In my role as director of research and development in a small company, it is a constant challenge to balance short term technical needs that benefit sales in the here and now with the more strategic, long term goals of pure research and innovation.
To carry the staff and equipment necessary to be completely self sufficient is untenable. The best solution is one that many organizations fail to leverage. That solution is partnering with universities, colleges, testing agencies and organizations like ASTM or American Concrete Institute. When you don’t have the advantage of a large internal R&D division, it is essential to network and stay connected so that you can benefit from the body of knowledge in the industry as a whole. The SR&ED tax credit system in Canada supports this approach by recognizing the research contracts companies have with valid organizations. It allows our R&D budgets to go that much further.Developing joint research programs with universities is a valuable and mutually beneficial solution for both parties. From an industry perspective, conducting pure or developmental research programs with an academic group adds intellectual power and a fresh perspective to any innovation challenge. From an academic perspective, any chance for students and professors to be engaged in current industry challenges can only serve to improve the performance of the future graduates.
Testing agencies often have capital equipment that is specialized and expensive to maintain. Putting programs in place with these organizations often leads to large bodies of credible data that are often difficult to fit in the daily routines of an industrial research lab. The type of technical data and “working curves” obtained by partnering with testing agencies is often extremely valuable to customers and end users of our product and gives our researchers insight and guidance on where next to direct internal research programs.