Short Paper

42nd Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs
Shaping our Common Future: Dangers and Opportunities
11-17 September 1992, Berlin, Germany

by Dr Angelika Brinkmann

Creation, Dedication, Application or what kind of R&D?


In this paper, I propose three types of R&D development units: creation, dedication, and application. All three categories contain structural and systematical elements. The structural elements include: multifunctional level, ambivalent/ambiguous, dual-purpose, dual-use, military-civilian. These have corresponding stages in the (weapons) technology units: system, sub-system, components, particles and elementary parts. Each of these exists in one of several conditions that help to determine whether the R&D level affects the politics of technology largely through the pre-existing knowledge, beliefs, and styles of those forming a unit in the decision making process or whether factors outside the decision unit must be taken into consideration in understanding the results of the decision-making process.


Definition: Sooner or later, each issue appearing on a company's or government's table has to be dealt with. This can happen in one of two ways: There will be no decision whatsoever, because the opportunity for the decision had been overtaken by external events or because certain policy makers (heads of companies, managers) do not want to deal with the matter or one or more decisions are made – maybe even the decision not to do anything. If there is a decision, it may be made by an individual, a group of individuals or multiple actors, who have both [1] the ability to commit or withhold the resources of the government in R&D policies and [2] the power or authority to prevent other entities within the government or company from overtly reversing their position without significant costs – costs which these or other entities are normally unwilling to pay. Moreover, individuals and entities outside the government may enter the decision process as full participants. The basic point, however, remains that eventually for most R&D problems someone makes a decision granting (or deciding to withhold) the resources of the nation that cannot readily be reversed; they constitute the ultimate decision unit for that issue at that point in time.


All 'central elements' (components, subsystems/ambiguous,ambivalent) belong to this type (see Tables 1 and 2). This unit represents the cutting edge where importance is attached to a certain direction in development (either regarding the technology itself or policy emphasis).

Classification: It is possible to develop a comprehensive set of ultimate decision units in a way that one type is responsible for any given R&D decision. I postulate that one can in fact define, in principle, the set of technologies that comprise the ultimate ''system unit'' with regard to an R&D issue, then the task becomes one of describing the relationship among the technologies in the set. The isolated major technology classifications are: (see Table 1)

1.A complex weapon system: a single weapon system which draws a lot of singular technology items upon itself

2. Subsystems: A set of singular technologies, all of which are part of a single system and collectively form a complex system.

3. Components:The necessary components are separate technologies, elementary parts and particles which, if some or all concur can form a complex system but no one of which by itself has the ability to become a complex system.

4. Elementary parts and particles: in this case the definition is the same as for the components with the addition that they are part of (or form) a component.

In cases of R&D decision-making, the analyst should be able to classify those technology stages (levels) who define the development of a weapon system in on of the four categories. In some countries, a ministry may prevail in nearly all R&D matters. It should be emphasized, however, that in many nations the level may change with the issue under consideration or with the evolution of the technology.

Each kind of these classifications exists in one of several stages that determine not only the technology's direct effect on the final policy outcome but also the extent to which factors outside the decision process must be considered in understanding what will happen in the decision-making process. For each type of an ultimate decision unit a key piece of information enables the analyst (decision maker) to know when to focus only on the decision itself to understand the making of an R&D decision, and when to look outside the stages for factors that will influence the decision. The status of these 'corresponding development stages' determines how other elements enter into the decision calculus for that unit.

