Onward through the fog

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<ul><li><p>Onward </p><p>At any level, the more we search for clear direction and strong leadership these days, the more we each tend to just get on </p><p>with "the project" on our own, and move things forward the best we can. Evidently, the resulting anarchy </p><p>is a precursor to the future. </p><p>A t almost all levels of business and government interaction (or more often in-action) the </p><p>smart folks are finding one another and, simply, expediting what needs to be done. The best leaders are becom- ing those who, if they honestly can't help you then and there, at least give you the phone numbers of a few people who might. </p><p>Take Motorola, for example Say you want to transfer the princi- pals of a clever military MMIC-based chip set over to commercial realiza- tion? That's easy. Job out your out- of-work military design team to your floundering commercial arm that likely bragged they could be compe- titive with the Asians before realizing they actually could...if those in the loop worked unconventionally. It evidently worked for Motorola, self- described as a "loose confederation of warring tribes." Flexible affiliations and unorthodox innovation are the directions things continue to head. (See details on Motorola, feature article, this issue). </p><p>AII-Amm'ioan Re~.arts Feeling a bit constrained by big- brother from even doing business with ones own government? No problem. Succession from foreign dominance and starting up all over again can be the best tonic for a small, creative subsidiary. Just look at what happened when Epitronics completed their American coup from the Ger- mans. Once Bob Adams completed the cashless buy-back of his company from Metallgesellschaft, and armed with a good set of federal and local environmental permits, plus decent equipment and technology, Epitro- nics immediately qualified, and has begun to win, significant government- backed SBIRs. The first one they scored was for $50 000-60 000 from ARPA to investigate InP based device structures for MMICs made under MOCVD pHEMT processes. Those who wrote Epitronic's epitaph were evidently off base. It's not only alive, but apparently doing well all on its own. </p><p>Epitronics is also teamed with Rowland Ware on a rather interest- ing Phase II SBIR effort...interesting both technologically and as the type </p><p>business-related paradox folks have to tackle and straighten out for themselves these days. Last year, Ware Technical Services in West- wood, Mass., had a $50 000 SBIR contract from SDIO to carry out a feasibility study on the LEC growth of bulk InxGal_xAS with x in the range O.1 to 0.12. Evidently it works, and Ware is putting in place the players and funding to grow these materials. The project is to provide substrates for HEMTs and lasers which should give improved performance resulting from the growth of strainfree epi layers. The present contract is re- stricted to InGaAs, but the techni- que, once established, should be applicable to almost any ternary III- V compound semiconductor, thus opening the door to "substrate en- gineering" versus current "bandgap engineering." Ware, as prime, will do the crystal growth. Helping him will be Arizona State University's Ron Roedel with the characterization and device fabrication, Airtron with the wafer cutting and polishing, and Epitronics with the epitaxial growth of the HEMT structures, (See page 56). </p><p>Pa0e l lV 0N3 </p></li><li><p>That's the kind of impetus that links America's most innovative com- panies or research labs with one another, often through agencies like ARPA, and hopefully NIST. It's a very American style of what MITI or the MPT in Japan try continually to accomplish. The American twist is to keep the agencies highly entrepreneur- ial so that they can move swiftly and flexibly, to match the speeding changes of both the technology and the varied combinations of people and ideas. </p><p>The methodology has a vague pattern. First you identify people you can trust to do the best work who represent the best base of current knowledge and expertise. Second, identify the generic (or specific) needs and applicability, then immediately start seeding the idea to potential users upfront...something pioneered within DARPA by Sven Roosild and Arthy Prabhakar. Remember Arthy's ground-breaking efforts on the origi- nal digital GaAs IC insertions? Then all you have to do is get someone to pay for the initial research and development, preferably from within one's own country...just in case it may need the competitive edge by the time the enabler is ready for application. </p><p>There's an anecdote about Rowland Ware's current efforts to raise Phase II SBIR funding that jogs ones memory of another pivotal point in Arthy's tenure at DARPA. Rowland, like many others, is having to scout around for funding. Phase II will cost him about $750 000. SDIO will go $250 000 plus matching financing up to the $750 000. Various Japanese companies have expressed strong interest, but Ware feels like that would be selling out the U.S. Evi- dently that feeling isn't shared by some in U.S. Government funding circles anymore, for some have advised him to take it where he can get it. But what the supporting agencies could get a concrete finan- cial return on their investment, while helping create more high leverage technology-based business activity? (Defined as "jobs" in old-fashioned terms). </p><p>DARPA's Gazelle Investment Remember Gazelle at the stage where they desperately needed underwriting, </p><p>and definitely had something worth nurturing? The choice came down to DARPA money, or sell out to the Japanese. American companies hate it when they get themselves in that fix... Rather than sell out, Arthy jumped in, and with the help of then DARPA Director Craig Fields, they devised a clever investment scheme for DARPA that ended up saving not only the company, but contracting for a monetary return on that investment to go back in the public coffers. It was a brilliant, win-win scheme, although the Bush Administration didn't share that viewpoint. With newfound free- thinking under the Clinton's, look for the same brilliance coming out of Arthy's people at NIST, for she and many others in DARPA learned well from their former boss. Craig Fields, now the CEO of MCC (Computer consortia) in Austin, Texas, keeps in close