MIT Reports to the President 1994-95

Center for Technology, Policy, and Industrial

The Center for Technology, Policy, and Industrial Development was founded in 1985 to foster teaching and research focused on policy issues related to science and technology.

The Center was established in response to the realization that as technology proliferates, it effects profound and pervasive changes in our economic system and its component industries, which intensify the fundamental complexity of our lives. That growing complexity challenges us to develop policies that will allow us to enjoy the benefits of these technologies and will at the same time protect us against their harmful side effects. The Center's goal is to understand the effect of technological changes on the development of society and to help formulate policies for an era of intensified international economic competition.


The Center for Technology, Policy, and Industrial Development oversees research activities in many disciplines. Several of these activities have a common theme of industry studies. We have found industry studies to be valuable and insightful both in terms of increased understanding and also as a framework for change and innovation.

The first involvement with industry studies was the International Motor Vehicle Program, a program group within CTPID. CTPID began that program over a decade ago because it was interested in understanding why certain companies and countries were emerging as leaders in the global marketplace. The Center has since initiated several other industry programs, including the Lean Aircraft Initiative, the Materials Systems Laboratory, and the Research Program on Communications Policy. The objective of each of these programs is to develop (1) a knowledge base, (2) a framework for understanding, and (3) methodologies to help in analysis, evaluation and policy making.

The industry study programs allow us to pursue exciting extended research and public service activities in partnership with industry and government. These activities include both technology transfer and dispute resolution. A primary technology transfer objective is to make readily available the research results of its industry-study programs to industry. CTPID's Agile Manufacturing research project is closely related to both the IMVP and the Lean Aircraft Initiative. The project consists of pilot demonstration projects in which researchers from MIT and Lehigh University work with industry partners on new manufacturing and product development concepts.

CTPID's role in industry study projects is to be objective and not advocate any particular policy position. As such, it can serve as a facilitator or "honest broker", bringing together interested and impacted parties who offer different approaches to important issues. Utilizing the knowledge base, it can analyze and evaluate different approaches. The Center can relate independent studies to a common framework and data base and thereby help to sharpen the debate and understand the nature of disputes and disagreements.

The industry study programs are a major focus of the Center but by no means the only focus. Below is a description of programs within CTPID.


The International Motor Vehicle Program (IMVP) is a multidisciplinary research enterprise that performs comprehensive studies of the automobile industry worldwide, as well as its effect on society. The research follows two courses: One examines automobile manufacturing by identifying the best practices, assessing industry performance standards, and developing international comparisons of assembly plants, suppliers, and distributors. The other research pursuit evaluates how the automobile relates to society in relation to the complicated issues of the environment, regulation, and a variety of cooperative relationships evolving between management and labor and business and government.

A primary objective of the IMVP has been to create a knowledge base that allows us to better understand what constitutes superior industrial performance and competitive advantage in the automobile industry, and then relay that knowledge to governments and industry. Research results have indicated that there is a fundamentally different approach to manufacturing products, called lean production, in comparison with the traditional mass production system. This concept was explained in the book, The Machine That Changed The World, which has had a major impact not only on the automobile industry but many other industries as well.

The IMVP has assembled a cadre of researchers attracted from many academic interests at MIT and from other universities and research centers around the world. Co-Directors of the IMVP are Professor Daniel Roos and Prof. Charles Fine.


The Agile Manufacturing Program at MIT, part of an ongoing government initiative to improve U.S. manufacturing capability, analyzes product-development in the automotive and aerospace industries, focusing particularly on the relationship between complex assemblies and multiple sources for parts and tooling. Agile's research focuses on developing more fast and flexible communications and processes. A component of its research includes hypothesis testing of agile manufacturing principles, developed by the Agile Manufacturing Forum at Lehigh University.

