Strengthening the nation’s telecommunications research capacity by building up research groups, centers, and institutions with sufficient scale and breadth of expertise to tackle real-world problems and by strengthening connections between the industry and academic communities and among the telecommunications, semiconductor, and computer segments of the IT industry. To provide major experimental facilities useful to but beyond the capabilities of individual university research groups or firms, ATRA would consider establishing and supporting an experimental infrastructure for such activities as fabrication, prototyping, and testing.
Long-term investments are required to realize the sorts of innovation contemplated in connection with ATRA. It would likely take at least 5 years to develop a major advance (such as a superior replacement architecture for the Internet) and several more years to see that design reflected in products and services in the market. But history shows that a well-conceived research program yields numerous payoffs, including shorter-term advances and unforeseen long-term benefits.
The following are suggestions for specific steps to be considered in implementing the committee’s first recommendation. Establish mechanisms for carrying out project-based research involving academia and industry and build up a core technical staff to manage research projects and coordinate activities. Mechanisms such as broad agency announcements would allow ATRA to solicit promising ideas from academia and industry. These ideas would be used to jump-start a research program, help establish a critical mass of researchers, and garner sufficient industry matching funding to allow the establishment of research centers that can attract significant industry participation—organizations along the lines of the NSF-supported engineering research centers that are described
Over the past two decades, U.S. telecommunications research has been adversely affected by the level of research investment and the decreasing time horizon of research.The erosion of telecommunications research in industry mirrors, to a certain extent, broad cutbacks in U.S. industry R&D in general. The impact has been significant, underscoring the historical importance of industry research and mirroring the rapidity of the telecommunications sector’s restructuring following divestiture in 1984. The problems were obscured during the time of the Internet bubble, which saw a surge of telecommunications-related investment, but became quite apparent when the bubble’s bursting led to a dramatic decrease in telecommunications research investments in 2001 and beyond.Historically, the Bell System played a leading role in long-term, fundamental telecommunications research in the United States.
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