In October, 1989, an Intelligent Manufacturing Systems (IMS) international
collaborative program was initially proposed by Japanese experts both from
industry and academia, and was supported by the Ministry of International Trade
and Industry (MITI) of the Japanese government. Professor Hiroyuki Yoshikawa,
now president of the University of Tokyo, headed the effort.
This proposal was aimed at maintaining and improving the vitality of
manufacturing industry and at contributing to the sound development of the
world economy, by undertaking joint international research and development
among industrialised nations and orienting manufacturing systems towards the
The Japanese proposal on international collaboration was based on the following
Recent changes, however, in the
socioeconomic environment have generated a number of problems which are common
to the industrialised nations and which may threaten the foundations of their
manufacturing industry. These include:
- Manufacturing is a key industrial sector and the cornerstone of all
- Continuous advance in manufacturing technology is, therefore, vital to
realise a sounder and richer world.
Recognising the importance of these common problems, an IMS
program was designed to promote international collaboration in advanced
manufacturing technological areas. Three key research and development
- Changes in human factors, including shortages of skilled labour and the
reluctance of young engineers to work in manufacturing industry.
- The appearance of "isolated islands of automation" in the manufacturing
- The globalisation of corporate activities.
- Insufficient systemisation for existing technology.
- Changes in market requirements, including shorter lead time in production
and diversified needs.
- The need to preserve natural resources and the
After the public announcement of a proposed international IMS collaborative
program, leading Japanese members who contributed to developing the program
visited the USA and Europe to explain the basic concept of this proposal and
exchange views. The response was favourable but questions were raised and some
people considered the proposals premature. In early spring of 1990, the EC
commenced preparation of an alternative proposal and proposed a meeting of
representatives from the EC, Japan and the USA to discuss the concept of
cooperation and the modalities for implementing an international collaboration
in advanced manufacturing.
- to conduct research in basic and next generation technology;
- to organise and systematise the knowledge so it could be used in
developing new technology and facilitating its transfer; and
- to standardise such technology and support the standardisation efforts of
Three parties - the US Department of Commerce, the Commission of the European
Communities and MITI of Japan - agreed on the EC initiative to hold joint
meetings. The first tripartite meeting took place in Brussels on 14 May 1990.
The delegations examined the Japanese IMS proposal and discussed in a
constructive manner the prospects for international cooperation in the area of
Consensus was reached on the following points.
meeting was held in Tokyo on 19-20 November 1990 to discuss possible ways and
means of international collaboration in advanced manufacturing technology
research. Delegates from Australia, Canada and the European Free Trade
Association (EFTA) countries attended the meeting as observers. In this
meeting, the delegations exchanged views on such issues as modalities,
technical content, funding arrangements, and intellectual property rights
relative to a possible international collaborative program. It was agreed
unanimously to study international cooperation in advanced manufacturing by
conducting a feasibility study which would cover several research and
development areas as test cases.
- A properly structured international collaboration must provide a balanced
flow of knowledge. Complementarity would avoid unnecessary duplication of
- Any decision to proceed with such collaboration could only be taken after
the three parties agreed on the modalities for implementation, technical
content, intellectual property rights provisions and funding arrangements.
- An outline of the basic structure for cooperation had to be jointly
prepared as a prerequisite for collaboration.
- To make this possible, each party would conduct extensive consultation
with their respective industry and academic representatives.
The meeting also reached consensus on a number of general principles regarding
the importance of manufacturing and the basic structure for international
cooperation. These included:
principles were carried over to the development of Terms of Reference for a
The feasibility study aimed at developing and testing a framework for
international collaboration and, more importantly, at proving whether a
collaborative program in this area could be created and structured equitably
and beneficially. It was expected that the results and experiences gained in
the feasibility study would enable a decision on whether to establish a
- Manufacturing is a primary generator of wealth and critical to
establishing a sound economic basis for an ever improving standard of living.
- Collaboration should be truly international.
- Contributions and benefits should be equitable and balanced.
- Collaborative projects should have industrial relevance.
- Consortia should be interregional, geographically distributed and
- Projects under government sponsorship or utilising government resources
should involve pre-competitive research and development.
The feasibility study was planned to consist of two parts. The first was aimed
at developing a structure for the program, including such issues as modalities
of international collaboration, funding arrangements and provisions on
intellectual property rights for international collaboration, technical themes
for the program and criteria for approving projects. The second involved
conduct of test cases to establish procedures for a future program. This
covered cooperation methods, contribution and funding, technical themes, and
provisions on intellectual property rights.
After extensive discussions between the Participants, Terms of Reference were
adopted in September 1991. On 9-10 December 1991 a meeting of the secretariats
was held to plan the implementation of the IMS feasibility study. The prime
proposal in the Terms of Reference was that a feasibility study should be
undertaken by the six Participants: Australia, Canada, the European Community
(EC), the five participating EFTA countries (Austria, Finland, Norway,
Switzerland and Sweden), Japan, and the USA.
The Terms of Reference proposed that the feasibility study should be carried
out through three committees: the International Steering Committee (ISC), the
Intellectual Property Rights Committee (IPRC) and the International Technical
Committee (ITC). In addition, the Terms of Reference identified government
agencies in each region which would act as regional secretariats.
The ISC held its initial meeting in Toronto, Canada on 24-25 February 1992.
This meeting agreed to proceed with the feasibility study and approved
workplans for all three International Committees from that date through to 26