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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cooperative R&D: Federal Efforts to Promote Industrial Competitiveness

Wendy H. Schacht
Specialist in Science and Technology Policy

In response to the foreign challenge in the global marketplace, the United States Congress has explored ways to stimulate technological advancement in the private sector. The government has supported various efforts to promote cooperative research and development activities among industry, universities, and the federal R&D establishment designed to increase the competitiveness of American industry and to encourage the generation of new products, processes, and services.

Collaborative ventures are intended to accommodate the strengths and responsibilities of all sectors involved in innovation and technology development. Academia, industry, and government often have complementary functions. Joint projects allow for the sharing of costs, risks, facilities, and expertise.

Cooperative activity covers various institutional and legal arrangements including industryindustry, industry-university, and industry-government efforts. Proponents of joint ventures argue that they permit work to be done that is too expensive for one company to support and allow for R&D that crosses traditional boundaries of expertise and experience. Such arrangements make use of existing, and support the development of new, resources, facilities, knowledge, and skills. Opponents argue that these endeavors dampen competition necessary for innovation.

Federal efforts to encourage cooperative activities include the National Cooperative Research Act; the National Cooperative Production Act; tax changes permitting credits for industry payments to universities for R&D and deductions for contributions of equipment used in academic research; and amendments to the patent laws vesting title to inventions made under federal funding in universities. Technology transfer from the government to the private sector is facilitated by several laws. In addition, there are various ongoing cooperative programs supported by multiple federal departments and agencies.

Given the increased popularity of cooperative programs, questions might be raised as to whether they are meeting expectations. Among the issues before Congress are whether joint ventures contribute to industrial competitiveness and what role, if any, the government has in facilitating such arrangements.

Date of Report: December 7, 2010
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: RL33526
Price: $29.95

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