Electronic Design

Competitiveness Initiative: A Plan For You And The U.S.

Things are looking brighter for EEs these days. Judging from our most recent Barometer Poll, in which we ask Electronic Design readers how you're feeling about your current job stability and the prospects for work in the pipeline, it seems that these are good times. More than 65% of you see your workload rising, 28% see things holding steady, and just 7% see fewer projects coming down the pike.

Furthermore, the poll also asked which one professional interest is of greatest concern to you. It's interesting to see that as worries about job security have fallen, apprehension about the general health of the economy has risen. The largest group, 35% of you, now says that it's your number one concern.

It makes sense that when we're feeling more secure about our personal situations, we're better able to pick our heads up from the workbench and consider the broader scope, where our careers and our industry are going, our future, and even our legacy. And when we think about those bigger-picture, longer-range trends—those Megatrends—we're bound to consider the legacy of invention and the future for innovation here in the United States. Our annual Megatrends issue is intended to offer just such a perspective.

The first part of the issue looks at the markets fueling today's dynamic-growth in electronics. These markets—like homeland security and automotive electronics—are driving the demand for innovative designs here in the U.S. They also constitute the global explosion of computing and communications.

It's clear that the ramp-up in the "three C's" of computer, consumer, and communications applications is transforming our world. Growth is driven both by the wholesale conversion to digital consumer technologies and by a manifest destiny to bring wireless communications to the four corners of the earth, connecting many people who have never even used a telephone before.

But what about the longer term, as the profits from the global design and production of these consumer products transform the competitive landscape for engineering new electronic technologies? As we look forward, there is a growing recognition that the U.S. can't take its technological lead for granted. The federal government has acknowledged that it needs to better support both scientific and engineering education as well as R&D. President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI), commended by the IEEE-USA, doubles funding for government-backed research. It also makes permanent the Research and Experimentation tax credit.

But just where should those federal dollars be spent? That's where the second part of this Megatrends issue comes to bear, as our editors focus on markets we predict will be future growth leaders based on some of the major global trends on the horizon. We look at the near-certain move to alternative fuel sources, at the aging population and the attendant opportunities for health assistance via telemedicine and humanoid robots, and at the revolution in new nanomaterials for electronic design, among other topics.

Comparing our choices against the technologies selected by the president in his ACI plan, we're pretty much in line with the areas the federal government has cited as key growth drivers. Some of the stated investment goals of the ACI include:

  • World-class capability and capacity in nanofabrication and nanomanufacturing
  • Optical and electronic materials breakthroughs critical to nanotechnology, alternative energy, and the hydrogen economy
  • World-leading high-end computing capability (at the petascale) and capacity to enable scientific advancement through modeling and simulation
  • Improvement of sensor and detection capabilities important to such areas as national security, health care, energy, and manufacturing
  • Accelerated work on advanced standards for new technologies

Still, as President Bush himself has said, "The role of the government is not to create wealth. The role of our government is to create an environment in which the entrepreneur can flourish, in which minds can expand, in which technologies can reach new frontiers."

Our goal as the editors of Electronic Design is to give you the perspective and the information you need as you work to create those new frontiers.

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