From Lab to Market: Where Technology is Headed—The Research Director’s Point of View
author: Uma Chowdhry, DuPont
author: Paul Horn, University of California
moderator: Rebecca Henderson, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
published: May 25, 2012, recorded: September 2004, views: 26
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How do you conduct R&D in a vanguard technology? These three panelists provide varying perspectives on the question. Paul Horn stands by IBM’s longstanding commitment to its 5.5 billion dollar annual research effort, but with some caveats: “It’s all about the speed of flowing new ideas into hardware, software and services,” he says. You can’t think about innovation without also considering “channels to market.” IBM insists that “researchers spend time in the marketplace so they can understand how their technology can solve real world problems.”
At DuPont, Uma Chowdhry cites a “quietly occurring transformation in the area of biobased materials.” At two centuries’ young, DuPont has a new primary challenge: “How do we transform from a petroleum-based economy to renewable resources such as crops?” Working with partners such as MIT, the company is exploring glucose, methane and nanotechnology to cook up new kinds of fuel, food supplements, and other products—all economically. It’s “a very big dream,” acknowledges Chowdhry. The prerequisite, she says, is that “top management must have an unwavering commitment to the mission as well as time, vision and patience.”
Robert Tepper describes the convergence of two revolutions driving his field forward. The complete sequencing of the human genome, combined with advances in understanding pathways of disease, will enable Millennium’s researchers to create “breakthrough therapies.” Scientists are already “making strides in cancer and inflammation,” says Tepper. Millennium is linking up with industry, hospitals and academia, plumbing the genome to learn “why individuals are susceptible to disease.”
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