Managing Research and Development Across Government Departments: The "Virtual Agency" Concept in the United States

27 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2001

See all articles by Miguel Castro

Miguel Castro

Microsoft Corporation; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Roger Foster

Booz-Allen-Hamilton, Inc.

Kevin Gunn

Government of the United States of America - Electronic Systems Center

Edward B. Roberts

Founder/Chair, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship

Date Written: August 2001

Abstract

The virtual agency concept is now used within the United States Government to manage large research and development processes across departments. This paper examines the history of the virtual agency concept and its important characteristics. The paper identifies the potential benefits and associated risks involved in managing research and development within a virtual agency. Three cases are examined where the virtual agency concept has been applied to research and development programs in the United States: the High Performance Computing and Communications initiative, the Next Generation Internet, and the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles. The case studies indicate that the research and development process is attempting to balance formal process controls with the agility to adapt rapidly to new research opportunities. Virtual agencies can be used to improve organizational efficiency, improve knowledge transfer, increase interoperability through standards, provide better alignment of agency missions with national policy, and introduce increased flexibility into the research and development process. At the same time, the virtual agency concept has major risks including inefficiencies due to organizational complexity, the danger of collective myopia, the problem of adopting standards too early, the difficulty of reaching objectives in a loose organizational structure, and the problem of properly balancing the tension between agency mission objectives and national policy agendas.

Keywords: R&D Organizations, "Virtual" R&D, Government R&D, Alliances, Cooperative R&D, Technology Policy

Suggested Citation

Castro, Miguel and Foster, Roger and Gunn, Kevin and Roberts, Edward B., Managing Research and Development Across Government Departments: The "Virtual Agency" Concept in the United States (August 2001). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=288132 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.288132

Miguel Castro (Contact Author)

Microsoft Corporation ( email )

One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

Laboratory for Computer Science
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Roger Foster

Booz-Allen-Hamilton, Inc.

5220 Pacific Concourse Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90045

Kevin Gunn

Government of the United States of America - Electronic Systems Center

Hanscom, MA 01731

Edward B. Roberts

Founder/Chair, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship ( email )

100 Main Street, E62-440
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-4934 (Phone)
617-253-2660 (Fax)

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