Panel Discussion: Industrial Session

Isiah M. Warner, Louisiana State University: I would like to go back to our earlier discussion of Bell Labs. Dr. Mitchell's description of Bell Labs is different from the way it used to be. I remember when I visited Bell Labs one time, there was a young man doing research on dust. I asked him why he was doing research on dust and he said that it was because he was interested in it. Obviously, that is not the way Bell Labs does research now.

I was also thinking about Dr. Jasinski's comments on high-temperature superconductivity. Within a year after that major discovery, the Japanese were doing research on the applications of superconductivity. They were talking about high-speed trains that operated on super magnetic fields as well as many other possible applications of high-temperature superconductivity.

What I'm wondering is, if all of our major research institutions are beginning to move away from open-ended research that has no obvious gain—just the possibility—are we heading for trouble? If Bell Labs can't openly focus on projects that are going to "just possibly open entirely new opportunities," I'm wondering if our research enterprise is in trouble. Could you address this issue? It has not been discussed during the day.

James W. Mitchell: Well, since Professor Warner mentioned Bell Laboratories, I will try to clear up something. I hope I did not give the impression that Bell Laboratories is no longer interested in curiosity-driven research. I think I specifically said that there is a percentage of the population that has the freedom to choose to do whatever they want to pursue if they are going to have the best program conceivable in that particular area. We still do solely curiosity-driven research. Research is still going on in astrophysics; there's a biophysics department. For none of that work can you specifically point to a specific application.

There is not as large a percentage of that kind of work today as there has been in the past, for the reason I indicated in my presentation: competitiveness. If you must now compete for revenues, then you must be sure that you have a program in place that permits you to generate enough revenue so that open-ended research (as well as all other kinds) can continue at a very high level. There is as much emphasis today on extremely complex, almost impossible achievements technologically as there has been in the



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--> Panel Discussion: Industrial Session Isiah M. Warner, Louisiana State University: I would like to go back to our earlier discussion of Bell Labs. Dr. Mitchell's description of Bell Labs is different from the way it used to be. I remember when I visited Bell Labs one time, there was a young man doing research on dust. I asked him why he was doing research on dust and he said that it was because he was interested in it. Obviously, that is not the way Bell Labs does research now. I was also thinking about Dr. Jasinski's comments on high-temperature superconductivity. Within a year after that major discovery, the Japanese were doing research on the applications of superconductivity. They were talking about high-speed trains that operated on super magnetic fields as well as many other possible applications of high-temperature superconductivity. What I'm wondering is, if all of our major research institutions are beginning to move away from open-ended research that has no obvious gain—just the possibility—are we heading for trouble? If Bell Labs can't openly focus on projects that are going to "just possibly open entirely new opportunities," I'm wondering if our research enterprise is in trouble. Could you address this issue? It has not been discussed during the day. James W. Mitchell: Well, since Professor Warner mentioned Bell Laboratories, I will try to clear up something. I hope I did not give the impression that Bell Laboratories is no longer interested in curiosity-driven research. I think I specifically said that there is a percentage of the population that has the freedom to choose to do whatever they want to pursue if they are going to have the best program conceivable in that particular area. We still do solely curiosity-driven research. Research is still going on in astrophysics; there's a biophysics department. For none of that work can you specifically point to a specific application. There is not as large a percentage of that kind of work today as there has been in the past, for the reason I indicated in my presentation: competitiveness. If you must now compete for revenues, then you must be sure that you have a program in place that permits you to generate enough revenue so that open-ended research (as well as all other kinds) can continue at a very high level. There is as much emphasis today on extremely complex, almost impossible achievements technologically as there has been in the

