Science and Corporate Strategy

Science and Corporate Strategy

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Hounshell, David A. | Smith Jr., John Kenly Cambridge University Press, 1989
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IN THIS SUMMARY

At the beginning of this century, Du Pont opened two very different research laboratories. The highly structured, applied research conducted at Du Pont's Eastern Laboratory paid handsome dividends, though the results of the more general research pursued at its Experimental Station were less clear, but offered greater promise in the long run. During these early years Du Pont organized its research and development effort, experimenting with very different approaches to research management. The need for coordinated assaults on well-defined problems quickly became evident, as did the limitations of Du Pont's earlier reliance on independent inventors. Yet during this period, Du Pont executives demonstrated a willingness to support long-range, high-risk, high-reward research - an approach that became the hallmark of Du Pont R&D. Although Du Pont's fundamental R&D objectives changed little after the turn of the century, the scale of Du Pont's efforts and the nature of the diversified firm made research a far more sophisticated undertaking than in its early years. The routine of research had become much more formalized, while increasingly complex systems made effective coordination difficult. Du Pont was one of a handful of large firms that accounted for the majority of corporate research and development in this era, its program was unparalleled in the U.S. chemical industry.