Wednesday, September 10, 2008

One more short sighted decission

Bell Labs ends fundamental research and focuses on applied research.

This article at reports that Bell Labs has ended it long history of basic research and shifted it’s focus to research that applies to it’s current business.

How does this jibe with the often reported stories that the US will become the idea “factory” for the rest of the world?

Bell Labs created the laser as part of their basic research and really didn’t know that it would apply to telephony as a way to send voice messages over fiber optic lines. The fundamental research more than paid for itself by allowing more messages over fewer lines and that supported Bell Telephone’s core business.

What profit making opportunities will Bell now miss because of this decision. We’ll never know but rest assured that just as Japan and China are investing is space they will invest in basic research and that research will result in products that outpace American products. I can’t tell you where or how, but history supports my position that basic research always pays off. It just may not pay off this week.

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