The United States and Japan have agreed on the last critical step before realization of a joint program to further the design and development of the advanced computing technologies that integrate optical and electronic components.
The agreement, signed June 30, establishes the process for funding a "broker" through which the Joint Optoelectronics Project will be carried out in the United States. It was reached at a recent meeting in Tsukuba, Japan between the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, the Real World Computing Partnership of Japan and the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology. Earlier steps had led to agreement by the two nations on the implementation plan that governs the overall conduct of the joint project in Japan and the United States.
A part of Japan's Real World Computing program, a 10-year, $700 million initiative to develop the next generation of information-processing technologies, the Joint Optoelectronics Project will involve researchers and processing facilities in both nations.
"This project represents a remarkable international collaboration, one in which two traditionally fierce rivals in the scientific and engineering arenas have joined together to advance dramatically a technology valuable to both," said U.S. Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown.
The agreement establishes a broker, which is a service that links designers of advanced computer systems dependent on optoelectronic devices and modules with suppliers of such components in research and development divisions of companies in both countries. Each country will have its own broker, but suppliers in both nations will be available to Japanese and American designers.
According to the agreement, NIST will select the broker in the United States to be funded by the Real World Computing Partnership. The U.S. broker will be responsible for bringing together designers of innovative, advanced computer systems and fabricators of optoelectronic components, which will allow the designers to evaluate their ideas by manufacturing experimental prototypes.
The broker also will deal with non-technical issues such as intellectual property rights and import/export licenses to protect the interests of the participants and facilitate an effective service. NIST is expected to solicit competitive bids from potential brokers and award a contract within about three months. In Japan the broker, the Optoelectronic Industry and Technology Development Association, has been selected and the contract is being prepared.
The components to be worked on will be part of research prototype modules helping to serve as a bridge between today's electronic computers and the fully optical machines that are envisioned for the future. Merging optical and electronic technologies offers an evolutionary path toward faster, more versatile computers with an expanded range of applications.
The Joint Optoelectronics Project is directed by a Joint Management Committee of representatives from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and the Real World Computing Partnership in Japan and the National Science Foundation, the Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of State and NIST in the United States. The project will be carried on under the policy framework established by the 1988 United States-Japan Agreement on Cooperation in Research and Development in Science and Technology. This project is intended to stimulate R&D; activity in optoelectronics, provide designers with access to leading-edge fabrication facilities and encourage effective collaboration. Its cooperative activities are to be conducted on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual benefit between the two nations.
It is an experimental activity, intended to provide a new model for United States-Japan cooperative research and to provide practical benefits to advances in optoelectronics and to the designers of innovative computer systems.