Complex (Weapon) System

Subsystem Subsystem

Component Component Component Component

Particles Elementary parts Particle s Elementary parts

Table 1 Structural Technology Classification

Categories or 'corresponding development stages' of the technical classifications

1. Multifunctional technologies: they constitute the basic level of research and development. At this point, there is only a vague idea as to where to look for a particular development. Research of basics is part of this.
2.Ambivalent/ambiguous: at this stage, there has already been a certain developmentas well as the application of the emerging technologies.
3. Dual-use, dual-purpose, and military-civilian all describe a similar phenomenon: the political direction of certain technology developments and applications. Within these categories, the following ranks are contained:

dual-use: used to signify a nuclear or non-nuclear weapons load or a military-civilian fashion
dual-purpose: here the intended direction of the technology in question is addressed

Dual-use/Dual-purpose Military-civilian/Spin-off



Table 2 Systematical sDevelopment Stages of Technological Systems


It should be quite evident that with a great many R&D decisions there are a lot of already available alternatives if one starts from bottom line i.e. Multifunctional technologies. In this case there are multiple – two or more – separate entities with sometimes independent technological structures, none of which can can be attached to another one without cooperation of all the others. To be one of the elementary parts/components of a given unit a technology – complex or singular – must be capable of interacting with others, when combined with sufficient support to determine which resources will be allocated.

Level R&D systems development Level technology Application

Basic R&D level/elementary parts; Particles Ambiguity/Ambivalence

Subcomponents/Components Military-civilian

Figure 3 Correlation of R&D systems development levels and technology stages

Sensors and actuators are a classic example of multifunctional technologies. Sensors and Actuators – if adequately developed – can be easily integrated into electronic control systems of different types. They appear on all levels in the categories shown in Figure 3.

in a miniature size and combined with signal processors they only need a minimum amount of space

in a standardized form they will find different applications

advanced forms with different requirements can be used for broader integration
* in the military (verification -civilian and military-surveillance)
*in civilian production (consumer goods, industrial production process, air condition, medicine)

The successful implementation of innovations in the aforementioned use of sensors can lead to other related and specific problems in various stages/levels of the development process. To be really useful, the classification and attachment of different development levels must lead to a greater understanding of the interaction between technology and R&D behaviour. The analysis will have to focus on the distinction noted earlier between systems and components and those between development stages and interlinked systems.

I start from the assumption that the multifuncional level is less constrained by the complexities and ranges of a specific setting in which it will find itself, than by the externally influenceable levels (in the systems design) and, as a result, on balance is more likely to be used in basic R&D. By basic R&D I mean both very minimal research as well as complex, highly committed development. In general, it is my contention that multifunctional units/levels are less affected by distinctive aspects of the immediate problem than by their externally influenceable counterparts.

This is not to say that multifunctional technologies are always unsusceptible to the current political demands of the situation, or that their responses are invariably insensitive to ta given situation; but, by ignoring situational complications and the special requirements of the problem, multifuntional technologies can be expected more often to answer a simpler, more unqualified technical demand.


This paper tried to show that the basis of all decision-making in R&D lies with multifunctional technologies.They represent the ability to assign the resources of a government or company with effectiveness. Furthermore, they gain additional significance by both enabling as well as preventing other entities within the development process from reversing their position, because sometimes, assessing a certain direction in technology development is not always possible.

Although this technological/systematical unit may change with the nature of the technological problem, with time it may even shape a government's R&D policies. My proposal is that the R&D process in each type of technology unit channels the impact of the wider system environment on R&D behaviour. In effect, internal and external pressure/influence may predispose a government to act in a particular manner, but the precise character of its R&D policies will be modified by properties of the multifunctional/complex system unit.

I have postulated that there are three types of R&D decision stages: Creation, Dedication and Application. Each of these stages exists on one of several states or conditions that help to determine whether the decision unit affects militaRy R&D largely through the pre-existing knowledge, beliefs and style of those participating in the unit or whether factors outside the decision unit must be taken into account in understanding the decision-making process. By ascertaining which of the three types is the ultimate decision unit for a particular military R&D decision and its state or condition, we can say something about the nature of the military R&D development and where the flow of technolog is likely to go. Furthermore, the framework could represent a means for comparing different types of technology developments (other than sensors) to come to point of alert of e.g. unwanted technology transfer, either from civilian to military use or one country to another.