industry to the nation’s economy and security

  • Finally, the investment should be large enough to support a critical mass of researchers and research; one estimate can be drawn from the predivestiture Bell Labs, whose budget of over $500 million (in today’s dollars) for basic research was sized to provide the breadth and depth to comprehensively address telecommunications research issues.
    The federal government should establish a new research organization—the Advanced Telecommunications Research Activity—to rejuvenate fundamental and applied telecommunications research in the United States and to stimulate and coordinate activities across industry, academia, and government that can translate research results into deployments of significant new telecommunications capabilities.

    In light of the findings presented above, the committee believes that a new national research organization, which it dubs the Advanced Telecommunications Research Activity (ATRA), should be established by the federal government. This recommendation is inspired in large part by the enormous leaps in telecommunications technology historically attributable to DARPA and Bell Labs and the success of broad industry consortia such as SEMATECH.

    Recommendation 1 and Recommendation 2 below both contemplate significant federal support for telecommunications research. However, their full effects will come only with the participation of both service providers and equipment vendors. ATRA would provide (1) a forum for convening federal research sponsors, academic researchers, and industry to identify research that is relevant to industry’s most critical needs and (2) a mechanism for the telecommunications industry to pool funds to conduct precompetitive research. Government matching funds would provide an additional incentive for industry participation.

    In terms of structure, the committee considered the pros and cons of different models and decided that a hybrid approach is best suited to the challenges facing the telecommunications industry. The committee envisions ATRA as a hybrid of activities of the sort historically associated with DARPA (which through the ARPANET program managed a research portfolio, developed a vision, and convened industry and academia) and SEMATECH (which brought a struggling high-tech sector together, initially with some federal support to complement industry dollars, to fund joint research, development, and roadmapping activities). ATRA would be staffed by program managers who would include researchers from both academia and industry. Industry funding would represent a significant fraction of total ATRA funding, and industry as well as academic researchers would be deeply involved in research activities.

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