John D. Sanders, Ph.D.,
A number of federal laboratories were participants in the recent International Convention and Exposition of AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association). Significant promotion was in honor of AFCEA's 50 year anniversary. That puts their inaugural year just after World War II.
The Association was obviously formed in the aftermath of that War to foster the growth of the new industry related to defense communications and electronics. It is a combination of active duty military personnel with industry contractors and consulting organizations.
The research and development that was fostered by World War II gained a momentum that spawned and enhanced many industries. Between now and the turn of the century we're in that period that will have celebrations of the "Golden Anniversary" of many government technical agencies, commercial organizations and associations. Examples include such other organizations as the Office of Naval Research, the extramural research activities of the National Institutes of Health and Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International).
Let me quote from an SRI letter: "Celebrating fifty years of a tradition of innovation, 1996 may well be reviewed as a critical nexus in both the legacy and the future of technology. As we celebrate a rich tradition of technological innovation, it is clear that our research infrastructure has evolved What may have started in a mode of fundamental investigation appears to have evolved to become more responsive to real-world technological and business challenges. It is this evolution in the focal planes of the nation's research treasures which holds the greatest promise for the future. Knowing how far technology has come in becoming a part of our every day lives, one can envision a dramatic and continued explosion in pervasive technology implementation throughout the next fifty years."
Many of the federal laboratories were begun during that same period about fiftyyears ago, or had their roles adjusted to the new after-war environment. I would be interested in hearing from laboratories that are participating in some kind of golden anniversary.
Let's hope that in the future we don't need wars to stimulate technological growth. Innovation and the explosion of world markets are driving technology developments today more so than defense activities. There are more customers for new products and services than ever before, and companies are organizing to fill their needs and desires. We do, in fact, have peace dividends.
Around the Washington, DC region where I live, the defense business and federal government activities were the major economic force for many years. However, we are seeing strong growth in information technology, biotechnology and telecommunications industries that are fueled by commercial markets as well as government business. It's truly exciting to a guy like me who has been in this business for more than three decades to see the new era of commercial activities in the technologies that "traditionally" were primarily in the purview of government.
Certainly the Federal Laboratory Consortium and its members recognize this momentum in innovation and markets, and are providing leadership to meet the challenges.
The opportunities to be involved in new markets and to provide new products and services have never been greater. The technologies are here, the markets are developing and the capital is available. However, this period will have rapid changes and we will all have to be ready to change with it.
What an exciting period of history to be involved in the technology business!
I would appreciate comments; contact me at Technology Transfer Business magazine: phone: 703-848-2800, ext. 151; fax: 703-848-2353; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
prepared for the August, 1996 Issue of the Federal Laboratory Consortium NewsLink