PART I The IMS feasibility study

Chapter 1 Historical perspective and objectives

1.1 Japanese proposal for IMS program

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 21st Century.

The Japanese proposal on international collaboration was based on the following fundamental understandings:

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: 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 objectives were:

1.2 Tripartite meetings

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.

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 advanced manufacturing.

Consensus was reached on the following points.

A second 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.

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:

These general principles were carried over to the development of Terms of Reference for a feasibility study.

1.3 Objectives

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 long-term program.

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.

1.4 The IMS feasibility study

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 January 1994.

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