Power Electronics

2003 R&D Won't Be Business as Usual

R&D Forecast, a joint effort of Battelle and R&D magazine, predicts that a “return to normalcy” for R&D is not expected in the near term. The report's author, Jules Duga, a Battelle senior researcher, notes that, “Given the far-reaching impacts of some actions and events of the past two years, it is safe to say, that we have witnessed a sea of change in the manner in which all types of activities will be altered.”

Duga's projections are that total R&D expenditures in the U.S. should increase about 3.4% to almost $302 billion in 2003. Of this amount, federal R&D spending is expected to be $89 billion, an increase of 10.5%. Universities and non-profit institutions should spend more than $18 billion, about 7% more than in 2002. The industrial sector will be the hardest hit with an essentially flat $194 billion, an increase of less than 1%.

For the federal expenditures, “greater emphasis will be placed on communications, intelligence, surveillance, smarter weaponry, better intelligence gathering and interpretation, and improved response to chemical and biological warfare.” The report points out that much of this effort will be attempts to better understand and apply science and technology.

Other factors involved in the federal spending are creation of the Department of Homeland Security and reorganization of the federal government. This will cause a shift of funds and responsibilities, as well as new funding programs. “The integration of research, applications, and activities will not be accomplished immediately, but will evolve over the next few years.”

Duga also points out that, “In spite of the major increase in R&D funding, these will be unevenly distributed across the whole spectrum of government activities. If continued large-scale budget deficits become a reality, the R&D portion of discretionary spending will suffer.”

The bleak outlook for industrial R&D probably means that many electronics companies will move toward greater participation in federal programs. Power electronics is an important ingredient in virtually all the electronic systems projected for development.

Consumer markets aren't specifically mentioned in the R&D forecast, but there should be expenditures in 2003 for development of new technologies and products. In particular, the portable electronic equipment market has been projected to grow about 15% in 2003. Much of the effort will involve the design of more efficient power management for cell phones, PDAs, digital cameras, MP3 players, etc.

The semiconductor companies will probably lead development efforts for portable equipment with smaller IC packages, more functions per chip, and lower power consumption. Newer semiconductors will also be easier to implement by digital and communications engineers.

Another area for power-related improvements is in the batteries employed in portable equipment. The lithium-ion battery is now the choice for many portable systems and R&D is proceeding on other power sources, such as miniature fuel cells.

The complete Battelle-R&D Magazine forecast is published annually in the January issue of R&D Magazine. Reprints of the full report can be obtained by contacting Jean Hayward at (614) 424-7039 or at [email protected].

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