It's no secret that the United States has been falling behind in industrial technology for years. Computers, electronics, engineering and the other research and development fields that contribute to a modern industrial-based economy are dominated by foreign competitors.
A study, however, documents just how far the United States has fallen behind. The Council on Competitiveness study says that in a majority of 94 critical technologies, the United States is no longer a key player.This doesn't just mean a factory in some other country can turn out cheaper and more efficient electronic toys. These technologies are vital, not only for our economic well being, but to our security and national defense as well.
Part of our problem is the continuing reliance on private industry to either fund its own research or, using research from government or university laboratories, to fund its development. This is becoming too expensive for the private sector.
But companies are prevented from sharing research or development efforts by anti-trust laws.
As an example, a proposed joint venture by American firms for research on high resolution television technology, supported by the Pentagon as vital for defense systems, was killed because it was seen as violating U.S. anti-trust laws.
The result is that Japan is now leading the field in that research. Japanese companies and their government have a closer working relationship that moves basic research into usable products much faster than U.S. industry can.
The council, made up of executives from industry, labor, and education, has worthwhile recommendations:
- Establish technological leadership as a national priority with a stronger leadership role assigned to the existing federal Office of Science and Technology.
- Increase federal research funds.
- More emphasis on research and development in universities with results transferred more quickly to the commercial sector.
- Revamp anti-trust laws to allow sharing of information on emerging technology.
The United States cannot afford to sit passively while other industrialized nations seize technological control of the future.