Analysis & Opinions - National Academy of Engineering

Technoscientific Research: A Missing Term in R&D Discourse

| Jan. 18, 2022

Over the past decade there have been consistent alarm signals about US leadership in science and technology. Arguments often boil down to the need for additional funding for R&D. In this perspective, I reflect not on the well-justified need for such additional funding, but for more effective funding, especially in technoscientific research, a key engine of innovation.

Beyond Vannevar Bush

In Cycles of Invention and Discovery: Rethinking the Endless Frontier (Harvard University Press, 2016), Tolu Odumosu and I argued that the American linear model of innovation codified after World War II—that scientific R&D is the pacesetter of engineering R&D—is faulty.

Epitomized by the great industrial R&D laboratories of the past century—places like GE, Bell Labs, IBM, Dupont, Xerox PARC—path-breaking scientific discoveries and engineering inventions go hand-in-hand, in a dance in which sometimes one leads, sometimes the other, and sometimes both occur almost simultaneously. Examples from the past abound: the transistor, the laser, and the fundamental principles of communication and information technology. Future examples can be anticipated: quantum information science and engineering, microelectronics and computing for machine learning and artificial intelligence, energy technology innovation to address climate change, and synthetic biology and biologically inspired engineering.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Narayanamurti, Venkatesh.“Technoscientific Research: A Missing Term in R&D Discourse.” National Academy of Engineering, January 18, 2022.

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