The United States has been the international leader in science and technology of importance to national security for three-quarters of a century. However, the development by other nations of their own science and technology capabilities, in concert with and fueled by increasing globalization and connectivity of economic and technological development, has increased competition for technological leadership. The authors use patent filings to analyze the current relative positions of the United States and other countries in selected technology areas of interest to the Department of the Air Force: additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence, ceramics, quantum, sensors, and space.
Areas of technological emergence were identified by detecting rapid growth in cumulative patent applications in specific technology areas and whether this occurred in the United States or China. The authors also describe and analyze the patent portfolios of U.S. companies that were early filers in these areas, focusing on small or medium-size companies that were not already owned or controlled by foreign entities; this, in turn, enabled identification of companies that had specific leading technological capabilities that could make them attractive for possible foreign acquisition. The authors propose a method to simultaneously identify connected areas of technological emergence and the companies with leading capabilities in these areas.