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1. Introduction

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1. Introduction

This report presents the results of the third biennial National Critical Technologies Review. This report presents 27 National Critical Technology Areas in seven categories, as shown in Table 1.1.[1] It includes information about the state of development in each technology area, and about the US competitive position relative to the worldwide leading edge developments. It also discusses factors in the policy environment which influence the development of technology, including national critical technologies.[2]

Purpose of the Report

The development and use of technologies remain a driving force in U.S. economic prosperity and national security. Maintaining the strength and competitiveness of the U.S. technological enterprise, therefore, continues to be vital. In the current climate of intensifying global competition, rapid technological change, and geopolitical uncertainties, the need for identifying critical technologies for concentration of effort becomes even greater. This report designates the technology areas and specific technologies which constitute priorities for the federal R&D effort. Specifically, it is intended to

  • Identify necessary areas of focus for R&D;
  • Help leverage limited resources most effectively in times when science and technology budgets are not growing as fast as they once did;
  • Help coordinate government R&D activities by supplying agencies with a common set of priorities and providing Congress with information to support policy decisions;
  • Serve industry as a guide for possible areas of cooperative R&D.

Technology selection criteria and detailed description of the selection process and rationale are found in Appendix B.

This report does not address issues of technology diffusion. It is important to note that leading in technology development does not necessarily imply having the leading share of the market. In order to reap the economic benefits of technological development it is important to move technology out of the laboratory into products and services, something that requires aditional skills and investments. While it is exciting to note that the United States has a leading technological position in critical technology areas, this should not lead to the conclusion that the nation cannot do better in world-wide markets for products and services based on critical technologies.

Organization of the Report

The remainder of the report is organized as follows. Sections 2 through 8 provide descriptions of the critical technologies and the rationale for their selection at the technology sub-area level, i.e., one level further in depth than shown in Table 1. Each subsection also includes a benchmarking analysis of U.S. standing vis a vis the world- wide state of the art. Section 9 discusses federal government R&D activities in areas related to critical technologies and provides examples of specific programs in government and the private sector. Finally, Section 10 draws together the analyses in the previous sections and presents findings and recommendations as they relate to the development of critical technologies.

The names and activities of specific companies appear in many places in this report. These are included in order to provide specific examples in the discussion. No endorsement of any company or its activities is implied. The mention is also not intended to imply that those companies are the only ones engaged in the activities under discussion.

[1] The complete National Critical Technologies List, including specific technologies and sample applications, is presented in Appendix A.

[2] For the purposes of this report, the quality of being critical or "essential" is tied to the importance of the system of which a technology is a part. For a full discussion and a more comprehensive definition, see Appendix A.

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