Corporations that rely on innovation, not just iterative incremental improvement demanded by the marketplace and investors, need to stay involved, not in the "flights of fancy" wherever the science leads type of research, but in the directed, focused industry research that is Pasteur's Quadrant. Failure to do this is not only eating the seed corn, it is abandoning the field to others.
We plan an independent corporate physical sciences research and development lab with more than 500,000 sq ft of labs and offices and over 500 researchers in eight areas of research - in Basic Research: Physics, Materials and Mathematics; in Applied Research: Chemicals and Chemical Engineering, Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Communications, Automation, Space Science and Engineering. The goal is to provide our Corporate Partners with the resources to engage in fundamental research necessary to keep the pipeline of innovation flowing.
Corporations are not starting their own labs because they don't see the need, but because they lack the resources to do so. We want to give them access to the resources.
A little over 20 years ago, a group of government scientists proposed a new laboratory. While it had the backing of the Federal Government, it still faced a large hurdle:
The Laboratory made plans for state-of-the-art research programs in molecular science and for bringing the equipment, facilities, and, most of all, people to support these programs.
It was a gamble. What scientist in his or her right mind would come to work on a nonexistent program, in a nonexistent facility, with nonexistent equipment, in Richland, Washington?
"If the scientific challenge is of such a nature to make it highly attractive, people will come," said William Wiley at the time. "Nonexistent programs, facilities, and equipment can be sold to scientists of national and international repute, if they're driven by the nature of the challenge."
THE BIRTH OF A NATIONAL USER FACILITY : EMSL-Molecular Science for the Environment, 10/1996
Between 2003 and 2005, more than twenty-five universities and national labs announced the creation or opening of nanotechnology research
facilities. The average facility cost $44 million, had 117,000 square feet of space, housed 40 researchers and had an average annual
operating budget of $28 million.
What we didn't see was 20 or 30 corporations make a similar announcement. A corporation would need to allocate $324 million over ten
years to establish a similar nanotechnology facility that may or may not generate viable commercial products. And this is just one
possible direction for research in materials science.
"Investment in basic research and development and translation of discoveries into world-changing technologies is the engine that drives economic growth and the key to U.S. competitiveness."
Donald H. Levy, Vice President for Research and for National Laboratories.
Corporations need access to fundamental research.
"CEOs from two-thirds of America's fastest-growing private companies report that innovation is an
organization-wide priority, and almost all say it has had a significant, positive impact on their business. However, one in four of
those citing innovation as a priority say they do not have an R&D budget."
"Companies Say Innovation a Priority But Lack R&D Budget", SmartPros, LTD, March 16, 2005
The most reasonable approach to address the need for fundamental research is to
diversify research into a broad range of areas with many opportunities for cross-discipline collaboration. Such an approach is
considerably more expensive than most firms are willing, or able, to bear. S:DRD gives partner corporations a means to fund this
approach in a cost effective way while giving them greater access and control of the research results.