Charles Shank Receives Pake Prize

Acceptance address focuses on public-private partnerships

March 22, 1996
By Ron Kolb, [email protected]

The American Physical Society has recognized the research and management accomplishments of Berkeley Lab Director Charles V. Shank by awarding him the 1996 George E. Pake Prize at this week's APS general meeting in St. Louis.

Shank was honored "for his pioneering research accomplishments in the area of laser development and ultrafast phenomena; and for his outstanding research management leadership as director of the Electronics Research Laboratory at AT&T Bell Laboratories in the development of quantum electronics, and as director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for fostering industrial interactions," the citation states.

The Pake Prize, established in 1983, annually recognizes outstanding accomplishments in physics research combined with major success as a manager of research or development in industry. Pake was a research physicist and a director of industrial research at Xerox Corporation.

Shank became director of Berkeley Lab in 1989, at the end of a 20-year career at Bell Labs, where he held numerous leadership positions. His studies of ultrafast (femtosecond) events using short laser pulses have contributed to fiber optic communications with the invention of the distributed feedback laser, a component in high data rate transmission systems.

As part of his recognition on Monday, Shank delivered an address that focused on public-private partnerships and their value to the physics community. He said his hope was to "find common ground in the current debate between those characterizing federally sponsored elements of these activities as `corporate welfare,' and those who view these programs as an investment in the future."

He described the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), in which federally funded research institutions enter agreements with industrial partners to perform cooperative research. Thousands of these partnerships, generally split 50-50 in funding, have been successfully executed in the 1990s. CRADAs, he noted, are not high on the Congressional priority list these days, with some seeing the use of federal funds as a subsidy for big business.

"The problem is that we have not come to a consensus on a set of organizing principles that would form a basis for public-private partnerships," he told the conferees, acknowledging several examples in which CRADAs inappropriately benefited company stockholders, and some which exhibited the ideal balance of benefits between industry and the Department of Energy.

Among his positive models was Berkeley Lab's two-year collaboration with Intel Corporation, which has been using the Advanced Light Source to analyze impurities in silicon wafers needed for the next generation of integrated circuits. He also cited the development of low-emissivity windows at Berkeley, a Lab partnership with the window industry that has netted a cumulative U.S. energy savings estimated at $760 million to date.

"This collaboration produced a significant public good which benefited the entire country by reducing imported oil," he said.

Shank concluded by proposing four principles that could be used to anchor public-private partnerships:

  1. Direct federal funding of research and development in industry that primarily benefits the stockholder is inappropriate.
  2. Federal investments in public-private partnerships should have clear benefit for both government and industry.
  3. Unique knowledge in a federally funded research facility can form the basis for a successful collaboration.
  4. Unique facilities at a federally funded laboratory can create opportunities for successful collaborations.

"Our country stands to benefit by developing a consensus on how we derive value from the enormous federal investment in research and development," he said. "In my view, we have established a record in the last five years which is sufficiently rich with diversity of approaches to evaluate what works and what doesn't. I challenge our nation's policy makers to solve this problem."

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