As advancement of American technology surged from the razzle-dazzle glamor of the arms and space races, technology became synonymous with national defense. Considering increased military procurement of R&D in academia during the 1980s, the paper questions if federally managed academic establishments like the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) differently valued commercial and entrepreneurial capabilities of the laboratory in contrast to privately owned yet military-contracted laboratories. By comparing studies on research and development (R&D) in the federal LLNL with studies on the private (and academically involved) SRI International and Draper Laboratories corporations, this paper weighs the political climate and technological necessities that arose from the Reagan administration to analyze research priorities of the three academic establishments. Addressing the long tradition of military presence in American academia, the paper aims to examine the academia’s approach to commercial entrepreneurship in respect to the emergence of the DOD-University Forum, a Pentagon-level attempt to revive the connections between higher education, military, and industry. While some scholars (C. Bruce Tarter) contend the diverse range of projects imposed upon the LLNL by the Department of Energy made the lab a broader, more entrepreneurial place, scholars like Leslie, Buzan, and Sen criticize the highly military-specialized and consequently economically unproductive activity that academic laboratories have adapted upon federal involvement. The paper’s assertion on this topic is that while LLNL, a federal laboratory, fulfills the Reagan administration’s agenda of “privatization” by acting as a technological pioneer in the civilian industry, military-contracted laboratories with MIT and Stanford origins shy away from diversifying to commercial products as a result of government subsidization and orientation of advanced technology. Federal subsidy of applied R&D glorified military research as a breeding ground of innovation, but however important such developments were for national security, they did not translate into enduring, economically productive industries.
Long abstract of your presentation
Main author information