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--> past. But the difference is that someone has taken a specific look at those goals and has communicated with business units to ensure that they can make use of it and can create value from it. So yes, there is still open-ended research at Bell Labs. No, not everybody can do it, but a percentage of individuals, 5 percent of us, still have the freedom and the focus and the flexibility to pursue hunches, whatever those hunches are. Those who manage those individuals do not attenuate the ability of those scientists to pursue hunches and to pursue interests. I hope I've clarified the situation at Bell Labs. Thomas A. Manuel, Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.: We're glad that the light is still burning brightly in Murray Hill, but to respond to Professor Warner on a broader perspective, and based on work done in the IRI, the fact is that across industry, the horizons have been drawn in. There's less frontier research being done now than there was some years ago. I think it's foolish for society to rely on industry to do the preponderance of that type of research. It never did and it never will, and in fact, it shouldn't. That is the province of academia and perhaps the government, certainly through funding, and in some mission-oriented cases through the national laboratories. This concerns people in industry by and large. If you look at the sentiments expressed by the IRI or other groups of industrial people, they overwhelmingly wish academia would stay out of product development and stay out of trying to make money and companies out of inventions on campus, and instead keep on refilling the pool of fundamental knowledge. This is a message that we have to keep discussing. This opens opportunities for partnership, of course, since industry needs the new knowledge and can't do it, and academia can do it but needs funding. Joseph M. Jasinski: Some of my remarks were also involved in the last question, so let me just clarify one thing. In the case of high-temperature superconductivity, the United States did very much the same thing. Within a year or two of the discovery, a national task force was commissioned. So there was a concerted attempt to make use of this wonderful new discovery. Are we likely to make similar discoveries in the future? First of all, IBM Research and Bell Laboratories have a long history of being laboratories at the forefront, and we both hope that we still are. We both are certainly trying to be. But, times change. In the case of Bell Labs, there was the divestiture of AT&T, the telephone company. In the case of IBM, there was the financial crisis in 1992 and a big change in our industry, which forced us to change the way we look at things. Would I like to go back to the "good old days"? I'm not sure I would, now that I've seen what my future looks like. But at the time, I sure was hanging on to everything I had, and so were most of my colleagues. We thought that if we could just hold on hard enough and long enough, we would get back to the good old days. This is, of course, a classic symptom associated with the psychology of change—a very common first reaction to catastrophic change. From the comments I've heard today from academia and the government sector, I believe this reaction is starting to take hold here today. Janet G. Osteryoung, National Science Foundation: I would like to just repeat something that Dr. Mitchell said during his talk that I thought was profound: that research that is valued has been assessed. I think that is a take-home message, particularly for the people in the academic sector, because that is the sector with the most resistance to measuring the value of research by any means. I think that's a comforting outcome to look forward to, if you go through the agony of trying to do this. Francis A. Via, Akzo-Nobel Chemicals, Inc.: Two general comments on the concerns of implementing metrics at every level of research activities for both our academic and our industrial colleagues. Our experience and those of leaders in our industry have demonstrated genuine challenges with establishing

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--> metrics and stage-gate systems for the very early phase of exploratory research activities. For example, 3M is considered a world-class model in innovation technology management and should serve as a valuable guide to many of us. It was recently reported at an IRI Workshop that 3M's experience in managing and setting metrics for exploratory discovery research demonstrated the continuing challenge of this task. In an effort to improve the discovery research process, enhanced management in the form of metrics, controls, and stage-gates was implemented for this first stage of research activities. Over a 3-year period it was recognized that this is not the area in which to apply detailed metrics and management controls. To flourish, this early creative research phase requires flexibility, degrees of freedom, and acceptance of uncertain outcomes. So we want to be careful in applying metrics to allow for degrees of freedom in early stages of research as well as accountability in a total portfolio of research programs. Another major challenge we find in industrial research in today's globalized economy is slightly different. Over the last 20 years, there has been marked change in the profile and nature of industrial research. The time horizon of our programs and the nature of risk of these programs have in general been reduced. Are we sure we can fully use the fundamental research that is so effectively emanating from our university system as well as we have used this information in the recent past? Does this "gap" serve as an area that deserves additional attention? Should universities seek a higher degree of knowledge integration for research topics? Are there other approaches that should be considered as metrics for this area? The Advanced Technology Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology has begun to address some of these issues. Nonetheless, it remains a rather modest portion of the total research profile. Are there other less controversial approaches worthy of consideration?