A year ago we chronicled the Texas campaign that brought Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp. (MCC) to Austin. Over the ensuing 12 months, this widely wooed high-tech R&D consortium has added six more corporate sponsors (Martin Marietta, Kodak, BMC Industries, Lockheed, Gould, and Rockwell International) to its roster and an impressive number of engineers to its payroll.
"We have 185 people in place already," says MCC spokesman Bill Stotesbury, "152 of them in our seven ongoing technical programs. Of those 152, 47.7% have PhDs, and the average length of experience in government, industry, or academe totals 15 years. We believe we'll reach 230 or so hires by the end of the year, and that's well ahead of the 150 to 200 we originally projected."
Stotesbury adds that, although the first patents are "at least a couple of years away," MCC is already addressing the question of technology transfer -- specifically, how the 18 company shareholders can make the most efficient commercial use of the developed research.
While the electronics giants debate those fine points, the question before several envious state legislatures has been: How do we get an MCC, too? In responding to such queries during nationwide recruitment forays, consortium president Bobby Ray Inman's standard response has been to stress quality-of-life virtues and the need to cultivate first-rate academic programs in the computer sciences and related fields -- just what Austin and the University of Texas offered MCC.
The ripple effect of all this continues to surface in myriad ways. In California, the MCC episode helped inspire a major new education initiative (see "Racing to Stay in Place," page 119). In Hawaii -- a state whose economy is a three-legged stool of pine-apples, sugar, and tourism -- a nonprofit corporation is developing high-tech industrial parks with two aims in mind: to lure R&D firms to the islands, and to keep young Hawaiians who are more interested in gene-splicing than wave-riding from heading for the mainland. The quality of life is presumably beyond dispute.
Meanwhile, in Virginia, state leaders are addressing the challenge not only of attracting industries to academe but also of bringing academic resources to existing industries -- in this case, to the 820 R&D firms concentrated in four counties within a silver dollar's toss of the Potomac. Partly at Inman's urging, Gov. Charles S. Robb announced in May the selection of a 35-acre site near Dulles International Airport as the designated home of The Center for Innovative Technology. CIT, a high-tech information clearinghouse, will be the centerpiece of Virginia's $30-million, two-year effort to compete with the likes of the "Texas Triangle."