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Much of Western Europe has been seized by a fervor to expand higher education and to reform it along U.S. linesinterdisciplinary cooperation, more full professors, rotating departmental command. Italy's current five-year plan calls for a reorganization of universities, now beset with frequent strikes by students and teaching assistants. Many Europeans hope to emulate what a Common Market Eurocrat calls "the magic American mobility between campus, government and industry."
The same reform spirit is spreading to other areas. The Netherlands has raised its scientific-research budget by 45% over the past two years. British industry has just rented a "brain train" to tour university cities and woo reluctant engineering and science graduates. There is serious talk about untangling Europe's thicket of loosely drawn patent laws and providing new incentives for formation of Europe-wide companies. Prime Minister Wilson recently suggested the creation of a European Technological Community to pool the products of its science and laboratories. But Europe's postwar record at this type of cooperation is dismal. Only CERN, the atomic-research laboratory at Geneva, shows much accomplishment.
Faced with such frustrations, Europeans are always ready to raise the specter of protectionism. London's Financial Times last week advocated "a policy to control American investment," something France already tries to do, but not too successfully. Carried far enough, a policy of straitjacketing American companies would not only invite reprisals but would also tend to stagnate Europe's standard of living. Protectionist moves no longer succeed in Europe as they once did. With easing tariff barriers inside Europe, American firms escape unwelcome restrictions by shifting planned plants a few miles across a border. After several U.S. companies put factories in Germany or Belgium instead of France, De Gaulle's government took down its keep-out signs.
The Real Solution
Some Europeans feel that it is up to the U.S. to help close the technology gap, but they are not sure how. In response to the clamor abroad, President Johnson recently appointed a committee headed by his science adviser, former Princeton Chemistry Professor Donald Hornig, to consider what the U.S. might do. That, fumes Basil de Ferranti, managing director of Britain's I.C.T., was merely "a clever public relations gimmick." Italian Foreign Minister Amintore Fanfani proposed a ten-year "Technological Marshall Plan," but he has not yet spelled it out. Short of U.S. companies giving away their trade secrets, it is hard to see how the U.S. could provide much effective help. It could assist in small ways, such as training executives, sponsoring joint research projects, and encouraging direct European investment in the U.S. (apart from Europeans' already vast U.S. stockholdings). French industry is now counter-invading America on a modest scale; aluminum-making Pechiney, for instance, teamed up with American Metal Climax to build an aluminum-reduction plant in the state of Washington.