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Appendix B

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Appendix B
Technology Selection and Analysis

This appendix discusses the process for the selection and analysis of National Critical Technologies. It starts with the discussion of the legislative mandate for creating the National Critical Technologies Report. It then details the process by which particular technologies were selected for inclusion. Finally, it discusses the methodologies used for analysis and assessment.

Legislative Mandate

The National Critical Technologies Report is prepared biennially at the direction of the 101st U.S. Congress in Public Law 101-189. This law charges a panel of public and private sector officials with identifying no more than 30 national critical technologies "essential... to develop and further the long-term national security or economic prosperity of the United States." The current report is the third in the series.

National Critical Technologies Review and Selection Process

Review and approval

The National Critical Technologies Review Group that approved the 1995 National Critical Technologies Report includes members of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) senior government officials. The government officials applinted by the Director of OSTP included the Associate Director of OSTP for Technology and the Associate Director of OSTP for National Security and International Affairs.

In addition to the National Critical Technologies Review Group, the 1995 Report was prepared with the participation from the committees of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). All relevant federal agencies that participate in NSTC committees had the opportunity to review and comment on the National Critical Technologies list, although the Committee on Civilian Industrial Technology and the Committee on National Security had the lead roles in the process. The primary focus of the content reviews by the agencies was to reflect current status and relative importance of various technologies, to fill in gaps, and to assure that the most important potential applications were included.

Following the NSTC review, the list was presented for review and approval to the National Critical Technologies Review Group. The report itself went through a similar process of review and approval, ensuring that all inputs and comments on earlier versions were addressed.

Selection criteria

As described in Appendix A, the process began with a candidate list. Technologies from this candidate list were selected for the final list if they met one or more of the following criteria.

Economic Prosperity

  1. Directly and substantially supports major S&T goal(s) of the Administration as documented in the Memorandum on 1996 Research and Development (R&D) Priorities, dated May 6, 1994, as shown in Table B.1.

  2. Directly and substantially contributes to the S&T base essential for maintaining or promoting a globally competitive position for one or more U.S. industries.

  3. Meets tests of potential economic importance in the near- term for technologies of incremental change, and in the longer term for breakthrough technologies.

  4. Has a high rate of discovery (i.e., will impact fast- moving technology intensive industries, such as telecommunications infrastructure and devices).

  5. Meets a test that despite recognition of an industry need, sufficient R&D investments by the private sector will not occur without Federal support due to the magnitude or protracted payback period for the required investment, riskiness of the technological development, or generic nature of a technology in which no single company could expect to recover its R&D investment (the latter is a "commons" test).

National Security

  1. Makes an essential contribution to enabling or advancing the future warfighting requirements, as shown in Table B.2.

  2. Makes an essential contribution to mission areas under the administration national security priority R&D as stated in the Memorandum on 1996 Research and Development (R&D) Priorities, dated May 6, 1994 (Goal 6, Enhancing National Security)

  3. Is essential to meeting other Defense requirements that are traceable through the 1994 Defense Science and Technology plan.

Methodological Notes

International benchmarking

Assessments of foreign position and trends for the critical technology areas are based on analysis of specific technology sub-areas. Sub-area assessments are aggregated, based on analytical judgments regarding relative weighting or importance, to obtain assessments of each area. Assessments in some areas, e.g., biotechnology or predictive process control, are difficult because much of the overseas research and process development take place in corporate rather than academic environments, the work is considered proprietary, and there is little incentive to publish or to reveal the state of development to anyone who might be considered a potential competitor.

Other methodological points include:

  • Geographic regions. Europe and Japan are the focus of this assessment, but other countries are considered when they are at or near the leading edge. Europe is treated as an aggregate and assessments are based on the best demonstrated capability in any European country rather than on an average across countries.

  • Technical vs. non-technical measures. Assessments of current position and five-year trends are based on technical performance rather than on market success, competitiveness, government policy, corporate spending, or any other non-technical factor. In some cases, assessments are complicated by the need to separate design trade-offs from significant differences in technology capabilities. For example, telecommunications vendors are pursuing alternative R&D strategies for asynchronous transmission mode switches. Assessments must take into account the fact that alternative R&D strategies could reflect real differences in capability, such as weakness in software, or could simply be a result of different perceptions as to the best technical path.

  • Research vs. embedded technology. The entire technology spectrum is considered, but with differing emphases depending on which technology is being assessed. For example, assessments of biotechnology stress the research portion of the innovation spectrum, whereas aircraft propulsion evaluations focus more heavily on what is actually in service.

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