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The International Technology Scanning Program (ITSP)
The International Technology Scanning Program (ITSP) serves as a means for identifying, assessing, and importing foreign highway technologies and practices that can be cost-effectively adapted to U.S. Federal, state, and local highway programs. The approach is similar to the "bench marking" process that is widely used by firms in the private sector. Bench marking involves comparing an organization's methods and products to the world's best with the intent of exceeding them. Instead of duplicating others work, this process enables advanced technology to be developed and put into practice more quickly and makes more efficient use of research funds. Ultimately, the program provides better, safer, and more environmentally sound roads to the American public by implementing the best practices developed abroad.
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The primary goals of the ITSP are:
- to ensure that the U.S. highway community is world-class in technical and managerial areas of the highest priority;
- to gain access to the results of foreign investment in highway R&D and R&D implementation;
- to avoid unnecessary U.S. duplication of advances already developed by other countries; and
- to facilitate the successful implementation of key foreign innovations in the U.S.
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The origins of the ITSP can be traced to the last half of the 1980s, when FHWA activities became focused on locating research and technology abroad for application in the United States. Prior to this, providing technical assistance to counterparts overseas was the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) primary international activity.
During the 1980's, U.S. transportation professionals became increasingly aware of improved materials and innovative methods employed by foreign countries in their transportation programs. This awareness, largely due to the activities of the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP), was boosted by the enactment of the Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA). Section 6003 of the Authorized the Secretary of Transportation "to engage in activities to inform the domestic highway community of technological innovations abroad...." The ISTEA not only provided greater impetus to explore what foreign technology had to offer U.S. transportation systems, but also made funding available for Federal efforts to evaluate the potential for U.S. implementation of foreign transportation technologies and methods.
While the makeup of a team scanning teams vary from one scanning review to another, participants usually represent the FHWA, State highway departments, local governments and; where appropriate, transportation trade and research groups, the private sector, and academia. Personal domestic and international networking, team dynamics, and the creation of U.S. champions for promising foreign innovations are keystones of the methods used. Successful implementation in the U.S. of the world's best practices is the goal of the program.
In many instances, scanning reviews add depth and cohesion to research and practice in the United States. The process and findings generally complement and enhance the existing knowledge base in the U.S. highway community, often putting innovations on the fast track to deployment.
Realizing the potential of scanning tours as means of learning from the research and technological advances of others, and given ISTEA's emphasis on searching out foreign transportation technology to apply to domestic problems, the FHWA established the ITSP. TEA-21 continues to support this program
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The ITSP is established under 23 U. S.C. 506 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21 st Century, which states that the Secretary may establish an international highway transportation outreach program "to inform the United States highway community of technological innovations in foreign countries that could significantly improve highway transportation in the United States..." Section 506 further outlines authorized activities under 6 subsections, including, "development, monitoring, assessment, and dissemination in the United States of information about highway transportation innovations in foreign countries that could significantly improve highway transportation in the United States."
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Office of International Programs