PEOPLE : MCC High-Tech Consortium Taps Fields

Once again, Microelectronics & Computer Technology Corp., the high-technology research consortium better known as MCC, is in the spotlight. This time, it's because of Craig Fields, who on Monday joined MCC as its president and heir-in-waiting to Chief Executive Grant Dove.

Fields is the former head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency whose dismissal from that Pentagon post in April has become a symbol of the Bush Administration's antipathy for a national industrial policy.

Fields is somewhat perturbed by his role as an icon, and said on Monday after a day of news conferences and interviews that he was most uncomfortable with questions dealing with his controversial ouster and what lies ahead for DARPA.

But by the same token, the public scrutiny that Fields engenders may be a blessing to MCC.

The spotlight, Fields said, will help him in "recruiting new people and new members" for MCC--a task that seems to be never-ending for the 7-year-old research consortium.

Fields comes to MCC with proper credentials, having long been a proponent of research consortia and being a solid supporter of Pentagon funding for Sematech, now a neighbor of MCC in Austin, Tex. Fields said on Monday that he would like to foster cooperation between the two research groups.

At the time it was founded, MCC was a bold move--the kind that Fields and DARPA encouraged--and its creation was due in large measure to the publicity stirred by the deft hands of Bobby Ray Inman, the retired admiral and former "super-spy" of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency. But member companies, many of them restless and several disgruntled enough to leave MCC within five years of its founding, seemed relieved to slip out of national attention after Inman left and Dove, a veteran manager from Texas Instruments, succeeded him as chief executive in early 1987.

Dove spent his first two years at MCC, he said on Monday, rebuilding member support for the consortium and speeding technological gains out the door. MCC now boasts contributions to several major product advances and 47 patents.

But now, Dove and Fields said Monday, is the time to redefine MCC's goals. Fields will be intimately involved in that process, Dove said. Fields also is in line to replace Dove as chief executive sometime next year, conditioned on the board's approval, as Dove retreats to a less-involved role as part-time chairman.

Part of the new vision for MCC may exclude the so-called Fifth-Generation computer project, a counterpart to Japan's much-touted drive to build computers using artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies.

"The Fifth-Generation technology," Dove said, "was an important driving force to start MCC . . . but it's not the clarion call that it was seven or eight years ago."

Now, he said, "We need two or three major thrust areas that are as simple to explain as Fifth Generation was."

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