America's Struggle for Leadership in Technology

Jean Claude Derian, Author, Severen L. Schaeffer, Translator
Jean Claude Derian, Author, Severen L. Schaeffer, Translator MIT Press (MA) $35 (309p) ISBN 978-0-262-04102-7
Reviewed on: 05/01/1990
Release date: 05/01/1990
French science adviser Derian here insightfully diagnoses ills afflicting U.S. high-tech manufacturing, but his prescription is apt to kill the patient. He argues that American high-tech companies operate either in ``sheltered'' or ``exposed'' cultures. The sheltered sector, which includes military contractors and regulated monopolies like telephone companies, is technologically driven, not cost driven. By contrast, companies in the exposed entrepreneurial sector must focus their efforts on reaching a mass market at low prices. Derian recommends that the government facilitate ``strategic alliances'' between companies operating in the two sectors by loosening anti-trust laws and providing seed money. He hails the Sematech semiconductor consortium as a model of cooperation. Sematech receives Federal funding and includes leading U.S. companies, e.g., IBM, AT & T and Intel. As readers of the business press are aware, a number of Sematech projects are behind schedule, and one wonders whether tying up entrepreneurial companies with government red tape isn't more likely to harm than to help them. Derian's analysis of the structure of American industry is original but his industrial policy recommendations have been cliches for a decade. (May)
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