3.1 The role of government

The government technology policy making process inevitably interacts with ‘external’ private sector policy making. Indeed in some cases the public and private sector policy making processes are intertwined in complex ways, as for example in Japan, where the Ministry for International Trade and Industry (MITI) has, over the years, developed a wide range of long term strategic plans, in collaboration with the private sector.

In the past, national level technology policy has often been the preserve of government that can develop longer term programmes and strategies and provide funding for key projects, with new R & D. To some extent this reflects the fact that, historically, governments have been centrally involved with defence and with major technologically related military projects and institutions. Defence has been the largest single area of state supported scientific and technological activity in many countries.

However, the civil side of technology policy has steadily expanded, with vast areas of industrial activity involving the development and use of new technologies. Many technology based utilities (e.g. telecommunications, energy and water supply) have been transferred to private companies. Private companies have their own technological agendas, and a key issue for government technology policy is the extent to which government can try to influence and steer private company policies at a national or international level (say to improve environmental sustainability or to increase national industrial competitiveness).

Another area of policy research, then, concerns the relationship between the public and the private.

3.2 A reduced role for government