The fusion of research and development

The Economist gives a good overview of coporate research in an article entitled "The rise and fall of corporate R&D Out of the dusty labs". The author highlights the fact that tech firms/big corporate R&D laboratories are shifting their attention and forces from research to development. Some excerpts:

Now the big corporate laboratories are either gone or a shadow of what they were. Companies tinker with today's products rather than pay researchers to think big thoughts. (...) “The lesson learnt is that you don't isolate researchers,” says Eric Schmidt, the boss of Google. The “smart people on the hill” method no longer works, he adds. Instead, researchers have become intellectual mercenaries for product teams: they are there to solve immediate needs. (...) At its Zurich Research Laboratory [IBM] around 300 scientists representing over 20 nationalities concentrate on areas such as microelectronics, nanotechnology and computer security. Only a few years ago researchers were judged on the basis of patents and papers, but today they roll up their shirtsleeves and work alongside the company's consultants (...) This reflects IBM's transition into “services science”.

There is a lot more to draw in the paper, especially more examples from Intel, Yahoo, Google and other tech companies. An intriguing issue is also the fact that academia now struggles to find funds and then is forced into projects of just one or two years—even shorter than industry horizons. Whereas "corporate research can look farther ahead, do bigger things and risk more money for a big payout".

Another aspect that I found curious is the idea of failure: "Failure is an essential part of the process. “The way you say this is: ‘Please fail very quickly—so that you can try again’,” says Mr Schmidt".

Why do I blog this? pure interest towards the evolution of R&D.