Based on a general consensus, the Government’s involvement in the USA in science and technology is to overcome market failures-specially low appropriability and capital market imperfections-that cause underinvestment in R&D. Traditionally, the US Government only supports scientific research and academic engineering, mainly through the National Science Foundation (NSF), and well-defined mission oriented programmes in which Government has strong and direct procurement interest. As is well-known, Federal government there basically follows free market principles and is not so much concerned with distributional aspects. It depends largely on tax and regulatory framework to improve the climate and involvement for innovation. The Government leaves commercial technology development to private industry.
In the federal executive branch, the mission agencies-most notably, the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Defence (DOD) and the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA)-are the major players in mission oriented R&D. These agencies have operational responsibilities that mandate rather immediate operating goals and put the agencies under constant pressure to produce results in a tangible way to justify their existence. NSF mainly sponsors general purpose basic research and is responsible for the health of the basic science community, the special universities and non-profit research institutes. It has also promoted applied research through programmes, such as Inter disciplinary Research Relevant to Problems of Society (IRRPOS), Research Relevant to Problems of Society (RRPOS), Research Applied to National Needs Programme (RANN), launched in 1968 and 1972 respectively. The office of Industrial Technology, established in 1980 in the Department of Commerce, is involved in innovation policy. In the area of Industrial Technology Policy, basically speaking, the US has been following a mission oriented approach. In general the US lacks a comprehensive, strategically oriented approach as compared to Japan and many European countries’.
In the recent past there have been some more serious initiatives for encouraging innovations and technology development, in order to regain the competitive strength in international markets. Under the Reagan Administration, integration of economics and science and technology was generally emphasised with a view to enhancing industrial competitiveness. Many special programmes including those related to Defence were launched. Under the new philosophy, several programmes, such as very high speed integrated circuits, semi-manufacture of conductor devices and materials research consortium, high definition television were initiated as mission oriented programmes. In the Bush Administration, the first technology policy statement-US Technology Policy-was published in 1990 and delivered to the US Congress’. In this document, some advanced technological fields, such as robotics, semi-conductors, super conductivity and advanced imaging technologies have been targeted. Other areas, such as biotechnology, alternative energy and transportation, are also identified. This Policy Statement includes Government participation in precompetitive research on generic technologies that have the potential to contribute to a broad range of Government and commercial applications. It is reported that US Industrial Technology Policy is presently undergoing a structural change. Figure-1 indicates US Mission Oriented and Trickle Down Strategy for industrial technology.
Fig -1: Mission-oriented and Trickle Down Strategy for Technology in USA
Source: Chiang, Jang-Tsang, Sept., 1991, From Mission-oriented to Diffusion-oriented paradigm : the, New Trend of U S Industrial Technology Policy Technovation, pp 340