASE PROCES 2005 267 42 16% $60,000 2004 159 47 30% $80,000 2003 123 44 36% $77,703 2002 97 38 39% $62,126 2001 73 33 45% $69,583 2000 113 37 33% $89,999 1999 96 39 41% $56,250 1998 243 34 14% $50,000 1997 117 32 27% $49,653 PROCESS & REACTION ENGINEERING 2005 221 23 10% $91,658 2004 194 26 13% $83,617 2003 117 26 22% $87,564 2002 72 30 42% $75,600 2001 101 27 27% $73,914 2000 137 32 23% $64,892 1999 84 28 33% $64,601 1998 51 21 41% $70,198 1997 69 21 30% $67,347

OCR for page 182
International Benchmarking of U.S. Chemical Engineering Research Competitiveness CBET Funding Areas Fiscal Year Number of Proposals Number of Awards Funding Rate Median Annual Size SEPAR & PURIFICATION PROCESSES 2005 89 18 20% $89,999 2004 61 23 38% $88,355 2003 117 26 22% $89,574 2002 48 13 27% $80,000 2001 77 28 36% $83,016 2000 96 29 30% $67,487 1999 60 28 47% $72,636 1998 61 28 46% $65,000 1997 67 27 40% $50,000 THERMAL TRANSPORT & THERM PROC 2005 184 26 14% $83,404 2004 170 29 17% $83,559 2003 112 30 27% $87,185 2002 70 24 34% $84,030 2001 67 21 31% $73,683 2000 83 18 22% $73,542 1999 93 30 32% $84,118 1998 135 27 20% $63,267 1997 106 35 33% $60,054