WASHINGTON — President Reagan urged industrial and scientific interests today to move "as quickly as possible" to exploit breakthroughs in superconductivity.
In a speech to a government-sponsored conference bringing together business executives and scientists, Reagan suggested that the United States must not allow other nations to get the upper hand in the commercial exploitation of the potential of superconductivity, the process by which electricity is conducted with no loss of energy to resistance.
Reagan said the government will do all it can to help foster development of this technology by industry, and said his Administration proposes to double the National Science Foundation budget over the next five years.
The President also noted that he will propose to Congress several legislative changes covering antitrust law, patents and protection of company secrets.
But he made it clear that he thinks industry and science should take the lead.
"Let's give ourselves a fair shake in the world marketplace," he said, noting the United States had a $166.3-billion foreign trade deficit last year. "If we're serious about improving American competitiveness, the way to do it isn't through protectionist trade legislation that closes markets and throws people out of work."
Reagan called laboratory breakthroughs into high-temperature superconductivity a "historic achievement." He said that "for the promise of superconductivity to become real, it must bridge the gap from the laboratory to the marketplace."
Given Guided Tour
Reagan, accompanied to the conference by Secretary of State George P. Shultz, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and Energy Secretary John S. Herrington, was given a guided tour of several exhibits of superconductivity.
Developments over the last year have raised expectations that superconductivity can be exploited commercially.
Materials must be chilled before becoming superconductors, and until recently they had to be made colder than 400 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. That cost too much to be economically appealing.
But scientists worldwide have begun reporting superconductivity in a new class of materials at much warmer temperatures, allowing cooling with much cheaper refrigerants than has been possible in the past.