ISBN: 978-1-78374-791-7

Ingvar Botnen

Independent scholar

Read more about this book at

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, originally named ARPA, was established by the US Department of Defense in the wake of the extraordinary efforts in research and technology of the Second World War and then the Sputnik shock in 1957. DARPA's initial brief was to advance US technology in space, missile defence and nuclear test detection, but it has since migrated into other fields as well. The microprocessors, the Internet and the GPS that we find in our smartphones today have come into existence, wholly or partially, through DARPA's efforts. According to a quote in the book, DARPA consists of '100 geniuses and a travel agent' and has an annual budget of two to three billion US$ to fund research. The 'geniuses' are the project managers, who have money to fund projects that bring private, public and academic research resources together to try to solve specific defence needs. They establish networks between separate groups, disseminate knowledge, and organize the projects from inception to their final ‘transitioning’ to military and civilian users and producers. This process is not an easy one, and the book presents the associated organizational challenges and their possible solutions to other organizations created to solve problems ordinary R&D cannot solve. Its sixteen chapters by nearly as many authors were mostly written some 5–25 years ago, and present individual projects to illustrate points related to the challenges. They are well written, but with considerable overlap. Important topics not covered: DARPA's contribution to the technological arms race and its possible role in militarizing civilian research.