Director, National Institute of Standards & Technology
Brazil Technology Day, February 25, 2003
Good morning. I, too, would like to bid all of our guests a warm welcome to the National Institute of Standards and Technology-NIST, for short. I also must thank the Brazilian Embassy and the science and technology institutions from the state of Sao Paulo for making today's event possible.
We are delighted to host this gathering, which is taking place one week before Carnival, or Mardi Gras as we say in the U.S. It's an event that Brazil celebrates, shall we also say, with its own special flair. You might consider today to be a Fat Tuesday of a different sort, a celebration of Brazilian science and technology, which also is earning international distinction.
I, for one, look forward to hearing this morning's presentations and to learning about the work under way in the projects that will be featured in the session this afternoon.
For many of the more than 20 projects listed, there is a complementary activity here at NIST.
The pursuit of advances in health care, materials, fuel cells, digital technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology-to name several high-profile areas-is a widely shared quest. This common pursuit provides further evidence that the wave of scientific and technological opportunities is continuing to build, and it is spreading to all areas of the globe. Nearly every nation aspires to catch the next major wave of innovation and to raise its economy.
Of course, the prospects for financial and economic gain heighten competition, but they also can motivate collaboration, which is the primary reason for why we are here today. Today, no business, no industry, no field of science and engineering, and no nation can stand alone.
In discussions of advanced technology, you sometimes hear the term fusion used to describe the convergence of technologies and the merging of boundaries that once separated disciplines.
Nanotechnology, in fact, may be the ultimate in fusion, the definitive example of technological convergence. The ability to design, manipulate, manufacture, and assemble at the molecular and atomic levels is being pursued globally-with a passion.
Why? Because nanotechnology is the means to an end-an enabler of accomplishments in a truly diverse mix of science and engineering fields. And because nanotechnology is an end in and of itself-a revolution in industry that will deliver wave after wave of innovative products and services. Some are predicting that the market for nanotechnology products and services will reach a trillion dollars during the next decade.
Now that's fusion on a grand scale-a rich blend of opportunities that can bring progress on many, many fronts.
Convergence, in fact, is occurring in numerous areas-not only in technology but, in large part, because of technology. Backing out from the minuscule world of atoms and molecules for big picture view, one sees the converging-and integrating-of industries and national economies, including the economies of Brazil and the United States.
This economic and technological interdependence is unmistakable. And it's likely to intensify over the years and decades ahead.
It also behooves organizations like NIST and our counterparts in Brazil to do our very best to make the connections between our countries as useful, efficient, and reliable as they can be. The connections that I am referring to are infrastructural.
Prime examples are measurements and standards-the universal language of commerce, science, and technology.
Common, or harmonized, standards and traceable, high-accuracy measurements promote order, efficiency, and fairness in the marketplace. They help prospective customers to assess, for example, the reliability of a company's quality control system. They help buyers and sellers to agree on the specifications of products and services. And they are assurances to consumers that the products they buy will perform as advertised-and safely.
NIST and our partners in Brazil have been working to strengthen the measurement and standards infrastructure that supports trade between our nations and supports progress in research laboratories.
In particular, we have been collaborating most closely on this very important task with INMETRO, which is Brazil's national metrology institute, and Sao Paulo's Institute for Technological Research, or IPT.
Later this morning, several speakers will give you details on some of these current activities and of others that are in the planning stages. There are several good examples of bilateral cooperation between our two countries, and I hope that, in a few years, we will have many more to point to.
Often, the benefits resulting from our collaborations flow well beyond the borders of our two countries. This is especially true in the case of our joint efforts to strengthen the Inter-American System of Metrology, commonly known as SIM, and to build an associated database of key measurement comparisons.
These combined activities support the entire western hemisphere and is formally linked to the entire world through an international Mutual Recognition Arrangement.
The aim of the efforts that we are focusing on SIM is to ensure uniformity of measurements across all 34 member countries. This will enable customers and regulators in all regions to assess the accuracy and reliability of measurements reported by businesses and other organizations operating in our part of the globe. Once the entire international network is established under the auspices of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, we will have the means to achieve mutual recognition of national measurement standards on a global basis.
As envisioned, this network will help to resolve technical and regulatory differences that impede global trade flows.
In the end, consumers will be the winners. Today's measurement and standards-related trade barriers penalize consumers in the form of higher prices due to inefficiencies.
Considering that measurement requirements are central to most regulations and voluntary standards, the benefits of measurement traceability on a truly international scale could be huge. An estimated 80 percent of all global trade of finished products is affected in some way by standards and regulations.
As we and our neighbors work to achieve this vision, Brazil's INMETRO is establishing itself as South America's key link in the emerging global chain of measurement traceability. And through our shared contributions to SIM--to quote a representative of the Organization of American States--we are planting the "seeds of real hemispheric integration."
We are hopeful that, over the next few years, these seeds will blossom into the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Laying the foundation for free and open trade across the Americas is an obvious motivation for technical and scientific collaboration. It will broaden the circle of opportunity to embrace the entire hemisphere. But Brazil and the United States are not lacking for other incentives to cooperate.
The futures of our countries are linked. The United States has a stake in Brazil's success, and Brazil has a stake in our success. And both nations recognize that progress in the development and application of technology is fundamental to economic growth and to improvement in the quality of life of our citizens. Economists tell us that about half of cross-country differences in per-capita income and economic growth are due to disparities in technological progress.
That, I submit, is ample incentive to explore other opportunities for fruitful collaboration. The progress that Brazil has made over the last decade in developing its institutions and in diversifying its industry has increased the nation's capacity to absorb new technologies. But that's not all. As, I am sure, today's poster presentations will demonstrate, Brazil also has advanced to the leading edge of key technology areas.
Nanotechnology, which I already mentioned, is a prime candidate for cooperation. To fully realize the anticipated bounty of nanotechnology products, we must build a new technical infrastructure that will support manufacturing processes that operate on the molecular scale. We will need standards that will promote efficiency and trust in the selling and buying of nanotechnology products. Bilateral and multilateral collaborations will speed the development of this very necessary infrastructure.
Nanotechnology is but one of many areas worth exploring. I encourage our visitors from Brazil to learn more about NIST and about what we do in our seven major laboratories. There may be ready-made opportunities for collaboration that go beyond the cooperative activities now under way. Later, you will hear again from Steve Carpenter, who will describe vehicles for collaboration that already exist.
I, along with others from NIST and from other U.S. agencies, will be thinking along similar lines-that of new opportunities to work together-during this afternoon's presentations.
Now, I have the privilege and honor of introducing Phil Bond, Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology. Undersecretary Bond leads the U.S. Commerce Department's Technology Administration, which is NIST's parent agency.
He is the principal advisor to Commerce Secretary Don Evans on science and technology policy to maximize technology's contribution to America's economic growth. And until last month, Phil had the additional role of serving as chief of staff for Secretary Evans.
He is passionate about the importance of technology to the future of the United States and the world. Among his top policy priorities are strengthening U.S. technology cooperation with other countries, especially in the area standards development. He also is involved in an array of issues of concern to the telecommunications and information technology industries, including the education and training of a high technology U.S. workforce.
Phil has experience both in government and private industry.
He has served in the U.S. Department of Defense, and he has held several key congressional staff positions. Immediately before his appointment to the Commerce Department by President Bush, Phil was Director of Federal Public Policy for the Hewlett-Packard Company.
Phil, the podium is yours.