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MIT to Host Technology Conference

By Jayant Kumar
Staff Reporter

President Bush's "National Technology Initiative" will come to campus Feb. 12 when MIT hosts the first of a series of conferences designed to "address one of the key challenges facing industry -- the need to translate new technologies into marketable goods and services," according to a draft schedule for the conference.

The purpose of the conference is to bring together leaders of major corporations, universities, and government agencies in order to create stronger ties among them and to facilitate the transfer of technology from the government to the private sector.

"Foreign competitors are more effective than the U.S. in taking a technology and making it into a product. Even though the U.S. spends as much money on research as Japan, the U.S. falls behind when it comes to getting out products," said John T. Preston, director of the MIT Technology Licensing Office.

Four members of the U.S. Cabinet will visit MIT for the conference: Secretary of Energy James D. Watkins, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rockwell A. Schnabel, NASA Administrator Richard H. Truly, and Acting Secretary of Transportation James B. Busey IV.

Industry representatives will include John Macomber, chairman of Export-Import Bank, James Vincent, CEO of Biogen, and Sherril Handler, president and CEO of Thinking Machines Inc.

Michael Porter, a professor at the Harvard Business School, Frank Parker, a professor at Vanderbilt University, and Preston will also attend.

Governor William F. Weld will make a short appearance at the conference and give a welcoming address. Rumors that Vice President Dan Quayle will attend the meeting are unfounded, Preston said.

`Candid dialogue' stressed

According to the draft schedule, the conference will be held in a "town meeting" format in which "candid dialogue between business, university, and government research and development leaders" can take place. Topics of discussion include: the commercialization of technology in federal laboratories, universities, and the private sector; the encouragement of long-term investment and financing for technology in U.S. companies; and the promotion of technological excellence in manufacturing in U.S. industry.

The dialogue between business, government, and the universities is one part of Bush's long-term agenda to help increase U.S. competitiveness. In his State of the Union Address, Bush said, "we must make common sense investments that will help us compete, long term, in the marketplace." The president proposed a $76.5 billion allocation for research and development in 1993. The funding will support investments in emerging technologies, such as biotechnology, materials science, and high performance computing.