Perceptions and Expectations at New York State's Centers for Advanced Technology: Some Implications for Research Management

Article excerpt

PERCEPTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS AT NEW YORK STATE'S CENTERS FOR ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY: SOME IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH MANAGEMENT

Abstract

In New York, the state government, industry, and several state and private universities have been collaborating since 1983 in a program to support research and development. The focal points of the R & D activities are the 10 Centers for Advanced Ceramic Technology (CATs). In 1987, a study was undertaken to see if the CATs were functioning as intended, and to examine perceptions of the CAT program. The author has reviewed study responses and presents here some interesting and surprising perceptions held by Center, government, and industry personnel. Implications for the research effort, including the role of basic research and the importance of the research center administrators, are discussed.

Introduction

The Centers for Advanced Ceramic Technology (CAT) program in New York State is a partnership formed among universities, private industry, and government to support cooperative research and development. Initiated in 1983 by the New York State Science and Technology (NYSST) Foundation, the CAT program has two major goals: 1) to increase investment in applied research development for professional and technical personnel in key technological areas, and 2) to create links between businesses and universities. There are 10 Centers ("CATs") in operation on campuses of 10 universities (including 3 S.U.N.Y. units; see Figure 1).

The state, through the NYSST Foundation, provides funds (up to $1 million/year per Center) matched by CAT industrial participants, to sponsor CAT programs in research and development, education, and information dissemination. State funding is directed toward the purchase of equipment, and toward support of faculty researchers, support staff, and graduate students working on advanced technology with an emphasis on industrial applicability.

In 1987, a Ph.D. student in higher education at S.U.N.Y., Buffalo, undertook a study of the CATs. The purpose was to provide a "snapshot" of the Centers as they existed--to see if the CATs were actually operated in accordance with how they were formally described, and to examine the different ways in which the CATs were perceived and valued.

The Study

Data were gathered through extensive personal interviews and brief written questionnaires in Fall, 1987. Fifty-five study subjects were associated with the seven original CATs (numbers 1-7, Figure 1). Interviews and questionnaires were completed with these Center directors and administrative staff, faculty researchers, and industrial sponsors. Eight keymembers of the NYSST Foundation and the state legislature were also interviewed.

Response areas included:

1) program mission, Center goals, perceptions of excellence;

2) satisfaction/dissatisfaction with Center operations;

3) expectations of constituent groups;

4) project selection process and the role of the director; and

5) Center contributions and challenges ahead.

This article emphasizes response area 1): mission, goals, and excellence. Information presented here comes from the interview responses, written answers to questionnaires, and the author's observations. Selected perceptions and expectations, and the implications for the research effort at the nation's universities are discussed.

Some Findings

Study respondents were asked to rank eight possible Center goals in order of their importance: general expansion of knowledge; training of graduate students; enhancing student understanding of industry; redirecting university research toward industrial problems; industrial applicability of research; development of new company research projects; development of patentable products or processes; and development of commercializable products.

Industrial applicability of research and the redirection of university research toward industrial problems were consistently mentioned as the two most important goals by all respondent groups--faculty, administration, industrial sponsor representatives, and state representatives (NYSST Foundation personnel and legislators). …