The Agile Program has deployed 28 faculty, staff and site-located graduate students from MIT and Lehigh University at three sites: General Motors Saginaw Steering Division; Vought Aircraft Company Aerospace (now a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Corp.); and Ford-Louisville Assembly Plant, along with its primary sheet metal supplier, Budd Company. To accomplish its goal of developing an agile transfer of design information at the project sites, the research team is identifying critical transactions between companies; linking transactions to clusters of specific engineering; identifying transactions that do not add value; identifying and inserting missing transactions; and speeding up the processes by providing computer tools and database access that connect people and their transactions to engineering data. Co-Directors of the Agile Manufacturing Program are Prof. Charles Fine and Dr. Daniel Whitney, who is also the site coordinator for the Vought case study. Prof. David Gossard, of MIT's Mechanical Engineering Department, and Martin Anderson, at Sloan School of Management, head the automotive case studies at Ford and GM respectively.


The U.S. defense aircraft industry currently faces monumental challenges in the face of shifting defense priorities, massive spending cuts, and the need for defense conversion. The industry must become increasingly more competitive and make significant improvements in affordability, quality and productivity to succeed in this difficult, uncertain and fast-changing environment.

The Lean Aircraft Initiative was launched in response to this need. Sponsored by a consortium of 20 major aerospace companies and the U.S. Air Force, the program strives to define and help implement fundamental changes in both industry and government operations over the next decade. By building on and extending the "lean" paradigm through an organized process of research, the program seeks to develop the knowledge base that will lead to greater affordability of systems, increased efficiency and higher quality. Longer-term results sought include enhancing the viability, technological superiority and competitiveness of the U.S. defense aircraft industrial base. Director for LAI is Prof. Earll Murman.


The Research Program on Communications Policy, formerly known as the DOHRS Program, was established at CTPID with the following objectives: To study technical, economic, and policy challenges to open interfaces for scalable digital systems and broadband networks; to facilitate cross-industry, cross-government agency, and cross-academic discipline dialogue on these issues; to disseminate the results of these activities. RPCP's director is Prof. Jack Ruina.

The Communications Forum is an interdisciplinary seminar series that reviews the full range of communications-related issues. The topics include developments in communication technology, the economics of the telecommunications markets, and regulations in the communication industry -- just to name a few. Sessions are held approximately every two weeks.


The Materials Systems Laboratory is internationally recognized for its innovative work on the competitive position of materials and products in automotive, aerospace, electronic and environmental applications. It fosters a unique combination of knowledge of design and production processes used in industry with managerial economics.

The Materials Systems Laboratory has been particularly successful in developing an understanding of the cost of using new materials, such as powdered metals and ceramics, in a wide range of applications and contexts. Researchers in the Laboratory have, over the last 15 years, developed over 60 "technical cost models" that project the cost of using alternative technologies to manufacture products such as electronic circuit boards and automotive structures under various conditions of labor productivity, raw material prices and volumes of production. This information is crucial to the development of coherent industrial policies for the investment and use of new materials and materials intensive products. Director for MSL is Prof. Frank Field III.


The Technology, Business and Environment Program was founded to help companies meet the dual challenges of achieving environmental excellence and business success. The Program's mission is to elucidate a new preventive environmental management paradigm, centering on business practices and linking technological change with sound environmental management. TBE offers research opportunities and graduate-level courses within the Technology and Policy Program at MIT. The Program's director is Dr. John Ehrenfeld.


The Technology and Policy Program educates men and women for leadership on the important technological issues confronting society. TPP prepares its graduates to excel in their technical fields, and to develop and implement effective strategies for dealing with the risks and opportunities associated with those technologies.

TPP's primary efforts concentrate on the Master of Science Program that prepares students for practical work in government and industry. With about 130 students on campus and almost 500 graduates, it is now the largest of its kind in the world. Students require between one and two years to complete the degree which includes an interdisciplinary thesis focused on a Technology Policy issue. TPP's chairman is Prof. Richard de Neufville.


The Technology and Law Program offers a cluster of graduate-level subjects within the Technology and Policy Program at MIT, as well as research opportunities at the interface of law and technology. Research activities include the design and evaluation of policies for: encouraging technological change for preventing chemical accidents and pollution through regulation, liability and economic incentives; promoting environmental justice by involving communities in governmental and corporate decisions that affect their health, safety, and environmental concerns; and investigating sustainability, trade and the environment. The Program's director is Nicholas Ashford.

Christopher Wanjek

MIT Reports to the President 1994-95