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Richard K. Lester

Richard K. Lester is Japan Steel Industry Professor and Head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT and Founding Director of MIT’s Industrial Performance Center. He is the author or coauthor of The Productive Edge, Innovation--The Missing Dimension, Made in America, Making Technology Work, and other books.

Titles by This Author

How America Can Build a Low-Cost, Low-Carbon Energy System

Energy innovation offers us our best chance to solve the three urgent and interrelated problems of climate change, worldwide insecurity over energy supplies, and rapidly growing energy demand. But if we are to achieve a timely transition to reliable, low-cost, low-carbon energy, the U.S. energy innovation system must be radically overhauled.
Unlocking Energy Innovation outlines an up-to-the-minute plan for remaking America’s energy innovation system by tapping the country’s entrepreneurial strengths and regional diversity in both the public and private spheres. “Business as usual” will not fill the energy innovation gap. Only the kind of systemic, transformative changes to our energy innovation system described in this provocative book will help us avert the most dire scenarios and achieve a sustainable and secure energy future.

Regaining the Productive Edge

What went wrong and how can America become second to none in industrial productivity? This long awaited study by a team of top notch MIT scientists and economists - the MIT Commission on Industrial Productivity - takes a hard look at the recurring weaknesses of American industry that are threatening the country's standard of living and its position in the world economy. Made in America identifies what is best and worth replicating in American industrial practice and sets out five national priorities for regaining the productive edge.Unlike other studies that prescribe macroeconomic cures, Made in America focuses on the reorganization and effective integration of human resources and new technologies within the firm as a principal driving force for long term growth in productivity.Made in America examines the relationship between human resources and technological change in detail and singles out the most significant productivity weaknesses from the myriad causes that are typically cited. These include short­time horizons and a preoccupation with the bottom line, outdated strategies that focus excessively on the domestic market, lack of cooperation within and among U.S. firms, neglect of human resources, technological failures in translating discoveries to products, and a mismatch between governmental actions and the needs of industry.Looking ahead Made in America asserts that industrial performance would improve substantially simply by building on what is best in U.S. industry. It describes representative systems of production that can serve as models of best industrial practice for niche producers, price competitive specialized producers, and flexible mass producers.Among the goals singled out as national priorities are the creation of a new economic citizenship that involves well­educated workers as active partners in the reproduction process, a new strategic focus on production, finding a better balance between cooperation and individualism, learning to live in an increasingly international economy, and making proper provision for the future both in terms of capital and human resources.The findings and goals of Made in America are based on such measures of productivity performance as product quality, innovativeness, time to market, and service in eight manufacturing sectors - semiconductors, computers, and office equipment; automobiles; steel; consumer electronics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals; textiles; machine tools; and commercial aircraft. These measures revealed a large gap between the best and average U.S. practice.Michael L. Dertouzos. is Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Director of MIT's Laboratory of Computer Science. Robert M. Solow is Institute Professor of Economics, and Richard K. Lester is Associate Professor of Nuclear Engineering,

A BIT of Unlocking Energy Innovation

Energy innovation offers us our best chance to solve the three urgent and interrelated problems of climate change, worldwide insecurity over energy supplies, and rapidly growing energy demand. But if we are to achieve a timely transition to reliable, low-cost, low-carbon energy, the U.S. energy innovation system must be radically overhauled. This BIT describes innovation that enables low-carbon technologies to supplant natural gas and other fossil fuels for power generation.