Business Impact

R&D Scorecard 2002

Research that breaks the mold.

It is no secret that in tough economic times, corporate spending on research and development often takes a hit. So it should be no surprise that Technology Reviews annual survey of R&D expenditures by 150 top public companies reveals a mixed picture.

Spending levels at some of the worlds largest research-oriented organizations, including Microsoft and Siemens, continued to rise. But at a number of other companiesparticularly those within the economically troubled telecommunications and semiconductor sectorsspending shrank. Our Corporate R&D Scorecard shows that the picture is most dismal in telecommunications. The situation was slightly better at top semiconductor manufacturers Intel and Texas Instruments, both of which reported modest cuts in R&D budgets. Corporate frugality extended to other industries as well: a number of the traditional research powerhouses3M and DuPont, for examplealso trimmed budgets.

But statistics never tell the whole story. And although the usual practice in a recession is for companies to focus on short-term incremental advances to existing product lines, Technology Review uncovered no shortage of speculative research efforts that, if they succeed, could revolutionize whole industries.

This story is part of our December 2002/January 2003 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

To highlight this point, we have chosen to complement the scorecard with profiles of four high-risk research efforts. These projects, which break the corporate mold of focusing research sharply on existing business and bottom line results, demonstrate corporate risk taking at its best. At Microsoft, Michael Freedman and his fledgling quantum-computing research group are rethinking the basics of computation; and at General Motors, researchers are exploring advanced fuel-cell designs that could revolutionize the notion of a car. At General Electric, a nanotechnology group aiming to redesign advanced ceramics is using seashells as its inspiration. And at Hitachi in Japan, researchers are hoping to apply brain-imaging technology to improve how people, including newborn infants, learn.

These investigations cover a broad range of technologies. But they have one feature in common: the ambition to develop disruptive technologies that will transform their companiesand have a lasting impact on the world.

Download the Corporate R&D Scorecard partial list.

We have chosen to complement the scorecard with profiles of four high-risk research efforts. These projects, which break the corporate mold of focusing research sharply on existing business and bottom line results, demonstrate corporate risk taking at its best.

Microsoft: Quantum Computing

GM: Electricity Producing Vehicles

Hitachi: Advanced Brain Imaging

GE: Nano Ceramics

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.
Subscribe today

Uh oh–you've read all five of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium

$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Business Impact

How technology advances are changing the economy and providing new opportunities in many industries.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.

  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus ad-free web experience, select discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

    Access to the Magazine archive. Over 24,000 articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips.

    Special Discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

You've read of free articles this month.