touch with his friends all over Washington. If there weren't so many frustrating "crises" dominating the global news, you'd likely hear of some of the real strides. </p><p>These endeavors and "history les- sons" are an attempt at explaining some of the awesome changes we all find ourselves knee deep in right now. To many, these times are especially unsettling and often confusing. One way to begin making sense of it all is to carefully read Alvin Toffler's "POWERSHIFTS , " which helps clear the fog, somewhat. Written in 1990, reading it again, two years into the whiplash stage, the book makes uncanny sense out of complicated chaos. </p><p>There Are No Rules The same way Arthy, Craig, Row- land, Epitronics, Gazelle, and various factions of huge companies like Motorola all find themselves on the same wavelength with the missions of NIST, ARPA and MCC, etc., so do we all fit into and out of the natural intermeshing of information exchange that fosters innovation, and ulti- mately the kind of "productivity" for which we all are striving. People in our industry are living the future now. But then, we've always been noted for being a little too far ahead... Here's how Alvin Toffler, America's fore- most "futurist" explains what is happening: </p><p>(Note: by bureaucracy, Toffler means any bureaucracy, government, </p><p>i </p><p>business, lab...anything bigger than a startup or ffeelancer!) </p><p>"Today, high-speed change requires equally high-speed decisions-but power struggles make bureaucracies notoriously slow. Competition re- quires continual innovation-but bu- reaucratic power crushes creativity. The new business environment re- quires intuition as well as careful analysis-but bureaucracies try to eliminate intuition and replace it with mechanical, idiot-proof rules. </p><p>"Bureaucracy will not vanish, any more than the state will wither away. But the environmental conditions that permitted bureaucracies to flourish- and even made them highly efficient engines-are changing so rapidly and radically, they can no longer perform the functions for which they were designed....This explains why millions of intelligent, hardworking employees find they cannot carry out their tasks- they cannot open new markets, create new products, design better technol- ogy, treat customers better, or in- crease profits-except by going around the rules, breaking with formal pro- cedures. How many employees today need to close their eyes to violations of formal procedure to get things done? To be a doer, a fixer, a red- tape cutter, a go-getter, they must trash the bureaucracy... </p><p>..."For all these reasons, the years ahead will see a tsunami of business restructuring that will make the recent wave of corporate shake-ups look like a placid ripple." </p><p>Toffier challenges us to re-think the whole notion of "productivity," and not-so-coincidently, the core technol- ogies our industry is developing are those that enable us to enter a newer, brighter period, where knowledge is power, and wealth is something more meaningful than money. The fact is, every,line we (whoever "we" are at the time) think up a new idea, or new configuration of old ideas, and then begin molding it into something constructive, even marketable, we're "producing." As within the ranks of any other animal species, there's neither a shortage of "work" to be done, nor good people to do that work. It just takes somebody to get things rolling. </p><p>The idea part is easy. Traditionally, money has flowed to those who can not only think them up, but pull them off. And it will continue to flow, but </p></li><li><p>"support" or "opportunity" are prob- ably better ways of viewing "success." But however you look at a challenge, smaller is definitely better these days. In the hugeness of Elsevier Science Publishers, for example, now incor- porating all of Reed, which owned all the Cahners trade publications, etc., etc ..... it turns out little old III-Vs Review is held up as a prototype for successful, human-oriented niche publishing, for it has successfully identified and interlinked the entire compound semiconductor industry, worldwide...small as it may still be...since its inception. Ask any advertiser. IIl-Vs Review is a critical component in interlinking this indus- try across the oceans and airwaves. </p><p>I like to tell my various small enclaves of expert technologists, who truly are doing worthwhile leading edge work, that if at any time their overloads don't fully appreciate and "support" their efforts, "pack up and spin out!" The unsettling effect is </p><p>highly likely to produce infinite ripples of change, energy and oppor- tunity. Smart "umbrellas" like MCC Ventures are opening for such enter- prises everywhere again. </p><p>How's this for a likely scenario: NIST and ARPA cooperatively un- derwrite an exciting initial fab, or design facility, for a truly promising advanced compound semiconductor technology. Reliability data and ex- cellent coordinated research tally a relatively fast return-on-investment for the government, in real dollars, had the funding been dispersed more like a loan than a grant. Although relatively benign during incubation, the overlord company drops its niche effort like a hot potato when govern- ment funding ceases. The lab group packs up its project, most of which resides in heads, but rather than knocking on individual doors for a new "job," they fulfill a lifelong dream and start their own, designed-to-stay desirable, if not small, company. </p><p>Because the ARPA/NIST/MCC net- work knows how promising they really are, the new start is signed on amazingly fast by MCC Ventures, which guarantees not only a safety net, but committed customers from the ranks of MCC stockholder com- panies. </p><p>This delightful scenario can, and is, occurring anywhere and everywhere. What's happening all around us in technology-rich countries, is a re- enactment of what made Silicon Valley the original mecca for high tech startups. The genius and excite- ment, when combined by a simple yell down the hall or phone call to an old pal, is what makes things happen. And anyone can succeed, anywhere, for their business becomes an integral part of them, and their given mixture of like-minded people. It's an exciting time, provided you're not afraid of pushing onward, sometimes all by yourself, through the fog. </p><p>II vo, 6 No 3 Page 56 . ili~ii~i!~i </p></li></ul>