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The pitiful state of US industrial research has been addressed by Philip Wyatt in the December 2009 APS News. This was followed by substantial response in the February 2010 Issue by Ginzburg, Ouellet, Mendis and Myers. But a realistic practical path to resurrection and sustained maintenance is lacking.
Most successful industries have been founded by technical/scientific/idea people. But control of these companies has eventually evolved to “managerial” and “money” people with minimal relevant industrial knowledge and deficient innovative skills. The result is that these companies have “crashed” with limited lifetimes of ~50-100 years. To generate and sustain companies with much longer lifetimes, new strategies are needed.
Industrial companies should have internal “Entrepreneurial Centers” to continuously generate and sustain profitable new growth. They would be deliberately separate, but partially fueled by innovations from their companion Industrial Research Centers. Individuals would establish new companies, under the corporate umbrella and with some initial corporate investment.
Those innovative individuals must also invest their own personal money, assets and time, because personal commitment is the key to probable success. In addition to initial investment, the parent company would provide support in appropriate ways such as facilities, equipment, etc. These new operations would eventually evolve into separate free-standing operations, probably with additional external investment, and finally self-supporting sales income.
The attempt to insert innovative ideas into existing corporate divisions has failed miserably, because these divisions have the same inflexible attitude as the parent company. Thus the need for Entrepreneurial Centers in addition to Research Centers. The view that we only need more research is not realistic.
Lake Elmo, MN
Since 1966, APS has become a federation of Divisions. There is no Division that has scientific jurisdiction over global climate, and therefore APS Council has no jurisdiction either. APS should have a clearly stated policy with respect to the scope of its statements on issues of public policy. Such a statement should acknowledge that physics is a scientific discipline with limited scope, and not a source of special knowledge on every topic of public concern. If it aspires to enjoy public respect, it must recognize the importance of restraint on matters beyond its ken. At this time, global climate is a case in point.
However, if and when the Council decides to create a Division on Global Climate, it would then, in due course, have a body of expertise on which to base responsible policy statements.
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Editor: Alan Chodos