A survey released by the National Science Foundation last month revealed that overall industrial R&D spending dipped to $198.5 billion in 2001, the most recent year figures are available, from $199.5 billion the previous year. It was the third annual decline recorded in the past 50 years, and came mostly because federal funding slipped to $15.4 billion from $17.8 billion.
The Boston Globe article today that cites that information goes on to say that large corporations' focus on short-term gains and solving immediate customer needs have reduced the emphasis on R&D spending on longer term projects, like those Xerox projects that gave birth to the computer mouse and the graphical user interface. At risk is the very future of innovation, writer Robert Weisman speculates, and the story goes on to cite more reasons why large companies are causing the demise of true innovation.
But is innovation really at risk? Don't smaller businesses contribute to America's R&D efforts significantly? In the "The Innovation Factor" series in Inc. magazine, Inc. writers and editors uncovered America's most innovative small businesses, celebrating their determination and focus on developing the next "big ideas." Perhaps corporate America might not have the patience for fostering innovation, but I'm guessing that smaller businesses will see opportunity in large businesses' ignorance of pursuing big ideas with longer term payoffs. What do you think?