One of President Reagan's strongest business supporters, Bendix Corp. Chairman William M. Agee, said today he is saddened by the administration's budget cuts in government support for scientific research.
Agee, interviewed at the dedication of Bendix's new Advanced Technology Center for long-range research here, said corporate tax reductions in Reagan's new economy program are valuable for business but won't give the boost to industrial research necessary to the country's technological base. That base, he said, "is not nearly as strong as it should be."
Government-supported research should be increased, not cut, he said, to send a strong message to the country that science, technology and innovation have the highest priority. "Any cuts of any consequence in this area" are damaging, he added.
"I think a coalition between government and private enterprise of the NASA type, whether in biotechnology, an extension of the space program or some other area of advanced technology is very, very important to provide a strong signal" to the country, Agee said. That signal could affect the numbers of young people who choose science as a career and could stimulate greater scientific activity by business, he added.
Agee said the new Advanced Technology Center is an example of his company's commitment to long-range research.
The center, which has 114 employes, is "not associated with product engineering or the pressure to contribute to immediate business returns," said John W. Weil, chief technical officer.
Instead, its objective is to develop fundamentally new ideas to meet the needs in Bendix's automotive, aerospace and industrial businesses eight or 10 years in the future, said Agee and John J. Martin, the center's general manager.
Among the research projects shown to visitors today were projects to:
Perfect techniques for making metal parts such as machinery gears from powdered metal rather than from pieces cut from solid metal. A major goal is to find ways of binding particles together tightly enough to ensure sufficient strength in the metal part.
Study the brain functions of bats as a guide to improving radar communications.
Develop very small, tough chemical sensors to provide better control of industrial manufacturing processes and pollution.
Agee said Bendix is willing to wait five years or more for the center to make a significant contribution to the company's business products.
In his view, the U.S. economy has been weakened by business' concentration on short-term results and government's short-range economic policies. Bendix has deliberately invested in long-range technology at the expense of short-term profits, Agee said.
Bendix, the 88th largest company on Fortune magazine's list of the 500 largest corporations, is better able to afford such investments in technology than many other companies. It reported sales of $3.4 billion for the nine months ending June 30 this year, compared with $2.8 billion for the same months in 1980. Net income rose from $146 million to $389 million over the same period.
The location of the center in Columbia adds to Bendix's sizable presence in the Washington area, Maryland Gov. Harry R. Hughes noted today. He said Maryland had faced competition from other states in attracting the Bendix center and thanked Agee for the company's confidence in the state.
Bendix has an electronics subsidiary in Rosslyn, a communications division in Towson and a field engineering division near the new research center in Columbia.
After viewing a mystifying display of lasers, electron microscopes and computer consoles, Hughes left the men's room saying he was glad to have spotted some familiar looking equipment.
Agee said the Baltimore-Washington area is "a very good environment" for a scientifically based business. It was hard to shift the company's scientists to Maryland from Bendix's base in Michigan, he added, but with the concentration of technological firms, universities and research facilities the region provided "the best environment we could find."