Friday, 29 July 1988
"COMMERCIALIZING HIGH-TEMPERATURE SUPERCONDUCTIVITY,"
report by the Office of Technology Assessment, warns against
counting on "spinoffs" from defense programs to counter the
aggressive Japanese effort. Half of the $95M budgeted for HTS
R&D in FY 88 will be spent by the Department of Defense.
According to the OTA report, most of the DOD share will go for
specialized applications, such as SDI, with limited potential for
commercial use. Another $27M will go to the DOE, mostly to the
national laboratories which have "yet to demonstrate the ability
to transfer technologies rapidly and effectively to the private
sector." The report concludes that "R&D funded by the DOD and
DOE will help support commercialization, but a dollar spent by
one of these agencies will probably buy substantially less in
terms of the Nation's technology base than a dollar spent by
NSF." The NSF share of the HTS budget is only $14.5M.
. THE NATIONAL LABORATORIES COMPETITIVENESS ACT OF 1988
is the most recent competitiveness legislation being drafted. It
includes a National Superconductivity Program. Although the
draft has not been made public, the author, Rep. Marilyn Lloyd
(D-TN), Chairwoman of the Energy Research and Development
Subcommittee, held hearings on Wednesday. The stickiest issue,
as with every bill seeking to utilize national laboratories more
effectively, is intellectual property rights. This latest
attempt to solve the problem would permit basic research results
to be broadly disseminated, but provides no definition of basic.
3. DID "WHAT'S NEW" MAKE WILDLY EXAGGERATED STATEMENTS
last week about the GAO report on the accuracy of statements concerning the
X-ray laser? Perhaps. Livermore officials protested the use in
WHAT'S NEW of the terms "wildly exaggerated," to characterize
statements of Teller and Wood, and "slightly less outrageous," to
characterize official laboratory statements. If anyone was
misled, let me assure you that the rather low-key GAO report did
not use such colorful adjectives. They represent my reaction to
the evidence presented by the GAO. After rereading the report, I
think I got it just about right. Wild? Consider the following
reference to Super-Excalibur from Teller's letter to Ambassador
Nitze, Chief US Arms Negotiator: "For example, a single X-ray
laser module the size of an executive desk which applied this
concept could potentially shoot down the entire Soviet land-based
missile force, if it were to be launched into the module's field
of view." The report notes that the letter was written before
any tests of the Super-Excalibur concept had been conducted!
It was also reported by WHAT'S NEW that recent legislation
"requires" the University of California to appoint oversight
officials to hold down the hype. A Livermore spokesman says the
measure contains no binding language and merely "requests" the
University to increase its oversight of the laboratory. It will.