ACCESSION NUMBER:267850 FILE ID:ECO305 DATE:02/17/93 TITLE:RIVAL CORPORATIONS ENCOURAGED TO SHARE INFORMATION (02/17/93) TEXT:*93021705.ECO ECINFOLD COMPETITIVENESS /te RIVAL CORPORATIONS ENCOURAGED TO SHARE INFORMATION (Official proposes data network to link firms) (640) By Jim Fuller USIA Science Writer Washington -- Industry officials have called for greater sharing of scientific and technical information among corporate rivals to promote U.S. economic competitiveness. The officials told the House Subcommittee on Technology, Environment and Aviation February 17 that the success of Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (Sematech) and other government-industry consortia have demonstrated that fierce American competitors in the same industry can work together for the common good. The officials pointed out, however, that consortia membership represents only a tiny fraction of all industry, and that ways need to be found to encourage a broader flow of information among private companies. Jean Mayhew, manager of Library and Information Services at United Technologies Corporation, called for the creation of an electronic data highway, or network, that would provide every manufacturer in the country with immediate access to vital technical information. The network would encourage participation of small firms as well as giant corporations. "It would link government and academia more closely with manufacturers," she said. "Theoretical knowledge would flow more freely to engineers in industry. This would encourage the translation of theory into new 1roducts...the kind that will sell in global markets." Mayhew said that the largest obstacle to such a network is not technological or financial, but the culture of corporate America. "This culture is biased against cooperation with rivals and potential rivals," Mayhew said. "We need a culture change. We need to value information sharing among companies. Competitors can cooperate without losing their competitive advantage." She called on Congress to promote the understanding that competitive cooperation is now permissible within the bounds of antitrust and intellectual property laws. "In industry, we're removing the barriers to a broader flow of information," she said. "But there's a lot of resistance. This can be traced to a lingering fear of antitrust restrictions that no longer apply." William Spencer, president of Sematech, said that vital technology information is transferred within the consortium by engineers and scientists returning to their member companies. Two-thirds of the engineers and managers at Sematech are assignees who spend two to three years at Sematech before returning to their home company. "A decade ago I would have said there's no way U.S. companies would get together and share information," he said. "But I think the shadow of the gallows frightened all of us. The willingness to share information that's not product-specific has been far greater than I would have imagined." Mayhew and Spencer called on government and industry to cooperate in "benchmarking" the technology of foreign competitors. Mayhew said that while the government already collects vast amounts of foreign scientific and technical data, the information is not forwarded to private industry for analysis and application, and the collection effort does not target subjects of vital interest. She called for establishment of an Office of Technology Monitoring and Assessment to coordinate the collection effort among government agencies. Private industry would analyze and apply the information that is gathered. Spencer said that Sematech, in conjunction with its member companies, regularly sends scientists and engineers to Japan to visit manufacturing sites, meet with equipment suppliers and talk with university researchers. "One of the biggest problems faced by industry that is magnified for small companies is the cost of benchmarking foreign competition," he said. "For example, it is very expensive to send a team of engineers and scientists to Japan for the length of time it takes to gather good, solid information on the competition." He said that technology fellowships from the government to sponsor U.S. industry researchers would be one way to address the problem. He also called for the declassification of foreign technical information held by the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. NNNN .