Technology challenges of the 21st Century

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The 20th century was a century of remarkable scientific and technical achievement, as recorded in the National Academy of Engineering book, "A Century of Innovation". Three forces ("a perfect storm") combined to make this possible; almost universal availability of electric power to enable many of the other achievements, the breakthroughs in fundamental understanding in physics, mathematics and engineering that provided the intellectual impetus, and the huge amount of capital expenditures that went into ships, railroads, factories, power stations, equipment and so forth, that allowed these engineering accomplishments to be made available to a vast audience at affordable costs. The airplane, telephone, computer, automobile, refrigeration, nuclear power plants, and clean water supplies, etc., were all enabled by these three forces.

In order to make the 21st century as productive in terms of benefiting human society, similar but different forces are at play. Instead of providing power, in this century, we will be fueled by providing information and knowledge. Instead of leveraging huge physical capital expenditures, we will invest in intellectual assets; what people know rather than what they own. And perhaps not replacing mathematics and science, we will augment this with information science, biological science and medical science. So again we have the capability of harnessing a "perfect storm" to make the 21st century as beneficial to human society and quality of life as was the 20th century.

In this talk I will discuss these factors and how we as a society need to embrace the concept of innovation in order to take advantage of what's being offered. We need to understand the roles of industry, government and academia in enabling the harnessing of these forces to take place.


Dr. Eugene Meieran has served on several government and industry panels dealing with manufacturing technology and policy issues, such as the Coalition for Intelligent Manufacturing Systems and the Next Generation Manufacturing Systems Advanced Manufacturing Systems board. He has made extensive contributions in the areas of materials analysis techniques, semiconductor processing, semiconductor device reliability, statistical quality control and industrial leadership. Dr. Meieran has been at Intel since 1973 and has been responsible for introducing advanced technologies and applications into Intel's component manufacturing facilities to help improve manufacturing performance. Additionally, Dr. Meieran has been heavily involved in numerous external manufacturing technology and policy programs. He received a B.S. from Purdue University and an M.S. and Sc.D. from MIT, all in materials science. He was elected as Distinguished Engineering Alumnus in 1987 and an Honorary Doctorate in 2004, Purdue University, he served on the NRC Committee for Visionary Manufacturing Challenges in 1996-1998, and he has been on the Scientific and Education Advisory Board for Lawrence Berkeley Labs. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He was Director of Research for MIT's Leaders for Manufacturing Program from 1996 to 2000.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Eugene Meieran (2007), "Technology challenges of the 21st Century,"

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