- January 22, 2020
- Posted by: matt
- Category: Blog
If youâ€™re a follower of US science and technology policy, you likely have heard and read a lot about the DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the Pentagon’s independent research arm.Â DARPA gets this attention for a reason.Â It has an impressive track record:Â it â€œinvented the internetâ€ or at least pioneered its early development and rollout.Â And, itâ€™s also backed major breakthroughs in major fields like semiconductors, autonomous vehicles, and satellites.
For many, DARPA represents a path not taken—where the US could have assumed a more expansive role in investing in R&D and scientific advancements. If we were going to get serious about industrial policy, weâ€™d likely do it with some version of DARPA, which has a great track record of making investments that provide benefits for government agencies, businesses, and the general public.Â (Thereâ€™s a reason why DARPA-like agencies exist at the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security too).
If youâ€™re intrigued about the history and potential future of DARPA or DARPA-like institutions, youâ€™d be hard pressed to find a better guide than a new book entitled The DARPA Model for Transformative Technologies.Â (A potential alternative title?Â â€œEverything you ever Wanted to Know about DARPA but were Afraid to Askâ€).Â The book is edited by Bill Bonvillian, Dick Van Atta, and Pat Windham, all of whom have toiled long years in the technology policy world. Â Itâ€™s a deep dive, with 15 chapters digging into DARPAâ€™s history, processes, and industry connections.Â Â This is a highly varied set of contributions, but the final concluding chapter does a good job of summing up.Â DARPA is a high performance organization, but its success is highly dependent on the robust innovation infrastructure around it.Â If we want to see more successful innovation polices, we canâ€™t just clone DARPA.Â We also need to make real and sustained investments in innovation across the board.Â NOTE:Â The book is available for free download here.