Beyond Spinoff: Military and Commercial Technologies in a Changing World

In This Review

Beyond Spinoff: Military And Commercial Technologies In A Changing World

By John A. Alic and others
Harvard Business School Press, 1992
428 pp.

However mixed the record of the Defense Department in stimulating civilian technology, it will be much diminished in the future, partly because its expenditures will decline, more because the civilian world is moving too fast for it. The authors conclude that the U.S. government should play an active role not only in diffusing technology, but also in generating it, under three headings: pathbreaking (leading, if successful, to the creation of new industries), infrastructural (or generic, in more common usage, with wide applicability across industries) and strategic (supporting existing firms in developing particular products, deemed somehow to be of special significance). The last, picking winners, is the most controversial of the three, and the most difficult to implement successfully and without misusing public funds, as the authors are aware. Their screening criteria and procedural proposals are too vague to be very helpful, but they open a necessary debate.

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